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Life’s lessons are best learned the hard way for many of us. It’s not until we look back over our shoulder at what once was, that we suddenly sometimes “get it.” If we look back at a Thanksgiving dinner shared by some notable racers back in 1979, there are some life-lessons there that we can all benefit from. Lessons that remind us all just how lucky we are, that there’s much to be thankful for, and we will forever be indebted for all these racers shared with us in their lifetimes.
There was a time in Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing when teams traveled the country like a band of gypsies rolling from race to race in small packs. The year 1979 was a banner year for this. They camped out together in the pits or stayed at the same motels as a band of brothers, most every race. They broke bread together on many nights and bonded in a way that comes from such closeness, which cemented friendships that evolved into extended families.
This was a time in drag racing when the sport was more important than the performance of the machines. It was more personal than business back then and that’s missing from much of today’s drag racing, and the sport as a whole is lesser for it.
Jackie Hill, the wife of Pete Hill, Harley Davidson Nitromethane-powered Top Fuel drag bike racing legend, recalled a special Thanksgiving dinner from 1979 she shared with us recently, that struck a chord on my heart strings. The story harkens from a time in motorcycle drag racing that some may perceive as “better days,” which have now somehow passed us by in 2014.
As she recalls, “Pete and I got a card in the mail one morning, first week of November, it was an engraved invitation from Marion and Kathy Owens of Oklahoma City, inviting our family out to join theirs for Thanksgiving dinner.”
It should be noted here that the time frame is Fall of 1979, Pete Hill’s shop is located in Greenville, SC, some 995 miles away from the Owens family residence.