WAXING NOSTALGIC ABOUT NOSTALGIA
Our fearless leader, Jeff Burk, asked me to write about
my impressions of today's Nostalgia Nitro drag racing -- you know, the
kind where the driver of the dragster sits behind the motor. This has
been a tough assignment for me to get going. I have such fond, glowing
memories of what were my early drag racing experiences beginning in
1964 at the Hot Rod Magazine Championships at
It has been said the racers at the beginning of the sport "did it for love," but they also did it for money, to win new cars at the big meets, toolboxes, trophies and a smooch from the trophy girl, the roar of the crowd and prize money. Nobody, but nobody did it completely for love 'cause you had to have money to build a competitive digger. No amount of love could purchase a new blower, the latest Hilborn injector, a Keith Black, Don Maynard, Dave Zeuschel, or Ed Pink motor, or slicks and nitro for that matter. It cost money; not nearly as much as it does today, but a well-stocked wallet sure helped get down the quarter-mile.
Newstalgia, Nostalgia Nitro, ProNitro, front engine nitro
dragsters. . .let's
At the close of the 2001 season, Goodguys reduced their schedule to four semi-profitable races from the seven or eight marginal ones they held in 2001. They would lose some money on the small shows and make enough money on the large shows.
Goodguys still puts on the financially successful Bakersfield March Meet and provides the tech department for California Hot Rod Reunion and a couple of others.
Putting on a drag racing program requires so many components: competitive cars and drivers, lots of enthusiastic spectators, concessions with hot food, cold beer and sodas, portable toilets, security, a safe drag strip, vast advertising and promotion, and lots of employees to handle parking, staging, crowd control, security, announcing and tickets. Oh yeah, and you gotta hope it doesn't rain out. It's a tough job to put on any kind of drag race today.
Last fall I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with
some of the stars of
These new front engine dragsters are incredible pieces of engineering with gutsy drivers sitting behind fire-breathing nitro motors. But there is an interesting quality I have observed among many nostalgia nitro enthusiasts: that of an "independent cowboy" - one who can do what he wants and "screw anything that comes from the sanctioning body," whether it is Goodguys or NHRA. This unrealistic hatred for the organization providing the safe place to race thoroughly amazes me! While I have disagreed with certain decisions from the Glendora Tower, all in all drag racing is in pretty good shape and the reverence for the past is well heralded in the Fall at the California Hot Rod Reunion.
I wish that I'd paid more attention to how fleeting drag racing was as the years went by from my first drag race in 1964. I loved drag racing from the first kiss. While slingshot fuelers are "officially" a thing of the past, evolution is essential and today's 300-inchers are the direct descendents. I am in awe that enough of those drivers survived to tell the stories of those incredible cars and drive a facsimile of those cars from the "glory days." I feel very fortunate to have seen that evolution as a sometime participant and professional touring spectator.
It's great that NHRA has deep enough pockets to step up and operate a small, legendary track like Bakersfield's Famoso Raceway and the big historic tracks like Pomona and Indy, providing a safe place for nostalgia nitro pilots to compete at their hobby. Some things to keep in mind are that there will be more fuelers at the October California Hot Rod Reunion than at any 2002 NHRA national event and that a complete weekend pass to a Goodguys event is less than a single day's general admission at any NHRA national event. It's a bargain.
While Nostalgia Nitro Racing is a distant relative of
today's 7,000 horsepower
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