Jim Baker's Then and Now

A GHOST STORY from guest columnist Bob Anderson

One of my good friends from back in 1969-70, Bob Anderson recently wrote about a Pro Stock racing trip to Seattle, WA, in 1972. I have edited Bob’s story slightly to stay within my parameter for ‘Then & Now’.  – Jim Baker




People have asked me what it was like racing in the new NHRA Pro Stock Class?  Pro Stock was an outgrowth of the popular ‘Outlaw Super Stocks’ of ’68-69, certainly our Generation Gap was not a big threat to the factory-sponsored cars of the day. However for independent racers, the ‘GAP’ was a car that could bite at any time. So I write this story to give you an idea of what racing Pro Stock was like for me, which meant hours of work coupled with a whole lot of fun.


With the support from longtime friend Shell Anderson and super crewman Dan Wooley, we formed a team that handled the required work and still enjoyed the fun and excitement of early Pro Stock racing. The following is a story of just two weekends in 1972. Enjoy the ride!

On April 8-9, 1972 we entered the ‘Gap’ in two races. Competing at Sacramento Raceway Saturday night and then driving the 100 miles west to Fremont, CA, for Sunday. The ‘Gap’ was running well and turning a record (for us) 10.14 @136.98 MPH. However, both Muncie 4-speed transmissions were problematic. With two weeks left before the Seattle National Open repairs were made and we were ‘on the road again’.


On Monday Dan Wooley showed up to help load for the week long trip north with plans to compete in the NHRA National Open. [Ed. Note: This race became the NHRA Northwest Nationals.] Shell had work duties and could not attend. Boy did he miss out!


A friend, Sacramento track manager John Zendejas, invited Dan and I to stop by their home on our way north. We spent the night with them and early Tuesday a.m. John asked me if we could unload the ‘Gap’ at the closed raceway to give him a ‘ride’? There was no seat on the passenger side, no belts, and no helmet. In spite of a few tech infractions, John got his ride. And the transmission worked great this time.


Meanwhile, John said that he wanted to arrange a Pro Stock match race between the ‘GAP’ and Jim Baker’s ‘CHEVY WEST’. It was to be two out of three with the winner then facing Don Lorentzen’s beautiful Camaro.


We hit the road (I-5) north until we spent the night in Medford, OR. When we gassed up Wednesday in Eugene, the attendant, noting the race car, asked if we were headed to the Wednesday drags? I explained we were going to the NHRA Seattle Open. Interested in seeing the eighth-mile track, we met the manager, Randy Dryson.


When Randy saw our car, he asked if I would make an exhibition run that night. He said he would pay us $25. Not much money but remember a full tank of gasoline was only $5 back then. After agreeing to be there, we were headed to the track when we heard on the local radio, “Bob Anderson, will be making an exhibition run in his NHRA-legal Pro Stock Nova tonight”. I’m guessing that was our 15 seconds of fame in Eugene, OR.

Editor’s Note: Bob’s story is from 1972; in 2016 the same three former Pro Stock drivers; L-R Don Lorentzen, Jim Baker, and Bob Anderson met for a Studebaker show at La Palma Park in Anaheim, CA.


We unloaded the car Wednesday evening and made three very smoky burn-outs, much to the crowds delight. I left hard, wheels up, but the transmission would not shift to second. Dan and I wanted to make a real pass, so we changed the box and ran better.


The Eugene fans were great and enjoyed having their first Pro Stocker. We came back in July and performed even better! Thursday we were back on I-5 to Seattle for two days of NHRA racing as well as a visit with my cousins, Pat and Nancy. Qualifying on Saturday, we got two attempts to make the ‘show’. First time the car ran out of gas; second attempt all went well with a solid 10.33 @ 134.32 and we were in the Big Show!


As we were loading the cars, Pat and Gordy asked if our friends wanted to stay overnight at their home in the woods, just north of Mt. Ranier? Jim Baker and Don Lorentzen joined a caravan to their home.


We celebrated all three of us ‘making the show’ with a steak fondue. Sitting in front of a fire, telling stories and jokes, including me quipping that ‘if Jim halls ass, he has to make two trips’. Everybody laughed but Jim; little did I know I would eat my words.


After a good rest it was race day. I won round one over Bill Ireland’s Ford Maverick; however I felt third gear almost crash. We found the syncro for third nearly toothless. With no parts left, we replaced the box and skipped third gear.


Jim Baker’s Chevy West also had won and sure enough we were paired for round 2. As Jim headed for the water box, my starter just clicked, a dead battery. We didn’t use an alternator and I just didn’t think about charging. Several crews push-started me and I skipped the burnout as Jim was waiting for me.


I want to thank Jim as my time had expired to stage. He could have made a single to gain the semi-finials at a National event, but he waited.


We both hit the ‘tree’ (Note: this was pre reaction times). Baker was gone while I was spinning my cold wet tires. I got going and seemed to gain a lot, but losing at the stripe with a time of 10.69 while Jim had his own tranny problems and ran a slower 10.73, but he left first.


Heading home down I-5 we found that John Zendejas had indeed booked us at Kingdon for Tuesday night. My transmissions were both ‘junk’, so Don loaned me his spare. Jim, however faced a similar fate after the National Open. ‘Gold Dust’ resin was available and spread much to the crowd’s delight. I won both match races, and prepared to take on Don for the final. I missed fourth gear as Lorentzen sped on down the track with a 10.04 ET to my missed shift 10.19.

The match was a huge success for us, the promoter, and their fans. We were all paid and came home to Simi Valley with nearly $200 profit for the two week trip.

I was surprised to note the coverage by NHRA the race received in National Dragster. It certainly helped me with sponsorship.


Now I need to repair my broken 4 speeds, ‘cause next week we’ll be ON THE ROAD AGAIN.


Note: We have known Bob since the late ‘60s. This is just one adventure we shared during the early days of Pro Stock. Recently we have traveled to Bakersfield with Bob & Steve Woem, as well as PSCA events at Fontana and the NHRA Winternationals. Thank you for allowing me to share! -- Jim


Unit Next Time, Be On Time! 


The ‘Generation Gap’ at Sacramento during the time (1972) of this story.

At the California Hot Rod Reunion: L/R Gas Ronda; Butch Leal; Ed Terry; Hubert Platt & Bob Anderson.

Bob is shown trying out the seat of a new Hemi Challenger at a recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

At Bakersfield, CHRR 2016, are Dave Smith (1983 AHRA Pro Stock Champion); Bob Anderson; and Jack Manchester, Runner-up at several NHRA National events!

Circa 2017, Bob & Steve Woem are talking with Don McDavitt at Auto Club Raceway Fontana.

‘Hippie’ Bob in Seattle (1972) with his Cousin, Pat and her husband.



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