in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of August 12, 2000
As mentioned here on Friday, this is one very busy weekend of drag racing in the Northwest U.S. and Western Canada. With a total of six major events happening within a day's drive of Vancouver, including three races with a major component of "nostalgia" cars, the choices for spectators and racers are difficult, to say the least.
Many of us would like to be able to attend more than one of these events, but it's not yet possible, either in person, or over the internet. Maybe one of these days, not that far into the future, we'll be able to simultaneously access streaming video, with results (in text) in a side-window, of almost any race with a remote audience large enough to justify a web broadcast.
And if you talk to leading-edge webheads, like Horsepower Heaven's Larry Pfister, he'll convince you that the technology is very close to becoming a reality. He's doing his best to make it possible, with same (or almost same) day video of several Mission Raceway events this year, including yesterday's first-day action from the Langley Loafer's BC OldTime Drags.
On the other hand, we're still waiting (as of 8:00 AM today), for yesterday's results from the Nightfire Nationals to be posted on Firebird Raceway's own website. Similarly, there's no results from qualifying at Calgary's Canadian National Open available yet either, unless someone has phoned you with the information.
I guess the bottom-line in this situation is: just how large is the audience for real-time (or close to real-time) drag racing broadcasts, and, an even bigger question, who is going to pay for it? Sure, there's always the dedicated hobbyists out there who'll give up sleeping, eating and real work just to be able to provide the news and pictures, but that leaves us at the mercy of someone else's personal schedule and agenda.
So where is this all leading? As usual: nowhere. The preceding has just been some random thoughts on a Sunday morning -- that's come far too early after a Saturday night that went far too long. Partly because I stayed up and watched the long-awaited, to the point of almost being considered mythical, Horsepower Heaven '99 Video. Nearly ten months after the last event shown on the video, it's finally done and for sale. Check out the link for all the information about how you can obtain a copy.
So what's it like, Bob? In one word: GREAT! The best production yet from Pfister's extensive video library. The stepup in quality with Larry's digital camera and editing programs is obvious. It's a very smooth production, with some music and some commentary, but mainly, lots of race cars making lots of their own beautiful "music" as they go down (for the most part....) the tracks on the HH '99 horsepower schedule.
There's scenes from the first five Federal-Mogul events in Division Six, the Nightfire Nationals from Boise (the BEST segment, bar none, of the video), a couple of Canadian National Open events, two bike (yeah, Top Fuel Harleys!) races and the best of the rest from the Mission Raceway schedule. Almost two full hours of action that rarely slows down, doesn't overstay its welcome at any event, and just keeps the action coming from start to finish.
If I had a complaint about the tape, (and you just know that I've somehow got to come up with something to whine about, don't you?) it would be about the preponderance of carbureted door cars. Big whaaa, eh? In fairness though, independent statistics have confirmed that the vast majority of drag race cars in the world are just that: carbureted door cars. Not everybody has a blown, or injected, nitro or alky burning, digger, flopper or altered.
Yeah, it's tough to admit it, but it's just a fact of life. And to the confirmed "blower snobs" like myself, we've got to give Pfister credit for knowing who/what/where his market is. If you're not already convinced, just check out the pits at your local track sometime. You know, the ones that stretch way off into the distance, past all the feature cars and the fast guys. Yes, there really is a whole 'nother world out there, just down the road.
Anyways, the final word on HH '99 is this: Go out and hunt down a copy of it now. Pop it into the VCR, crank up the surround sound and hang on. It's a good entertaining ride. You've got my word on it, and if enough people support this latest HH effort, maybe, just maybe, he'll do another one.
On to other topics, like "where were you yesterday, Bob?" Out at Mission Raceway, soaking up the atmosphere, and a few nitro fumes, at the OldTime drags. It was a very different atmosphere from the Federal-Mogul or National Open events that I usually frequent. Only two tractor-trailers on site, not very much late-model machinery, and lots of folks that looked almost as old as some of the cars.
It harkened back to the roots of drag racing; lots of street-driven cars, not as much high-tech equipment, lots of people just kicking back and having fun. The weather cooperated, with a partly cloudy morning turning into a sunny, but pleasant (temperature-wise) afternoon. The track was biting, the air was reasonable and the only downer was the numerous oil-downs and one (thankfully, not too nasty) crash. (Dean Cowie, making his first license run in the usually Ralph Paulik driven, Mundie's Towing Top Comp dragster).
Despite the lack of a serious racing program, there were some very impressive performances, by a number of local and Alberta racers. Tops among those runs, had to be Victoria's Phil Ruskowski, who shattered his personal bests in the "Xhibitionist" front-engine dragster, with a 7.24 - 202.74 lap. (Previous best was 7.53 at 199). With a Top Fuel license earned earlier this year at Bakersfield, California, Phil made the plunge and put 15% nitro in the normally pure alky blown small-block Chev. And the results showed up brightly on the scoreboards.
I spent a while talking to Phil and his crew after the run and learned some rather interesting facts about the car. He's using stock, as in wrecking yard refugees, 2-bolt truck blocks for power. The front-end, and differential on the car are from Jerry Ruth's 1972 car, built by the legendary Don Long. The car is direct-drive, the bug-catcher injector is so small that it looks like it couldn't flow enough air to possibly propel the car to over 200 mph, the blower drive is the original 1/2-inch pitch, but the car flat hauls. They've promised to make at least one more lap today, but won't step up the nitro load as they're getting nervous about using up their only engine.
Fast-forwarding to year 2000 technology, Kelowna's Dave Brown reappeared (after a three month absence, mainly due to ever-expanding business) with his Federal-Mogul dragster. Still unlicensed, with a 6.30 previous best, he shocked more than a few people with an easy, like very easy opening statement: 6.23 at 224.68 mph. (Backed up late in the afternoon with a slightly quicker and faster 6.22 - 226.12).
Yes, I realize those numbers are a fair ways from being competitive in the Federal-Mogul ranks these days, but Dave and his crew were very happy. They've been trying to run the car "on kill" for the past year and have been "rewarded" with lots of tire shake, a fair bit of breakage and not much success. They changed their approach for this weekend, taking out a lot of compression, backing off the ignition timing, lowering the blower overdrive, and just generally trying to calm the car down. The results speak for themselves.
On the first lap, the car sounded like it was laboring down the track, but the car made it down there with a minimum of fuss and gave Brown a baseline to start working from. Even more important, he broke through the "magical" (or is that mythical?) 6.30 barrier, that NHRA has mandated as necessary for gaining an alcohol license. The pit report after both runs was positive, and they may try to turn up the power -- only slightly -- and make another pair of laps today.
Any other big news stories from Mission? Yes, several. Next item is Burnaby's George Swann, finally making it on track with his "five years in the building" front-engine Top Fuel dragster. He's been close several times this year, and even got as far as the staging lanes at the National Open last month (only to be defeated by a leaking slick liner). Saturday, however, he got the car to the starting line, fired up, burned out (and shocked quite a few of the innocents who were just expecting to hear another blown alky car), backed up and.... was shut off with a very minor oil leak.
Bummer? Of the first order. But it's one step at a time, and as someone who has been in George's shoes, (almost too many times to count), he's making progress. The car sounded great on the warmup, very responsive, clean, not TOO crisp, but powerful. The burnout rocked the track, booming out a message, very LOUD and clear: there is a full-load fuel car in the Lower Mainland, for the first time in many, many years.
Despite the minor problem on his first attempted pass, the mood was still light-hearted in the Swann Brothers pits, with the jokes about his "Red Green firesuit" (pants held up with half a roll of duct tape -- what happened? did the suit shrink -- or the driver expand?). And in an attempt to lighten the weight of the car, youngest crew member Laurena offered to "fill" the driver's seat. Last word from George was that he would be ready to take at least one more shot at a run today.
And the stories didn't stop there. How about this one? Soon-to-retire Vancouver policeman caught red-handed in the seat of a Funny Car? And a blown alky doorslammer? And his own Super Comp car? Yes, Terry McHardy took ride swapping to a new level yesterday, by driving three different (all completely different!) cars down the track. Fortunately, his many years of experience in driving various hot rods kept him from getting confused about which car he was in and how to drive it. On the other hand, the last we of saw him yesterday, he was in the parking lot trying to find his street car.
A couple of regulars at Mission this year are Frank Nelson in the "Longhorn Barbecue" Camaro and local legend Bob Kokotailo's "Kokomotion" Henry J. They've both made a kazillion laps down Division Six drag strips over the last thirty -- or more -- years and are still two of the most competitive racers anywhere. They also probably have more fun than almost anyone else too.
Bob, and his wife Irene, recently received an honour that left them literally speechless. At Seattle's Northwest Nationals, two weeks ago, he was given the "Best Appearing Car" award. It came completely out of the blue; he was given less than twenty minutes warning to get himself and the car up to the starting line for the trophy presentation and he's still pinching himself to see if he's dreaming. Nope, Bob, it's real. And really deserved too. Congratulations to you and Irene, old buddy.
Now for a few miscellaneous shots: A neat graphic seen on the back of Bob Marshall's TCS trailer; the "In Appreciation" plaque beside the tower (didya ever notice how many people and businesses listed on it are no longer involved with the track -- or even around anymore); an unidentified blown alky Vega station wagon.
Among the many neat hot rods on hand was the Pride of Parksville; Brent and Flo Murray's "Untamed" 23-T roadster. Newly equipped with a raft of go really fast goodies, including a blower, Lenco and Crower clutch, Brent fought (just like a) new car bugs all weekend. He admitted that the clutch was way too tight, the fuel system was way too rich and the performance just wasn't anywhere near expectations. But he'll be back soon with the car dialled in better and should get deep into the sevens in short order. At least the car looks great; now all it needs are some et's and speeds to match.
As usual, we're out of time to write the balance of the story tonight. But we may as well show the photos and fill in the blanks later. Sorry, but time is always the enemy.