I don't know about this Saab mentioned in Agent 1320 being the quickest in history. Agent wants to have a word with Swedens Leif Helander, who has been running Saab FCs in Top Alcohol for years and years and got his current FC into the fives at Santa Pod Raceway (UK) last September.
Great drag racing site; the best I have seen so far. But Agent 1320
had better check his background material. The fastest Saab is not John
Fiorini, but Mr. Leif Helander from the north of Sweden. He ran a 5.97
/ 235 pass at (I think) Gardemoen Raceway in Norway last year.
The picture of the Saab TA / FC is off Leif Helanders old car which he took back to the U.S. when he collected his new Saab FC (Old Achiever with Saab headlights & grill painted on). You might notice the large opening around the blower. This is because Leif ran the car with an early Whipple and had to modify the opening to get it in. With the Whipple on board, the forward vision was minimal to say the least and made the car look like an Ed Roth drawing. As far as I can remember, this car ran about 6.19. The new car has run a mid-5.90. I would be interested to know if the chassis is still the same since much of the tubing around the driver was constructed of square tubing.
JUST THE TRACKS, MAN
Yours old pal, Rock
YEAH, YOU REALLY HAD US GOING UNTIL THE P.S.,
Like I know that those seat belts dont deteriorate (ultraviolet rays my ass). And my buddys car has a rollcage made out of EMT conduit brazed together with a soldering iron and when he rolled it at the track that night, he wasnt hurt THAT bad. They were eventually able to reattach his penis, albeit they replaced his nose with it, but if he didnt have to have a cage in the first place, it never would have collapsed on him - right?
They are just in cahoots with the local metal supply place, thats the only reason for it. And dont even get me started on scattershields, HUMPH! Why, when I was a kid, I had a VW Rabbit with a 426 Hemi in it and a Saginaw three speed (on the column, thank you) with a stock 10-inch clutch and pressure plate that repeatedly stood up to the task of side-stepping the pedal at 9000 rpm. Of course when I say repeatedly, I mean I am pretty sure that it would have helped if I had ever actually been able to get my hands on a VW Rabbit or knew what a Hemi was, or how to drive a standard trans…but I digress.
Safety regs are nothing more than moneymakers for the manufacturers, who in turn give kickbacks to the sanctions and the track operators who are only looking for ways to make money off the racers who by the way think that they should be paid just for showing up at the track. I mean, hell, those 6 people in the stands on Saturday night came to see me and my 22-second Neon, didnt they?
So, I think they should at least pay my tow money, my food bill, my gas bill, my daughters orthodontic bill, my alimony payment, my dogs license fee, and my car insurance payment (especially my car insurance) because Ill be damned if Im going to abide by any of their safety regulations.
Yours in Safety,
P.S. To anyone who may take this as even the least bit serious, GROW UP, GET A LIFE AND CHILL OUT!! Thank you and goodnight.
AND A ROLAND LEONG TO YOU, BRUCE!
TOP FUEL TEAMS CANT AFFORD TO COMPETE
I build headers in the Top Fuel industry and basically Im down to 2 customers: Bernstein and Prudhomme. In 1997, I had headers on 13 Top Fuel cars that have been parked since due to financial reasons. Ive also been racing Top Fuel since 1989, starting as a crew member and working my way up to crew chief in 1998 for Bruce Sarver.
Every team I have worked for has quit because of money. (Lori Johnson, Mac Attack, Tommy Johnson Jr, Bruce Sarver, Mike Peek, Tom Hoover).
Ive made a decent living in this sport in 10 years, but now its not worth it anymore. In 1990, when I worked for Lori Johnson, we won at Pomona and it paid $25,000 to win. Ten years later Pomona only paid the Top Fuel winner $40,000 to win. The winnings have gone up a measly $15,000 in 10 years, but the cost of racing has gone up 5 times as much as it was in 1990. Something doesnt make any sense.
NHRA thinks it can be like NASCAR with its killer TV package that basically is not TV package, and all their marketing plans for the future. The only problem is they missed their window to capitalize on this by 10 years!
Great web site.
NOSTALGIA FUNNY CARS
One of the most important parts of this is that this site is also open to any fan of these cars.
THEY SAY THEY ARE RACING FOR FUN,
Now, Im not saying that a local track owner can do that and expect a big turnout. Oh no. In this day and age, you better have a $5,000 purse or the crowd simply will not show up. Its gonna take more than a few track owners deciding they want to change the trend. It would take changing the mindset of the competitors. That might not be as hard as it sounds, though. I really think many of my fellow competitors have become sheep over the years. Keeping up with the Joneses so to speak.
They no longer take pride in winning, unless there was some huge cash prize involved. They became that way cause someone convinced them that was the only way to be. If publications (hint, hint) made anywhere as big a deal over small purse brackets as they do over big purse brackets, I really think youd start to see an amazing change of attitude. If low buck events were made to appear fashionable, they could also become more well attended.
At the track I run there is a Street class. Street-driven cars only on DOT tires and with mufflers. $10 to enter. $100 to win. This compares to the next two classes: Pro is $50 to enter, Pro Street is $40 to enter. I forget the payouts, they mean nothing to me. Anyway, the Pro class last weekend had 50 cars. Pro Street had 41 cars. Street had 7. Wonder why that is? Greed. Pure and simple. These folks have forgotten the reason we are supposedly running. They SAY they are only out there to have a good time. If thats the case, how come they insist on running in the most expensive class with the largest purse?
Its the money. Im convinced. As long as the money is big, the fun factor will suffer.
FOOTBRAKES ARE US
As you may have seen, ETs are getting pretty quick in most of the classes, and the downside of that is IHRA is planning on lowering the indexes by about 2-tenths! But it might be the best-hooking big block to date with all that weight in the back. Hope you all can make it out soon.
Just to touch on the fun in drag racing. Although I always footbraked, since 1978, I did have a lot more fun since I slowed my ETs down a bit and went racing in the footbrake classes exclusively in 1997. Less stress, less cost, easier to win, but still very competitive with the level playing field and less concern about cheating.
I also wondered how well a Footbrake Winter Series event would work. I dont know all of the pros and cons of such an idea, but of course, it would interest me.
I am very happy to have read your article. Your views on the No Electronics BOOM are dead on. I have personally never raced with the box or even left the line with a button and trans brake. I am a die-hard Foot Brakers. I have worked very hard at testing tire size, launch RPM, working with a practice tree to get to where I am today. Sure it took a little more time and hard work to go about it that way, but I dont need no box to cut a light. All my effort that was put into foot braking has paid off, and I can run a string of .50-.51 lights on you just like a box guy or gal.
The only difference is that you wont see my car sitting on the line with the green light on for 2 seconds because I forgot to hit the crossover on my foot!
I am not saying the box dont belong. If there are people who want to run it, let them. But lets keep it out of entry level classes and lets keep it in the faster brackets. I am always happy every time I go racing and fun is what keeps me going back. Lets keep it fun for the entry level guys, and I agree, if there is not electronics, there is no way to cheat!
I believe that Gilbertson was a semi-finalist at the 1999 U.S. Nationals.
Dear Mr. Schwartz,
The cack is dead and so, Im afraid, is the passion. Why is there not a huge outcry at the loss of what was so precious…the sound, man, the sound. We had the highest powered car on the planet. Now we got a tamed beast, grrrrrring down the track.
As I heard Jim explain more than once, everyone who paid to race at an AHRA event should have some realistic chance of winning a trophy. Once entered, Tice believed that this possibility of winning, combined with the excitement of competing on the same track with Garlits and Prudhomme and Sox - in front of thousands of spectators - might convert a newcomer into a regular competitor, thereby ensuring a future for drag racing in general and AHRA in particular. The price of a cheap trophy was a good investment, in the mind of this businessman.
Tice was often questioned about AHRAs numerous classes. Not long after he took over Orange County International Raceway in 1973, a frustrated OCIR tech inspector questioned the merit of so many different sportsman classes.
Everyone who runs any type of vehicle should have a chance to take home a trophy, or he may not come back, Tice responded. If a kid shows up at the pit gate with a gasoline-powered skateboard, were gonna take his money and find him a class. Put him in double-A Modified Skateboard, I dont care! And if hes the only one in the class, hes gonna get a trophy.
An objective account of the significant contributions of AHRA was long overdue. Chris Martin has obviously done his homework.
One of the greatest races I ever spectated at was an AHRA race at Palm Beach International Raceway in the late 60s of early 70s.
One of the many exciting things was all the left coast cars I only saw in the magazines. Ed the Ace McCulloch blew an engine clear out of his car, the body went 75-100 feet in the air, and all that was left was the motor plate and a stub of crankshaft with two rods beating on the frame.
Garlits pulled up and started a fire burnout and the fire truck started down the track to put it out. (No one told then what was going on.) What a zoo! But boy, was it neat.
I remember Bill Leavitts Quicky Too funny car with a quart oil can hanging off each bottom frame rail for run off from the puke hoses. Unbelievable.
Great job; I look forward to the continuation.
As for the speakers at The Strip in Las Vegas, I feel sorry for anyone who paid money to sit in the grandstands past half-track. We couldnt hear a thing. It would have been nice to hear what was going on.
Hope its better next time.
I have talked to several people that have echoed your sentiments. I was even more floored when I heard that the CBS airings of that ad were only placed in selected regional markets where the exposure would get the most bang for the buck. Those selected regional markets were a big wasted (sic) of NHRA money, as far as Im concerned.
I was told that they aired in the southeast to impact / target the Gainesville market area in order to promote the Gatornationals. Huh, as if it needed any help! Im told they had a record crowd this year. Im sure it wasnt due in any large part as a result of those ads.
Those high profile / high dollar Pr / Marketing ad agencies that the high sheriffs (thanks for the term, D.D.) at NHRA have hired and paid big money need to read you (sic) piece and take a hint as to what is really happening. Drag fans dont need to be told where their events are being held.
My theory is, if you want to attract new blood, go where the new blood would be found: non-automotive related magazines (Readers Digest, TV Guide, etc.) for print ads / articles. National news type TV programs.
You also are correct about NASCAR. There are many seats that arent being sold at their events. Youd have to be blind not to see it on the TV. Sometimes I think the cameras are placed so that fact is not so evident.
Jim Kelly photographer emeritus
Since R.J. Reynolds and Bruton Smith seem to get whatever they want from NHRA, maybe we should be grateful that Bruton didnt insist upon a Figure-Eight format (yet) for his combo Top Fuel/Funny Car race. (Whaddaya think NASCARs Bill France Jr. and the IRLs Tony George wouldve said if RJR and / or BS proposed an annual, nonpoints event on Bristols oval that put, say, Indy cars and Winston Cup cars on the same track-and handicapped the open-wheelers?)
While were giving BS his due, lets hear it for another couple of Brutons Contributions to straight-line motorsports:
While its difficult to argue that the U.S. Nationals hasnt lost some of its prestige and participation and audience, among conventional national events Indy still stands out as the Big Go in my book. At the same time, I worry whether 16 Top Fuelers will still be on the circuit by the time Labor Day weekend rolls around. When only 15 fuelers show up in April at Houston - some of which are out-qualified by Super Comp cars (!) - ya gotta wonder how many will be running in September.
If youre looking for 32 nitro-burning dragsters, allow me to suggest the 2001 Goodguys March Meet.
The prices stayed in place, no new material came to market, and the boys vilified anyone that put a cash value on the holy items and anyone interested in a free market.
Now kiddies, ebay has blown away the handout luddites. A free market has set prices based on interest and scarcity. Prices, at a time of prosperity as noted by GS, are quite high. Whatever the numbers are, they will be set by market forces.
Hey Geoff, remember when I told you handouts were the Ultimate Drag Racing Collectible? Still true.
AGENT 1320 DEJA VU
In June of 1962, I accompanied Fred Morse to the AHRA Summer National meet in Aquosco, Maryland. One morning at breakfast I was introduced to the local Druid (a.k.a. regional advisor). When he heard my name, he said, Oh yes, youre the one who writes all those poison pen columns about NHRA!
And that was 40 years ago!
In response to (Burks) writing, NHRAs (which should be NDRA) outlook on drag racing has become strictly corporate, ala NASCAR! The B-U-C-K has become the ultimate reason for racing!
In response to Densmores column, would that I could be Agent 1320!
Good luck with the project car, sounds like a kick ass ride!! Oh yeah…and fun, too :-)
Enjoy your articles. Keep them coming.
As one of the quotes on my website says: If the idea is just to have a good time, how come everyone want bigger payouts? Lets all pay $25 to run for $100. Then well see who is really here just to have a good time.
There is one thing that could be done to eliminate ALL of the rules that you proposed and that is for the track to eliminate reaction timers in the no electronics classes. If you dont have a benchmark, what good is a hidden timing device?
Ive always felt that I knew when I cut a good light and also thought that my reaction times were nobody elses business.
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