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Reading Aaron Polburn’s column about the U.S. Nationals made me aware of the difference in ages between Aaron, myself, and those who pioneered the original ‘big’ drag racing meets in the United States.
And in close order, I watched all the ESPN broadcast I could about the current 2015 edition of the BIG GO. From a racing point of view, it was as special to me as the original 1961 version.
In ’61 no one knew Pete Robinson nationally, or expected a blown small block dragster to claim Top Eliminator honors against all the huge Chrysler and Oldsmobile engines he faced, but he did it. With the win he became ‘Sneaky Pete’.
In ’15, no one expected Morgan Lucas to claim the Top Fuel win, some two years removed from racing the series full time. And he did it with driving savvy from years spent on the Mello Yellow Circuit, not by overpowering the field.
While it is true that the 800 car count did not meet the NHRA’s allowable quota for the 2015 version of the race, perhaps NHRA should look no further than their policies for an explanation. Every week this writer encounters a team or groups who want to attend an NHRA event but cannot because they have not entered enough other races recently to be eligible to do so.
In my hardcore racing days, which included 1961, if you had a car that would pass technical inspection for the class you could enter and race. Perhaps 10 years ago, prior to the great recession, a rule about who could enter was needed, but certainly not today. If Jack Wyatt, a Midwest funny car owner, can pass tech, he should be allowed to attend.
My strongest memory of the ’61 Nationals was of nearly 200 Gassers all fired up and moving forward from staging and under the Hurst Bridge. Small block Chevrolet engines (and others) were screaming as drivers did short ‘dry hops’ hoping to gain maximum traction when it was their turn to go. This sound from Indy in 1961 raises
higher goose bumps on my arms than even the warp of Nitro cars at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. ’61 Indy althoughrestricted to gasoline fuel, did have a contingent of ‘big’ motors and multi-engine dragsters for Pete’s single engine Chevy to challenge.