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Just outside of Willcox, Arizona, in 1954, ala a James Dean movie, a group of 20 or so would-be drag racers lined up across a giant World War II airport runway which was 5,000 feet long to see who could get to our self-measured quarter-mile marker first. A shotgun start was used. My straight 8 1952 Pontiac did not win, but it was fun and I was ‘hooked’ for life, I guess.
Three years later on a cool clear Arizona morning, after an hour-long drive from Tempe (Arizona State U.) to the farming community of Casa Grande, Az., I was at another old World War II airstrip which had been converted for real drag racing by the Casa Grande Timing Association. My new effort was a 1957 Oldsmobile that had been fitted with the J-2 equipment package, prepared for drag racing by Bill Hopper (Cyr and Hopper, 1957 National Champion dragster) at his Mesa, Ariz., shop. It was no Pro Stocker for sure, but was fast for its day, clocking 15.26 seconds at 96.74 MPH. We won a gold plated trophy inscribed Class Winner C.G.T.A. and a $25.00 U.S. Govt. Bond for something called ‘Little’ eliminator. Perhaps if the U.S. Government is looking for scores of folks who have never shown up to cash their bonds, they should check the records of early drag racers who won them, some of which are framed and displayed, but will never be cashed.
My name is Jim Baker, a lifetime drag racer and enthusiast. Although I started with a personal introduction, this series is not about me. It is about drag racing as it started, progressed, and continues today from my perspective.
Jeff Burk and Drag Racing Online are allowing me to present a new type of column in which each installment we will bring you items from the early days of organized drag racing and then look at my take on Drag Racing at present through the eyes of a long time racer, track operator, early Pro Stock campaigner, and Las Vegas media company executive.