A pictorial of Tulsa’s Nitro Nationals

Celebrating 50 Years of Tulsa Time

Cackle cars are a big part of any Nostalgia event. What could be more appropriate for Tulsa’s 50th than one of Bennie Osborn’s front-motored T/F cars cackling nitro in the dark until the big Hemi headers were glowing cherry red.

I’m not that big a fan of Nostalgia events, especially those where the car show and cacklefest get more attention than racing. I believe that race cars should always be race cars and show cars are just expensive car art. When I do go to a Nostalgia event it’s for the racing and not for a walk down memory lane constantly being reminded of how old I actually am.

But my attending Tulsa Raceway Park’s 50th anniversary celebration in September of this year caused me to re-think that all Nostalgia events are the same. The reason is simple: unlike most Nostalgia events I’ve attended in the past where I often didn’t recognize the featured cars or stars, at Tulsa I did see some hero cars and drivers that I remember from my misspent drag racing youth.

Tulsa Raceway Park is the site of my first ever national event race. My brother and I flat-towed our D/S 406 Galaxie Ford from Amarillo, Texas, to Tulsa to race in Stock Eliminator at the 1969 NHRA World Finals. We sucked, but I got to see my heroes Jimmy Nix, Don Prudhomme, Don Garlits, Don Nicholson, Fenner Tubbs, Gene Snow, Bennie Osborn, Bob Crietz, and others at that race.

This year track owner/operators Todd Martin and Keith Haney put on a spectacle celebrating the track’s 50th anniversary that had it all. There were pin-up contests, real Fuel Altereds, Nostalgia Funny Cars, and front-motored dragsters. The pits were full of vintage and tribute race cars that I recognized from my days racing at Amarillo Dragway and Tulsa. I even enjoyed the cacklefest for Top Fuel and Funny Cars -- especially when the pipes on the Bennie Osborn fuel car were cherry red!

Added to the enjoyment of the event was the attendance of a long list of famous drivers who have raced at Tulsa over the years including Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, Bennie Osborn, “Goob” Tuller and others. These guys made themselves available to the fans all weekend long.

The nostalgia racing was excellent, especially with a couple dozen nitro fuel alts qualifying and racing. There was also a blown front-motored dragster class, and a gaggle of period-correct blown and unblown gasser race cars. All of that plus a pin-up girl contest with 40+ entries, and live bands both nights made for two great days of smoky burnouts, wheels-up launches, and great racing.

It was a cool deal and I will be back for the track’s 51st anniversary. I highly recommend your attending the event next year too.

This sign was “rescued” by a local trooper after the inaugural World Finals at what was then called Southwest. In an act of contrition the trooper returned the sign at the 50th and it is being donated the Wally Parks Museum of NHRA Drag Racing. (Jeff Burk photo)