Jeff Burk Photo

It’s showtime. . .of sorts. By the time this column hits the cyber-stands, NHRA’s crown jewel, the Big Go numero 5-0 will be gone. The gods of Glendora have pulled out all the stops to make this “Go” way gone! Amid all the history, pomp, circumstance and, oh yeah, a race, will be a few departures from the normal schedule that even we vintage addicts will dig. I know I touched on this in an earlier column, but if you’re like me and have a short attention span, you can use a bit of a reminder. As was mentioned before, they will have the Golden 50 on display, the cackle-festers will do their thing that, depending how many you have seen, is either the coolest thing you have ever witnessed or just a car show idling by that is getting a little long in the tooth.

What should have everyone on their feet at this big 5-0 shindig will be the fuel altereds! That’s right folks, the same vehicles that NHRA had no clue what to do with. (They ran what back in the day? Comp eliminator? Pro Comp on alky? before being left out of the rulebook. By the way, I know fuel altereds still run, in fact Ron Fassil is a buddy of mine, so leave that out of my hate mail.)

NHRA has three cars listed on the website: Ron Hope and Don Green’s Rat Trap, Randy Bradford’s Fiat and Dave Hough’s Nanook. Hmmm, one is missing and I know for a fact it is (or was) making its way back with its motley crew now riding in comfort thanks to David Woods. I’m talking about the fabled Winged Express! Maybe it was supposed to be a surprise, but the wing is on its way!

Also happening in the Midwest, and yes I already mentioned this in my column, are the Teen Arrive Alive Funny Car Nationals being held Sept. 10-12 at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis. As of scribble date, they have 48 Funnies penciled in. Go to to hear the cool radio spot Berserko Bob did! Drag Racing Online will cover this event, however since I’m racing, my coverage might be a little biased. But look for something!

On to the audience participation part of our program. What do you, our discerning reader, think is the current state of Nostalgia Top Fuel racing? Don’t like the title “Nostalgia” racing? Okay, how about “Vintage” or “Classic” Top Fuel Drag racing. There has been much talk and discussion lately on the boards about the declining car counts in the Top Fuel class and just what might be the reasons. Now don’t shoot me for the comment you are about to read; I love nitro, I love Top Fuel, however I drive a Funny Car and cannot live without that. So, what do I think about the declining car counts in VRA Top Fuel? I could give a rat’s ass! That’s right, folks, the kook that actually has a chassis he wanted to run in Top Fuel, now drives a Funny Car and he doesn’t care.

It seems to me all the other classes are healthy and enjoying growth. Didn’t Goodguys limit entries at select events this year? Every time I turn around I hear about a new car being built for NE-1, 2, 3, gasser this, hot rod that or A/Fuel etc. Okay for Funny Car also but not for Top Fuel. Is it all that bad? They can still fill two eight-car shows. I know the purists are saying “there were 28 cars at the ‘99 March Meet” and that year was the turning point. For whatever reason, people started to get serious with our little hobby at about that time. Transporters started showing up, touring crew people started moonlighting on front motor fuel cars. And folks, billet heads, blocks and trick blowers made the scene, along with our friend the 44-amp mag.

So where am I going with this? I want to know what you think would put Top Fuel back on the upswing with new cars being built and new blood coming in. Email me with your suggestions and we will discuss them here at a later date. Why do you think Top Fuel is on the decline while all the other classes including Funny Car are growing?

This last little bit is an idea I had with some buddies of mine back when I worked at McDonnell Douglas as a welder back in the ‘80s. We went to an ANRA race at Palmdale, CA and were grooving on the nostalgia cars including Don & Rose Ratican’s Pontiac fuel dragster, when we started brainstorming on a fuel drag bike class - you know, Harleys, Triumphs, Vincents (I’m dreaming about the Barn Job, sorry). How cool would this be?

Is anyone out there running something like this for exhibition runs or whatever?

The honorees for this years NHRA Hot Rod reunion are up and I’m proud to have driven for one of them! Famous Amos Satterlee, whom I drove for along with Bryan Bruhn in the Top Eliminator West series will be honored along with some other greats (Wild Bill too!)

Lastly, this summer I have had the opportunity to go to a few local shows that hopefully you folks will want to check out also. There is so much more out there than just the national events. Fuel match races, jets, altereds, gassers. . .and of course, the fox hunts. Did I go to a fox hunt? Yes, I did but I missed the bikini contest. So I hope your summer has been more complete than mine.

Previous Stories

Getting Nostalgic with Jeff Utterback — 8/9/04
The Dawg Days of Summer and Other Nostalgia Animals

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