Jim Baker's Then and Now


Two big Las Vegas Winners as 2016 became 2017 were Justin Lamb, Henderson, NV, NHRA Winter Nationals Champ and Mike Maggio, PSCA Champion.

Leaving Las Vegas in early 2015 after my wife passed away, has been an adventure for sure. My son and I are now located in Tucson, Arizona, south of Vegas but with a similar desert landscape.


During the 12 years we spent in Henderson, NV, we became well acquainted with the local drag racing and car show scene. For the seventh consecutive year we are presenting Viva Las Vegas again due to the wealth of material we have discovered and can offer DRO readers.

Several local racers of today believe that prior to the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the area had no viable drag strip for many years. As pictured above, this was not so. Larry Horton, the manager of the Stardust Raceway in the late ‘60s, found the site where LVMS sits today and made a seamless transition to the new ‘Speedrome’ when Pardee Homes completed the purchase of land including the original Stardust site. I know this because we were there at the first race Larry held. The track grew and grew and became a popular drag racing location during three decades. From the days of the ‘50s at Henderson, the Vegas Valley always had drag racing.

To me, the Fiat has always been a big part of drag racing, but no one could have imagined back in 1959 that the maker of this tiny coupe body, which became a drag racing icon itself, would now be the parent company of Chrysler and all the MOPAR brands.

To me, the Fiat has always been a big part of drag racing, but no one could have imagined back in 1959 that the maker of this tiny coupe body, which became a drag racing icon itself, would now be the parent company of Chrysler and all the MOPAR brands.

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 3 - March  2017

As long ago as the late ‘50s Thunderbird Drags were in Henderson. They do not compare to the real vintage races held on what is now Highland Street behind the Circus Circus and Mirage Casinos. For years Money Oldsmobile was a staple of Las Vegas car dealers until GM decided to stop offering the popular brand. Today this area is packed with service businesses for the huge casino operations.

Fast forward to 2012, and Drag Racing Online editor and publisher Jeff Burk could be found in front of the Vegas TV Studio doing a news item for the AA/FC program at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After going on hiatus last year, Jeff has announced that the Magazine will once again offer the Funny Car series in 2017!

While we are considering Racing Net Source and their fine family of products, we must congratulate MOPAR MAX publisher Richard Kratz and driver Alex Rogeo for their signature win during the Muscle Cars At The Strip. When you consider the size of a Magnum Wagon, the 10-second quarter-mile times enabled by the supercharged Arrington Performance Hemi is phenomenal!

On the upstairs wall of the LVMS tower hangs this photo of the ultimate driving force for the construction of The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I have personal knowledge about the contribution of the man in the dark shirt, Mel Larson. To our great loss in 2016, Mel passed away at age 87, but he left a legacy of vision, which will live on for years. L/R: Wally Parks, founder and creator of the National Hot Rod Association; Mel; Bruton Smith, NASCAR track owner and promoter, CEO of Speedway Motorsports; and John Force, Funny Car Champion and grassroots promoter of ‘Big Show’ drag racing.

Steve Faria suffers what is called, ‘A Nitro Event’ at LVMS with his Top Fuel car in 2013. The event is captured by ace photographer Tim Marshall during the time when he was the track photo man at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kenny Phillips provided plenty of fireworks for Las Vegas entries when he won the A/Gas category at the NHRA Nostalgia ‘kick off’ at Wild Horse Pass, near Phoenix. The long time Vegas resident then finished second overall during the ‘Muscle Car’ event hosted by the Painter family at the Las Vegas track.

Dean Carter, who lost his father, tuner, Ray in December 2016, was on top of Competition Eliminator in this photo by NHRA’s Bob Johnson.

Always smiling Cliff Ricci is one of the most respected Las Vegas area racers. The LVMS’ former tech captain-chassis certification decided to join the racer ranks with this Pro Comp dragster. Back in 2013, Cliff certified the Pontiac Firebird chassis for Jim Glaze with me looking on.

At the original ‘ Speedrome’, Pro Stock races were always popular. This ‘70’s era photo illustrates the packed crowd cheering for their favorite car or brand.

At Phil Painter’s newly configured Muscle Cars at the Strip a group from the Pacific Northwest brought three NHRA cars to the Las Vegas event. L/R: Ageless Cal Method, Super Super Stock Combo winner, Chris Hall were chatting with DRO writer Jim Baker at the track.

Mark Beaver brought ‘ The Beav back to MCATS, but after two wins and runner up, the popular was stop in the semifinals when his torque converter malfunctioned.

On the midway at LVMS.

Scott Burton who hails from the Las Vegas valley, was Runner/up in the largest Super Pro Bracket during the recent Big $$$ Shoot-Out at Tucson Dragway.


That’s about it for my seventh edition of ‘Viva Las Vegas! Las Vegas area racers continue to flourish across the USA. We’ll keep collecting material during 2017 with an eye to bringing you ‘Viva 8’.


Until next time, Be On Time!


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