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Over the past ten years or so drag racing in Australia has seen some aspects grow and others wane. Import Cars, Radial shod sedans, 10.5 tyred turbo rides have waxed and waned however our form of Hot Rod Heritage racing, Nostalgia drag racing has pretty much stayed on a steady course. In late 2011 Cruizin Magazine hooked up with Willowbank Raceway and the Cruizin Nostalgia drag racing series was born. The latest event in the 2016 Series was at Sydney Dragway on September 10-11.
Since the ANFA (Australian Nostalgia Fuel Association) moved their Pioneers and Legends Presentation to the same weekend as the Cruizin Magazine Nostalgia Drags there has been a lot of interest and an increase of interstate competitors and spectators who crave to see the “gud olde daze”. This year’s Awards saw an eclectic bunch of racers that were lauded, presented with a plaque and had their nameplate affixed to the Sydney Dragway tower wall.
I was asked to present New South Wales’ racer, Jeff Hislop with his Legend Award and he was joined by David Baines and Russell Parker from South Australia, Graeme Eason and Trevor Hawthorne from Queensland and the Wilson Brothers from Victoria. This also saw fellow Mexican (Victoria is south of the border – Ed) Graeme Cooper, Kevin Pinkstone from New South Wales and Ian Gibbings from Western Australia. All have been very successful in their own chosen categories and were cheered loudly as the presentations proceeded.
In addition to the Legends Awards, Pioneer trophies were also handed out on the night. This saw Victorians Graham Withers and Jack 'Fizzball' Collins being joined by New South Welshmen, Bob Shepherd, Chuck May and Jim Kerr along with Queenslanders Bill and Dale Jones. Alas Bill was too ill to make the trip but Dale related the tale about being contacted by Bill Pratt (of Drag Racing List fame) to say that in the late nineties their automatic-equipped iron block SB Chev was the first to break into the five-second zone and she thinks the mark still might stand.
In addition to the trophy presentations a special ceremony was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the American Drag Fest in 1966 when six US cars came down under. Bob Keith was a key figure in getting the Drag Fest off the ground after going to England in 1964 and 1965. He came out to Australia with his blown big block-powered gas dragster. Keith was the first racer to run a blown big block in American competition and over the years would come back to Australia many times to renew friendships.