The Nitro Joint w / "Chicago Jon" Hoffman

Mulligan Stew

"The waitress said did I want my pizza cut into four slices or eight? I said FOUR, I don't think I could eat eight."  -- Baseball legend Yogi Berra

Time again for me to drag my typewriter into the kitchen and COOK up another column about Mulligan Stew! Much like the last time I slaved away in the kitchen for a column, (November 2017 to be exact) Mulligan Stew, also known as Hobo Stew, is when everyone pitches in what little they have into the pot, so as a collective it can provide for all. This month, the 'Stew' is random small stories that would not satisfy on their own, so we bring them all together and VIOLA! Stew for all! SO, let me grab the pot and prepare a small bowl for each of you...WAIT, that didn't come out right, so anyway...


[NOTE: The following opinions are those of Chicago Jon, and do not reflect those of Drag Racing Online or its staff.]


A tip of the sombrero to my favorite Manic-Hispanic, none other than Cruz Pedregon. The Cruzer channeled his inner Oakland Raider up in Epping, New Hampshire, this year, and basically told that mouthy little guy from team Kalitta to shut up. Sure, Shawn Langdon won a championship in Top Fuel, but what has he really done, and what does he really know? His page on Wiki could fit under a bottle-cap, while the Cruzer’s is roughly half the length of this column. Yeah, you’re a big deal Langdon -- I'll bring you a stick of gum, so I can show you how to chew it.


Two years back I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie Decker at the Race & Performance Expo in Schaumberg, IL. I've been following her and her team since and made a fun discovery. Her teammate Michael Self is sponsored by Sinclair Oil. A good many of you are now doing a 'Captain Binghampton' from McHale’s Navy, going all "Who-Who-Who, Wha-Wha-WHA!!?!?" (and far more are going “What the Hell is McHale’s Navy?”) But when I was a kid, there was a Sinclair station on the corner in almost every town I knew. My brother, who took me to my first races, legendary Tom "the Longest Eight Miles" worked at one ten blocks from where I live today when he was in high school. In 1969, when every Sinclair station I knew of changed into being an ARCO station I thought the party was over, until I saw one south of Brainerd, Minnesota, in 1984. And now we have a RACECAR! Hey, long live the Sinclair dinosaur!


Rising up from the middle of the stew is a fang-tactular Snake, which brings me to the man who was one of my first heroes in this sport, Don Prudhomme. After “the Snake” retired from driving in 1994, he went into the ownership side of things, retiring from that in 2009. I read an interview where he went on record with not missing the headaches that came with the sport, and he was enjoying his life now, just fine thank you. He enjoyed romping with his dogs, his guilty pleasure was watching Oprah, bla-bla-bla. And guess what? This sport of ours is an ADDICTION, and you can't stay away for long. The Snake has returned,and when I'm not watching my usual favorites, I have one eye (maybe an eye and a half) on this kid Prock that drives for Force, because the Snake is involved with that team now. Clearly, he missed the sport, and I'll just venture to guess he missed being Don The Friggin Snake Prudhomme as well. No offense to "here Fiddoe" or "Guess what my friend Gayle and I did yesterday?", but maybe, JUST maybe he missed stepping out of the trailer and seeing a line of people with T-shirts and Hero-cards, wanting an autograph. Just saying....

Very unscientific with the geography on this one, but I pulled up a map of my area, then pretty much drew a circle extending twenty miles away from me in all directions. Then I put the memory banks to work and came to the conclusion that in my little universe at one point in time there were approximately seven shops at my disposal that specialized in racing memorabilia in general and die cast cars in particular. Take a guess how many there are today? If you said ZERO, you would be correct.


Remember when diecast cars ruled the world? You can still get them, sure, but now it's pretty much at the track or via online stores. My friends from the old Broadway Bob days, Laura and Mark Bruederle, do a brisk business with racing merchandise but for a while there it seemed like every strip mall had a racing store. (Vape shops? You're next.)


The Germans (how many people have Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons in their heads right now at the mention of that word?? "OOOooo, the GERMANS!!") have a word, schadenfreude that means "shameful joy" or delighting in the misery of others. I have many friends in our quarter-mile community that take great enjoyment in the troubles that NASCAR is experiencing. That has never been my style, for a multitude of reasons, starting with bad Karma and ending with poor sportsmanship. That said, my belly-up Dale Jarrett diecast symbolizes how those who turn corners are really taking it on the chin in turns of attendance. It is just sad to see the empty grandstands, week after week. My math skills are like a mighty north wind (they blow) but I truly wonder how much longer these venues and the sport as a whole can stay solvent.


Drag Racing can honestly boast of sellout days (it is fun to watch DRO’s own Bret Kepner club the keyboard-cowboys like so many government mules week in and week out over ticket sales while on social media.) Like mega-band ASIA once sang, "Only Time Will Tell."


Speaking of turning corners, one of the mega-owners in NASCAR has made a splash of recent, by buying up EVERYTHING open wheel. Roger Penske has bought the IndyCar series and the whole FREAKING TRACK known as Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And talk about attendance issues!


As I chronicled in a previous column, this country used to eat up the Indy 500 with spoon, knife, fork, Hell CHOPSTICKS might have come into play over in ChinaTown, it was must see entertainment. I remember going over to Shirley Muldowney’s duallie cab in the staging lanes at Great Lakes in 1979, where she was listening to the race on the radio and she gave me a quick update. I wish Roger the best on that one.


In closing, a story that could have EASILY been a complete column, but I know I could not have done the man justice, so I did not even dare attempt it. We lost the man sometimes referred to as the "Godfather of modern bracket racing", who brought us the Little Guy Nationals, and thirty-two Funny Car Manufacturer’s Races, patterned after those legendary OCIR shows -- the one and only Mister Ron Leek. That photo of him announcing, courtesy of the Great Lakes Dragway archives is how I'll always remember Ron, because there was never a dull moment when he was calling a race.


Whether it was observing turkey vultures circling the finish line ("WHAT, did someone dump a dead BODY down there?!??") or wanting someone to bring him a beverage ("O.K., alright...Bill, at the GAS SHED....Phil?? PHIL at the gas shed, GAS at the PHIL SHED, someone, ANYONE please go to the Byron concession stand and bring me an ice-cold Pepsi-Cola, so I can get this old CHEESEBURGER out of my neck...GRRRAAAAGHGGHHAAAA!!!!!!!!!!") nobody could do it like Ron Leek, we miss him every day. Ronnie, we were SO blessed to have you in our lives. See you on the other side.


O.K., doggie bags of stew have been set up for y’all, 'cause that's my style. ("doggie, ....STYLE! Thassa JOKE, son! Try and keep up with me here, boy, I say BOY!!") so until next month, I AM Chicago Jon, time to say C-Yaaaaa!!!  



official DRO sponsors

 © 1999-2019 - Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source LLC - 607 Seib Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366 Phone: 636.272.6301 - Privacy Policy

fficial ponsors