10 February 2010

Winternationals turns 50

Good article in the LATimes:

Gasoline cost about 30 cents a gallon, John F. Kennedy was the new president and "Wagon Train" was the most popular show on television.

And in Southern California, a man named Wally Parks settled on a parcel of land next to the fairgrounds in Pomona in 1961 to establish the second major drag-racing event for his relatively new National Hot Rod Assn.

The event was called the Winternationals, and five decades later it remains among professional drag racing's signature contests, even as the sport has expanded nationwide and speeds of its top-flight cars have soared to more than 300 mph.

Here's something I didn't know:

But last year, the NHRA shortened its top-fuel and funny car races to 1,000 feet to slow down the cars, whose speeds had climbed to 330 mph.

Shit, real drag racing only needs the width of an intersection. I had a '68 Chevy pickup (Custom Cab, Chevy Truck 50th Anniversary Gold, $2750 brand new), 307 small block with 3-onna-tree that was geared so low it would only go about 90 flat-out, but it would beat anything away from a stoplight.

Back in those days, I got my flathead 6 '48 Plymouth M Stock tuned-up from "Too Slow To Time" (It actually said that on the timing slip they handed me) to 58MPH/21:47 by taking off the air cleaner and emptying the trunk. I mighta been slow, but I participated, if minimally, in the SoCal drag scene.

I actually blew off three M Stockers in a row at San Fernando Drag Strip - a '52 Merc, a Corvair, and a '53 Pontiac. The high point of my drag racing career came when I rolled up to the line again and the announcer said over the loudspeaker, "Here comes that nasty blue Plymouth again!". Of course, this time I ran against the M Stock World Champion Hudson that would do about 80 in the quarter. I think that guy was putting greasy palm prints on the trophy girl about the time I shifted into second. Heh. It was fun.

Oh God, the memories are flooding back...

I trophied that old Plymouth once at the 1/8th mile strip in Holly Ridge, North Carolina. They couldn't run anything faster than B Gas there because it would get stuck in the mud on the return road. They timed the runs with a stopwatch, I think. Real grass roots, down home place it was. The guy asked me what class I wanted to run, and I asked him what class had no one else in it. Took a downgrade to N Stock, but I made it to the other end of the strip and got the trophy. Big-time cherry-picker from California. Heh.

I actually had a header plug (exhaust cut-out) on that thing. Cost $2 at a muffler shop. Installed! I used to put washers in between the plug and the cap. It was more or less an exhaust leak, but it sounded great! Ah, the ignorance of youth. I pine for its loss sometimes, but at 64 I think I'm still a pretty good teenage bozo.

Enjoy that article. I sure did.

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