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 www.funnycarnationals.com 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
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
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.
Jeff Utterback 8/9/04
The Dawg Days of Summer and Other Nostalgia Animals