They told him not to.
Drag-racing veterans warned RaceRedi Motorsports owner-driver Justin Humphreys not to get mixed up with Bob Glidden. No one argued with Glidden's record of 10 championships (NHRA-best five straight), 85 victories (third-most in all NHRA pro classes), 35 straight round-wins and nine consecutive victories in 1978-79, five straight triumphs at a single event (Columbus, Ohio, 1979-83), his Pro Stock best nine wins at Indianapolis' famed U.S. Nationals, NHRA -best 17 straight final rounds, 101 top-qualifier awards (including an unprecedented 23 straight from 1986-88 and 14 straight in 1987).
Glidden, the rumor went, was a pain.
But Humphreys always has gone against the grain, hearing the advice but doing things his own way. He hired Glidden, starting with the final six races in 2007. And he and Glidden -- along with stern new taskmaster Richard Maskin of DART Machinery on the engine program -- have formed a formidable and happily functioning alliance. And the former Sport Compact Series champion from Monrovia, Maryland, insists he and his Pontiac GTO are a victory on the verge of rocking NHRA's already explosive Pro Stock class.
Humphreys, whose defiance always has seemed to pay off, said of the drag-racing legend, "When he came on board, people told me, 'Don't bring him on. He's going to ruin your program. He's going to yell at you, cuss at you.' And that hasn't happened once yet in the past year, and I don’t think it’s going to happen. His sons even say he's happier than he's ever been. He's always got a smile on his face. If we have a bad day, 10 minutes later it’s all good again."
The two have formed a bond, extraordinary in that Glidden -- not normally given to gushing – gushed, “This guy has a mind of steel. He reminds me of me when I was at the top of my game,” he said of Humphreys.
"He’s in the range where if his car is competitive, he is going to win it. I am very proud of him . . . not just the fact he can drive but because of his mental attitude toward this whole thing. He’s just got it. Whatever it is . . . he’s just got it.”
Humphreys, a 37-year-old husband to Gina and father to three-year-old daughter Gillian, said Glidden "is like a second dad to me. He has been just awesome. He has given me a lot of pointers. He has helped my driving out a lot. He has helped our whole program out tremendously.
“He and Richard both have been there. They've won races. They've lost races. They've won championships; they've lost championships. So they know just about every aspect of the sport. There's not two better guys to go out there and learn from. We're going to be in the winners circle soon."
He came close at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona last November. He got the jump on Jeg Coughlin and led past half-track, forcing the newly crowned series champion to run low elapsed time of the weekend to beat him by a mere two feet, seven thousandths of a second.
In a return to Pomona this February for the Winternationals and again at Phoenix in Race No. 2 on the 2008 POWERade Series schedule, Humphreys lost to Coughlin. He won a round at the Gatornationals and exited in the opening round at Houston. But, as Glidden said of the competition, "I've been here 100 years, and this Pro Stock category is really outrageous."
Not even a crummy preseason test session at frigid Las Vegas that left them without any clue to the GTO's behavior bothered them. "Nothing went right for us at Las Vegas," Glidden said. "The track was cold and you either had to be perfect or you missed it . . . and we missed it on almost every run. We didn't learn a thing. But we will go with the tune-up combinations like they were when we left Pomona in the fall."