VOLUME XXI, NUMBER 6 - JUNE, 2019
DRAGRACINGOnline will be published on or around the 8th of each month and will be updated throughout the month.
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Editor & Publisher, CEO Jeff Burk
Managing Editor, COO Kay Burk
Editor at Large, Bret Kepner
Editor at Large, Emeritus Chris Martin
Bracket Racing Editor, Jok Nicholson
Motorcycle Editor, Tom McCarthy
Nostalgia Editor, Brian Losness
Contributing Writers, Jim Baker, Steven Bunker, Aaron Polburn, Matt Strong
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Poet Laureate, Bob Fisher
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Editor & Publisher
CEO Jeff Burk
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DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Director: Casey Araiza
Director: Dave Ferrato
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ET DRAG RACING
Gasser Reunion at Thompson, Ohio
A Gathering of Gassers
Words and photos by Pat Donahue
Amy Ruffo backs up “AA Al” Niespondzinski in “Caged Heat.”
Thompson Raceway Park welcomed back the Gasser Reunion on May 31-June 1. It was the 18th year for the Thompson tradition back where it got started for many Ohio racers at Ohio's oldest dragstrip that opened in 1958. This year’s event, like many around the country, was altered by the weather lingering as well as the result of recent activities to the facility, but the Gasser Reunion went on.
Gene Schwartz was once again on hand for the Gasser Reunion to sign autographs but have a little fun too. Gene has enjoyed his 1952 Chevy since his dad gave it to him in 1959 when he was 15. He was able to capture numerous wins and attention with it ever since including Indy in 1966, Speed Eliminator at the '65 NASCAR Nationals held at Dragway 42, and he held the E Gas National Record from 1964-67. Gene fondly remembers having the distinction of being one of only a few racers featured on the first ever Drag Racing coverage on ABC's Wide World of Sports and was able to get a copy of the film. Schwartz no longer competes but still likes to get out on the track to show that he and his ‘52 Chevy aren't just for show.
There are some newer components to the 200” wheelbase S&W dragster with a 438 small block Chevy that are taking some getting used to, but the idea with most new toys is to have fun and Lou definitely seemed to be doing that this weekend.
Bill Curtis brought out his Clown Car for the first time and went some rounds both in the Gamblers race on Friday and to the final four in the Nostalgia Gas class on Saturday. Bill has been working on the ‘58 English Ford Anglia 100E for seven years. It has a 406 small block Chevy in and will be one car to take seriously.
You can’t have a Gasser Reunion without your share of tri-fives. New York Tin Knocker John Patterson launches his ‘56 Chevy alongside of the ‘55 Chevy of Bob Ramella during the Nostalgia Gas competition.
Dale Healy of Marengo, Ohio, took home the win in his “Bad Medicine” ‘65 Nova with a win in the final of Nostalgia Gas over Skip Kazmark in his ‘39 Chevy Coupe.
“The Boogeyman” got the field in the 409 class finishing with Tom Geib in his ‘62 Impala taking the final round win over Denny Ford in a ‘62 Biscayne.
Bob Bosler of Middleview, Ohio, piloted his ‘41 Willys Coupe through the field of Hot Rod class and took home the win.
New owner Matt King (left) gets some words of encouragement from Jim Oddy, who built the “Junkyard Dog” that dominated the Gasser scene with driver Junior Ward for several years.
The long smoky burnout wasn't completely straight, and all four tires didn't stay flat on the racing surface, but it was time to do this. The other competitors in the Supercharged Gasser class had completed their runs, leaving the track ready for the solo run. What better stage. When Matt took his "Junkyard Dog" for a spin it launched straight. It ran smooth and it went fast. Matt had no reason to get out of it till he had covered the 1/8 mile. In doing so he laid down the low E.T. of 4.81 at 146mph. Only .06 off the record run of 4.75 seconds. The run set a new Thompson track record for time and speed in the AA/GS class. And maybe setting the class to wonder if they underestimated how long it would take for the "Junkyard Dog" to get up to full speed. Jim Oddy was excited to say the least to have everything come together so well. He confessed to taking a double take at the time since it was the only run in the 4s. After the sale of the car, there had been some social media second guessers. Some wondering if the car Matt King bought came with all of the caliber components that made it the record holder that it was known to be. Jim thought that King’s first pass had given them their answer.
With one Jim Oddy hot rod already in Matt King’s garage, an unfortunate set of circumstances filled a second spot. A good friend, John Cassiol had passed away after spending his last 15 years masterfully restoring Oddy’s '48 AA/G Austin. Cassio had taken painstaking effort and attention to detail to make it exactly as it was when Oddy raced it in the 1960's. It was the car Oddy raced in 1969 when he earned the Division 1 Championship, as well as claiming both the engineer and driver of the year titles among Division 1 competition like Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins. Oddy speaks with amazement at the job John Cassiol was able to accomplish on the restoration. It was important for family and friends to see John’s work honored and appreciated. Matt got the Austin in March and was able to show the two Jim Oddy Gassers together at this year’s reunion.
The Reunion hosted a seven-car field of AA Gassers this year that qualified over two days before weather forced them to use Chicago Shootout Style final. The top two qualifiers advanced to the final round pitting top qualifier Matt King in his "Junkyard Dog" with a 4.81 @ 146 against, Alan “AA Al” Niespodzinski of Buffalo, NY, who ran 5.04 @ 138 in his ‘33 Willys "Caged Heat". Niespodzinski grabbed the win at the starting line with a holeshot and didn't let go, beating King’s 4.89 with a 5.12. It was the second win in a row for Niespodzinski who has the points lead and is two for two so far in the seven-race Supercharged AA/Gassers of America race schedule.
Brian and Tami Spotts are in the second year with the "IT'S CRAZY! II" 1951 Anglia with a 427 C.I. Big Block Chevy. When the trip down the track in the first round included a little side to side, Brian thought it was part of the fun. Tami not so much as she looked on...
This "Mopar Missall" is Fred Missall in his '51 Wayfarer along side Ken Sherwood II in his ‘41 Willys "Spunky Monkey". While the Missall has Chrysler Fire Power, the Monkey is powered by a Big O’ Rat. Gotta love it!
Brian Kressman of Niagara Falls, NY, was the behind the wheel of the "Mr. Hyde" '65 Nova that is owned by his wife, Lisa, who also drives it but didn't make the trip to this year’s reunion.
Bo Martin (near lane) in his ‘63 Impala along side Ray Barnhart in his’ 60 Impala taking part in the 409 class.
Art Misuraca’s '34 Ford Coupe (near lane) with another brand you don’t often see Billy Bregitzer’s '51 Kaiser Fraiser.
You don’t see many AMC products these days. Here is the '67 Rambler American of Michael Rados.
While it was coming down to the nitty gritty with a car on the fritz, a bye was just what the doctor ordered so that Wanda Johnson could get her car back to the pits, find the issue and get back in the lane in time for a final round appearance. And quite possibly the one thing more she needed would have been to leave on green but that wasn't what was in the cards for Wanda and her "Tickled Pink" 1939 Plymouth as the storm clouds came in to put an end to the final day of Gasser Reunion.
Gasser Reunion SLIDESHOW
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