What a Difference a Month Makes

Part 1

(Sorry gang, it’s all about me.)


Jeff Burk Photo

f you have followed my “career” as an Internet troublemaker, you don’t need to be reminded that, one, I have a front engine dragster chassis with no motor. Two, my choice of motors (the 426) was not allowed to run on nitro by a certain organization. And three, I have whined about it almost constantly since the day the parade was rained out on Nitro Avenue. Well, all that whining got me somewhere. In a roundabout way, it got me into the driver’s seat of a nostalgia fuel Funny Car.

My fellow Internet troublemaker, Jeff Gaynor, and I started corresponding on things (okay, we were ganging up on people on the various Internet bulletin boards) and we hit it off. Jeff has a nostalgia fuel Funny Car that has had, for whatever reasons, three different drivers. He has every intention of driving it himself one day, but a couple of months ago he was looking for another driver for his car.

During our talks back and forth he asked if I knew Mike Demarest, his tuning consultant. Well, having done work for Mike at Hansen Chassis, I became even more excited to actually drive a car tuned by Mike. Mike, along with his brother and partner, Bill Schultz, were responsible for a lot of nitro cars getting into the win column during the glory days of So Cal drag racing. Jeff also has his neighbor Randy Hoggard helping out as a crew member. So that’s the entire team, Jeff, Mike and Randy.

This is where the title of the column comes into play. Within one month’s time, we as a team made sure that I could actually fit in the car, found a Funny Car helmet, got the car race-ready again after it had been sitting for five months, built assorted parts, added new chute levers so that I would actually be able to throw the chutes, made four runs in six hours to crossover from a long wheel base advanced ET license, serviced the car, went to a match race and made two full runs, serviced the car again and built weight bars to make weight for the VRA rules, went to Vegas, qualified number three and then ended up going to the final and losing to a holeshot. Whew! To say the last 30 days have been a blur would be an understatement! Add this to the usual 40-hour-a-week job, family, cleaning the cat litter box and all the other exciting things I do. It was hectic!

All that initial preparation was exciting, but the fun really started when the car was ready and we were at Los Angeles County Raceway, also known as “The Bernieplex,” for my license runs. After a morning spent harassing poor Robert Reehl on his cell phone so that we could meet him at his shop for some last minute accoutrements, everyone went to the track and we were ready to go. In attendance were Bob Godfrey, painter extraordinaire and fellow nostalgia Funny Car pilot, George Doty and Angry Steve and the gang from Hot Rods and Harleys. Mike Demarest, Randy, Pammy, and Thing One and Thing Two (my 4 and 5-year-old sons) were also there. Everyone was there except Dale Pulde, who Gaynor had forgotten to tell where we were going to do the runs. Dale and his dad assumed we were going to Bakersfield and drove all the way up to Famoso! So, after Dale got the correct information and headed back down our way, we warmed-up the car, towed up and got ready for my first squirt.

It had been a couple of years since I had made a lap in a real racecar. The last car I had driven was an alcohol dragster that my partners and I (Bryan Bruhn and Famous Amos Satterlee) ran in the Top Eliminator West series, a 6.30 index class. (Ego stroke alert! We won the series in 2001). What was interesting was that, while I was nervous, I was finding that I wasn’t getting as nervous as I would get in the alcohol car. I felt surprisingly comfortable in the Funny car. The vibe with all of the guys involved was calming, not stressful. Mike Demarest made a comment later that my eyes didn’t get big as he’s seen some people’s get when the engine is started.

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