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Nice site, guys.

I don't know about this Saab mentioned in Agent 1320 being the quickest in history. Agent wants to have a word with Sweden’s Leif Helander, who has been running Saab FC’s in Top Alcohol for years and years and got his current FC into the fives at Santa Pod Raceway (UK) last September.

News editor,

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.
Check out his website:

Thank you.
Ralph Stroberg
Stockholm, Sweden

The picture of the Saab TA / FC is off Leif Helander’s 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.

RP Cook
United Kingdom


Densmore is so right, but also, one in the hand is worth many in the bush. Your editorials are always the best!

Yours old pal, “Rock”

Jim Rockstad


Aw c’mon man, everybody knows that the safety regs in the rule book are there because the manufacturers pay the sanctioning bodies to require “updated” stuff. I mean hell, I graduated from Numbnuts U with a degree in Beer Drinking, so I know a thing or two about stuff.

Like I know that those seat belts don’t deteriorate (ultraviolet rays my ass). And my buddy’s 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 wasn’t hurt THAT bad. They were eventually able to reattach his penis, albeit they replaced his nose with it, but if he didn’t 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, that’s the only reason for it. And don’t 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, didn’t they?

So, I think they should at least pay my tow money, my food bill, my gas bill, my daughter’s orthodontic bill, my alimony payment, my dog’s license fee, and my car insurance payment (especially my car insurance) because I’ll be damned if I’m going to abide by any of their “safety” regulations.

Yours in Safety,
Charlie Nichols

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.


You guys are way cool! @loha …

Bruce Wheeler


How about the stellar Top Fuel fields that NHRA is producing. When is it all going to end, how does NHRA think they are going to fill the grandstands? I’m really tired of the only thing they talk about is John Force and Jerry Toliver. They need to start bringing in corporate dollars somehow.

I build headers in the Top Fuel industry and basically I’m 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. I’ve 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).

I’ve made a decent living in this sport in 10 years, but now it’s 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 doesn’t 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.

Ted Fasching


I have created a new web site called Nostalgia Funny Car Reunion. The sole purpose of this web site is to provide a home and a unified direction for what I feel will be the largest explosion in the Nostalgia Drag Racing world. The web site address is

One of the most important parts of this is that this site is also open to any fan of these cars.

Jim Burke



I stick to my own position that MONEY is the cause of the change.… It’s the same sport it was when I started in the ‘70’s, but one huge thing has changed. Entry fees, payout, and the attitudes attached to them. It was ONLY for fun in the ‘70’s. There were no huge purses to fight over. In spite of that, the sport grew in leaps and bounds. What changed? Greed. Pure simple greed. Take away all the purses and ridiculously high entry fees and the fun factor will return.

Now, I’m 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. It’s 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 you’d 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 that’s the case, how come they insist on running in the most expensive class with the largest purse?

It’s the money. I’m convinced. As long as the money is big, the fun factor will suffer.

Take care.
Tom Worthington


The unique footbrake / crate motor project that you and Jok Nicholson are working on sounds real neat and should be an attention-getter. I bet Terry Bell (will) like it a log also. I hope you can meet your goals of being streetable and competitive.

As you may have seen, ET’s 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 ET’s 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 don’t know all of the pro’s and con’s of such an idea, but of course, it would interest me.

Myron Piatek

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 don’t 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 won’t 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 don’t belong. If there are people who want to run it, let them. But let’s keep it out of entry level classes and let’s keep it in the faster brackets. I am always happy every time I go racing and fun is what keeps me going back. Let’s keep it fun for the entry level guys, and I agree, if there is not electronics, there is no way to cheat!

Thank you.

Enjoyed (Chris Martin’s) TV review of Houston, except you’ve got the production companies confused. The espn2 shows are John B. Mullin productions. The TNN coverage and the NHRA HEAT shows are Diamond P…so Houston was DPS.

Steve Evans

Dear Steve,
Arrrrrrggggghhhhh! Well, this is what I get for going to the bathroom during the screen credits. To the people at Diamond P, I beg your pardon and stand corrected.
- C.M.


In Chris Martin’s report on the NHRA O’Reilly Nationals he wrote: “Bob Gilbertson, who was not even mentioned in the Winston media guide and has never made it as far as an NHRA nitro semifinal, advanced to his first winner’s circle against Toliver at Houston.”

I believe that Gilbertson was a semi-finalist at the 1999 U.S. Nationals.

Mike Schwartz

Dear Mr. Schwartz,
Okay, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Why did I fail to recall that Bob Gilbertson was a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Nationals, a race I attended? I forgot.
- C.M.


Chris (Martin) nailed it on the demise of top fuel, but left out the most important ingredient that is markedly gone. The Cack has been subplanted (sic) by the Grrrrrrr. Instead of screaming fuelers cackling up a storm, we have the high-volume Grrrrrrrrr.

The cack is dead and so, I’m 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.

Dean Papadeas


I feel this is the best site about drag racing on the web!! Plus, I love the fact that it is not all about NHRA nitro classes and NHRA. I feel that IHRA Top Sportsman and Dragster are two of the best classes in drag racing.

Rich Davis


As a former employee of the late Jim Tice’s AHRA (1973-74), perhaps I can provide some insight into Tice’s philosophy regarding sportsman classifications.

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 AHRA’s 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, we’re gonna take his money and find him a class. Put him in double-A Modified Skateboard, I don’t care! And if he’s the only one in the class, he’s gonna get a trophy.”

An objective account of the significant contributions of AHRA was long overdue. Chris Martin has obviously done his homework.

Dave Wallace


Great article on AHRA.

One of the greatest races I ever spectated at was an AHRA race at Palm Beach International Raceway in the late ‘60’s of early ‘70’s.

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 Leavitt’s 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.

Richard Burbick
Sebring, Florida


Hi guys, you’re doing a great job. I enjoy reading your articles.

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 couldn’t hear a thing. It would have been nice to hear what was going on.

Hope it’s better next time.

Claudia LaHaie


I couldn’t agree more. (Jeff Burk’s) piece in DRO was right on target. When I first heard about the “We Have Ignition” ad and that it was going to be aired on CBS’s broadcast of the Daytona 500, I wondered at that time who is making these calls.

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 I’m 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! I’m told they had a record crowd this year. I’m sure it wasn’t 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 don’t 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 (Reader’s Digest, TV Guide, etc.) for print ads / articles. National news type TV programs.

You also are correct about NASCAR. There are many seats that aren’t being sold at their events. You’d 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.

Jay Radabaugh


What a great website!!! Could not agree with (Jeff Burk) more on (his) Gator thoughts, especially the non-coverage of Saturday’s Pro Stock qualifying. I have learned to tape all drag racing on TV and then FF to the parts I want to see.

Jim Kelly photographer emeritus


Ah, but drag racing does have a rilly big shew, Jeff! C’mon, haven’t you heard? It’s the made-for-TV Winston Showdown - the world’s fastest bracket race!

Since R.J. Reynolds and Bruton Smith seem to get whatever they want from NHRA, maybe we should be grateful that Bruton didn’t insist upon a Figure-Eight format (yet) for his combo Top Fuel/Funny Car “race.” (Whaddaya think NASCAR’s Bill France Jr. and the IRL’s Tony George would’ve said if RJR and / or BS proposed an annual, nonpoints event on Bristol’s oval that put, say, Indy cars and Winston Cup cars on the same track-and handicapped the open-wheelers?)

While we’re giving BS his due, let’s hear it for another couple of Bruton’s “Contributions” to straight-line motorsports:

  1. The addition of a surprise surcharge imposed upon anyone wishing to enter spectator areas on the entire “good” side of a drag strip, even if the stands are relatively empty on the first qualifying days, and even if the customer doesn’t require a seat, desiring only to stand along the fence (a policy instituted at NHRA’s Autolite Nationals shortly after Bruton acquired Sears Point International Raceway, which has unfortunately been adopted by other national-event host facilities)

  2. The “first” corporate-hospitality suites to run the length of a drag strip, at Smith’s brand-new Vegas track - only 30 years after Ontario Motor Speedway introduced the concept to drag racing during NHRA’s inaugural Supernationals.

While it’s difficult to argue that the U.S. Nationals hasn’t 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 you’re looking for 32 nitro-burning dragsters, allow me to suggest the 2001 Goodguys March Meet.

Dave Wallace


So Mr. Stunkard, your new Memorabilia nabob, is confused and shocked. Well, it was Geofery (sic) and some of his “trading buddies” that did everything possible to keep the prices down for handouts. They did NOTHING to promote handouts, to let people know what the paper was and the names of various items.

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.

Norman Hechtoff

After having read the columns by Burk and Densmore, I felt compelled to pass along the following.

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, you’re the one who writes all those poison pen columns about NHRA!”

And that was 40 years ago!

In response to (Burk’s) writing, NHRA’s (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 Densmore’s column, would that I could be Agent 1320!

Ed Sarkisian


Right on Densmore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

JJ Koehler


Thank goodness Dave Densmore is there to provide the balance in your staff. Never one to go against the grain, Densmore is a real conformist. I applaud you for having the stones to hire him.

Mike Guger


I’m honored to be mentioned on Densmore’s List. As a former NHRA publicity man, he’s well acquainted with a “circle-the-wagons” response to constructive criticism that’s been in place since the Fifties. My favorite personal example came from VP Carl Olson - who, as a racer prior to his employment by the organization, had been among NHRA’s loudest critics. In response to some well-meaning editorial penned by yours truly, Olson sought me out at a national event and leveled an emotional lecture. Among other things, he said, “I just can’t understand how someone who makes his living from this sport is always trying to tear it down.” Classic!

Dave Wallace

OK, Wallace:
Three emails from one issue. Now we know what you’re doing staying up until 4 a.m. every night. If you spent half as much time writing your columns as you do clogging my computer with mail, we wouldn’t have to keep the damn things up for 2 months at a time.
- Burk


“If you don’t have fun in racing and you are in it for the money, you are in the wrong place” is another popular saying. Another well written article.

Good luck with the project car, sounds like a kick ass ride!! Oh yeah…and fun, too :-)

Mike Carr
P/SA 1302 / 3-9301


Jok, just want you to know I am one more no electronics racer that is having a great time racing without the box. Never have & never will. We are a very competitive bunch here at New England Dragway! Two former footbrakers, that were no electronic champions in the past and went on to the dark side, are back this year with us. I for one, welcome them. The season will be even more interesting with them racing with us.

Enjoy your articles. Keep them coming.

Bill Freel


Please continue to emphasize the importance of fun in brackets. It amazes me that it ever got to the point it is now, considering it’s basic purpose. That being to be able to compete with most anything and not have to spend a fortune in the process. The high entry fee / huge purse mentality is way out of hand.

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? Let’s all pay $25 to run for $100. Then we’ll see who is really here just to have a good time.”

Take care.

Tom Worthington


Just read (Jok’s) column and I think (he’s) right about the no electronics classes. Electronics are what drove me away 15 years ago. The no electronics classes are why my son and I are building a car this year.

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 don’t have a benchmark, what good is a hidden timing device?

I’ve always felt that I knew when I cut a good light and also thought that my reaction times were nobody else’s business.

Steve Kaufman
Thornville, Ohio


I have raced for 25 years with a delay box and without. Simple solution. Only give reaction times during time runs, not during eliminations. Fewer red-lights, closer racing. you will only know if you cut a good light when you go to the payout window.

Mark Moore



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