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When looking at the legends of the sport of drag racing, it's a fair statement to say that for the majority of them the dragstrip was their second home. As a young boy growing up in Buffalo, New York, this was not the case for me. I didn't grow up at the track nor had racing passed down to me through my family. This, however, didn't change my childhood dream of driving a race car.

My first drag race wasn't at the Winternationals of at the Big Go at Indy. You might say that my first drag race was actually me sitting and dreaming in my sister's mother-in-law's beat up 1960 Ford while it was up on blocks. At 10 years old I could steer the car, shift through the gears, and work the gas and brakes.

These childhood dreams were even more established when I was able to practice my driving on the street, not up on blocks. My group of friends and I were not concerned with reaction times, a dial-in, or breakouts. At 17 years old we were only concerned with having the baddest hot rod in town. I had to have the baddest.

At 13 I was running a gas station owned by a group of biker and Super Stock racers. They would take off and be gone for a week. I'd stay and run the station. The owner would call occasionally and tell me to dip the tanks and make bank deposits. Gas was only about 18 cents a gallon in those days and there wasn't enough money to worry about getting robbed. When the owner and his buddies weren't out riding their bikes, they were drag racing. The owner had a '63 Max Wedge and a '67 Hemi.

During my teenage days, I did burnouts at the gas station around the corner-not in a burnout box. One of my buddies stood between my 1968 Dodge Coronet RT and my opponent's muscle car, dropping his hands to signal the start of the race-not the lights counting down a christmas tree. We didn't race for the trophies or the prize money-we raced for the reputation of having the baddest hot rod on Ohio Street.

As the times changed and my addiction for speed increased, I moved from the street to the strip. My first "real" drag race was in 1969 at Lancaster Dragway about 30 minutes outside Buffalo. A few memories stick in my mind from that event.

First, it was a new experience to be able to complete a tire smoking burnout without having to check in my rear-view mirror for flashing red lights. I also remember that I didn't run as quickly as I had expected. At this time, my RT was still fairly stock from the factory with a 440 automatic, 4:11 gears, and old M&H racemaster slicks.

When we were on the street, the only thing we had to compare our car to was the guy next to us. We had beaten the guys on the street. My first time at the track was more of a rude awakening. These guys were serious. We weren't racing for a tank full of racing gas anymore. I may not have had the fastest or the baddest hot rod that night, but I knew that eventually I would.

After the RT, my first real race car was a 1972 Dodge Demon that carried the name "Satan's Revenge." I raced it in C-Gas with a 426 Hemi that originated in Arlene Venke's Pro Stocker. That's when the real racing started. Going to Indianapolis for the U.S. Nationals was a far cry from doing burnouts in the gas station parking lot. [Photo above by Les Welch]

Jim Oddy and I have been racing together for quite a while. That's me on the left above telling Jim how we're going to set the record. [Nick Campoli photo] Then I went out and did it-I set the IHRA eighth-mile record in 1983 in my altered.

Racing at Indy back in 1975, I never could have imagined winning a Pro Modified World Championship or being named Car Craft Driver of the Year. Looking back, I realize that to be a success, you don't have to grow up at the local racetrack. Success can start with the hopes and dreams of a 10-year-old boy.

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