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Bill Kuhlmann was the first drag racer to break the two hundred mile per hour barrier in a doorslammer back in 1986 and is currently the owner of the quickest elapsed time ever in a 'slammer at 6.001, which he recorded in his Nitro Coupe. He also still lives just a few miles from the Wentzville track where he had his first race.

To tell of my first drag race brings many thoughts to mind. Are we talking about the first drag race I ever attended? The first drag race I ever took part in? The first drag race at an actual drag strip? As you read this, I ask you to think about your first drag race and you will find yourself in the same dilemma. The simple answer is to reflect and relate all three.

As a freshman in high school, I was a fourteen-year-old kid from a very small midwestern town. The year was 1960 and there was talk of building a racing facility in my town. The actual location was about two and a half miles outside of Wentzville, Mo. I thought it would be great because I lived two miles out of town in the same direction.

I had heard of the most famous drag strip in the world at that time. It was located across the state line in Illinois. Being from a town thirty-five miles west of St. Louis and not having a car, much less a driver's license, I just knew I would never be able to attend a race at world famous Alton Drag Strip. Well, at that time I thought it was the most famous. But fate took over in the body of a older high school girl who decided that she had eyes for me and asked me if I wanted to go to Alton Drag Strip to watch her older brother George race his Corvette. Naturally I said yes and the appetite was moistened. He not only won but he walked away with his class record. I was with somebody famous.

The first drag race that I ever took part in was purely accidental. The year was 1962 and I finally had a license and a car. It was a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 with a 292 cubic inch engine and (God forbid) automatic transmission. The only part of that car that was related to anything race, was the factory nine-inch Ford rear end. I didn't care. It was Canary yellow and it was all mine.

We had a stretch of road just outside the city limits that was a quarter mile long of straight two-lane asphalt. Many a drag race was held on that pavement to decide who had bragging rights at school the next day. Sometimes that bit of black top even decided which town had bragging rights. We (can't say who) even went as far as painting white stripes on both ends of the quarter mile. It was used so much for racing that there was even a rumor that the county might put in bleachers for spectators. My twisted mind even envisioned television to cover the events.

It didn't happen, but what did happen was a big drag race set up between my best friend, with his 312 cubic inch 57 Ford. Hell, he had a three speed on the column and overdrive. The other guy was Leroy somebody with a new 1962 SS327 four speed full size Chevy convertible. The reason I remembered his name is that my buddy's name was Leroy also. The night of the big event will stand in my mind forever. As the two Leroys lined up next to each other, I pulled my Ford in behind my friend's Ford, because I just knew that he was going to kick this out of town Chevy's butt. As the flashlight flashed we all took off. I took off because I just wanted a good view, but something was wrong. Leroy's black 57 was in my way, so I passed him and before I knew it I was passing the blue 62. I beat both Leroys and won my first drag race. Prior to that race I thought my car was a dog. At the beginning of the big race, I didn't even have a dog in the fight. When the dust settled I was the big dog and those two pups were relegated to the porch. Life was good at school that week.

Now that I had the quickest car in town, it was time to take her to the strip and make things official. Mid America Raceway was open for business and I just knew they had a thirteen-second time slip with my name on it. I bolted on the biggest set of snow tires that I could find and headed to tech. From there I headed to the staging lanes and then to the starting line. As the green flag dropped my foot hit the wood. A quarter-mile later I was headed for the time ticket booth.

A real drag strip with real time tickets is a real humbling thing. I 'm not quite sure how they did it, but they took what sure felt like a thirteen-fifty and turned it into eighteen seconds. It took me thirty-eight years to get them back. After all of the events and all of the famous cars that have run down Mid America's quarter-mile and then have gone over the infamous hill at the finish line, I set the track record so low that it will take an insane person to try to lower it.

From an eighteen-second doorslammer (four doors at that) to the quickest doorslammer in the world in just thirty-eight years. Life is still good.


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