Remembering ‘Stan the Man’ Lomelino

As drag racing has matured and moved quickly forward as a participation sport, a lot of history is lost to present and future drag racing generations. One such case is that of drag racing pioneer Stan Lomelino from Virden, IL.


Stan passed away Feb. 24 at his home in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 89. He took with him a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Senate in 2005 and the respect of most Midwestern drag racers. The sign shown above was erected by the Illinois Highway Dept. on Illinois Route 4 near his hometown.

Shown here is Stan’s best looking Ford flathead-powered car which proudly carries the sign, AHRA National 1320 Record Holder!

A few short years ago, Mike Coker (left) and Stan got together at a Reunion hosted by Midstate Dragway in Havana, IL. Stan’s passing took with him a collection of grass roots knowledge which cannot be duplicated. However there are many of us who knew Stan and we will all pass along our knowledge of a visionary ‘way ahead of his time’.


In fact, Mike Coker, a valuable ally to my writing since 2010, sent me notification of Stan’s passing which went unnoticed for a few days as I have had health problems of my own. But Stan’s life and contribution to drag racing were huge and he deserves more recognition.


The first time I remember knowing about Stan was in 1958-59 at Alton Dragway, just north of St. Louis in Illinois. Toward the end of their weekly program as we waited in line for Middle Eliminator with my ’32 Ford B/A, a car from Cloverleaf Automotive in St. Louis was being touted by the track announcer for the final Top Eliminator run of the event. Indeed, the fuel-injected Chevrolet was beautiful and highly chromed. In the other lane was a plain Jane single engine Ford flathead rail with almost no chrome anywhere.


Boom, the flagman did his thing and they were off on the Top Eliminator final. When the tire smoke cleared, it was the little flathead Ford who won. And as I found out, this was just one of many Top Eliminator titles from the stable of Stan Lomelino!


But that was not the first time I was in close proximity of Stan the Man. My research found evidence of a lost drag strip I have mentioned several times; QUADS, Quincy Urban Area Drag Strip, here is a quote: “A quarter-mile dirt drag strip was started on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River just north of Quincy, IL. Stan Lomelino won a couple of Top Eliminator titles at races held there.”

This late ‘50s photo from the sand-land pit area of Cordova Raceway, shows the extreme length Stan went to with his renowned Ford flat head dragsters. Both engines, front and rear are supercharged, but with different blowers. One of Stan’s early creations had two Lincoln transmissions, which both had to be quickly shifted. This car gained a lot of notice, but did not run as well as expected, so it was quickly parked.


Before Stan showed up one night in 1962 at Tri State Dragway in Kahoka, MO, he was legendary across the central U.S. He had won Top Eliminator at Great Bend, KS, on seven cylinders. This was not because white smoke came out of one exhaust header tube, it was due to Stan taking one broken rod and piston out of the engine and replacing the rod with a stub he cut off another spare rod to hold oil pressure.


Lomelino came into his own when the eighth-mile tracks started opening up around 1960. He quickly found that the little Ford flathead-powered cars were very good at the 660-foot distance, especially when using 100% nitro as fuel.


A CHUCKLE: One night at Kahoka’s eighth-mile track, we were wrapping up for the event after Stan had won the Top Eliminator final. A young man appeared at the steps to the tower and asked for Mr. Baker. He then said he was with Stan and they needed the pit lights a little longer. Why, I asked? Well, they had broken the #2 engine on their twin engine fueler, used the tow car motor to make the final, and were busy replacing it into their ’48 Ford tow car so they could go home: TRUE STORY!


The testimony below is from Jalopy Journal and perfectly describes what Stan knew about his beloved flathead motors.


“Last flathead Top Eliminator at the nationals was the Rice dragster in 1956...maybe 1955? The dragster had two sets of engine mounts and was campaigned with a Hemi at some meets and flathead for others. Owner said flathead for ET, Chrysler for top speed...he chose the flathead for the nationals.”

Jim Baker's Then and Now

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 4 - April  2017

The twin shown here is Stan’s best effort to compete with blown Chryslers, injected Chevrolets, and everything in between. Stan really stood tall with this twin Ford on 100% nitro at places like Tri State Dragway, Kahoka, MO, and Springfield, IL. In fact, there were several Chrysler-powered fuel cars that would not race at Kahoka due to the possible embarrassment of being defeated by Stan.


Stan told me that he started drag racing in 1951 at a place called Half Day, IL, just south of Chicago.

When Bob Bartel opened Cordova Raceway in 1958, Stan became a fixture at the new ATAA-sanctioned track. And he did so with a wild array of Ford flathead-powered cars with a unique mixture of engines and transmissions.

At Cordova Raceway (then Quad Cities Dragway) for purists, Stan is pictured taking on a small block Chevrolet during eliminations.

And at other times, Stan just came to race with his more conventional single motor flathead dragster.

The ‘Wallys’ of early times: Hanging on the wall of Stan’s shop are several jackets which were presented to winners, back in the day. Stan had about 30 of these as I remember.


From Jalopy journal:


“Stan Lomelino was one of the last hold outs. He was running and winning into the 60's with his all home built cars, motors and injection. I heard a story once that one of the big name injection guys gave him a set up to run on his car for them. Which he did most of the day then, when the finals came he put his home made injector back on and ran even faster.”


Prior to his passing, this post from a friend:


“Stan the man Lomelino is alive and well. I see him almost weekly. He is an inspiration and a legend the likes of which most only wish they knew. he has stories that constitute a book He still holds national records and I'm honored to say I know him! Rs59”

From left: Art Bagley, well known Alton Dragway racer, Paul Fansler, long time White Hall Dragway announcer, Stan the Man, and Joe Hendricks at a White Hall Dragway gathering.

At the recent 2016 CHRR in Bakersfield, I was befriended by the car owner, Jack Harris of this modern Ford flathead, dual motor car. It is shown here doing an exhibition burnout, which reminds me completely of how Stan’s dual engine car looked at Kahoka, MO, back in 1963.


After so many years, I have no tally of how many Top Eliminator titles Stan won. At the track I managed, Tri State Dragway, there were several, and he also ran and won at places like Cordova, Alton, Springfield, Whitehall, Des Moines, IA, and US 30 in Gary, IN. Nearly everyone who remembers Stan say the total wins would top 100 and it may well have.


Stan was an innovator and a winner. He was not about glitz or show. As the history of organized drag racing evolves, we should always remember how much we owe to the pioneers and experimenters like Stan the Man Lomelino. RIP, old friend!


Until Next Time, Be On Time!


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