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Bob's Berserko Lounge

"Rocket Man" Sammy Miller

By "Berserko" Bob Doerrer
Photo by Norman Blake

In the mid-70s, Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) rocket powered cars were allowed on the nation's drag strips. Their light weight and incredible power produced unbelievable ETs even though they were mandated to shut off at half track.

Before the rockets could run, they had to have an annual inspection by the NHRA, the insurance company, and a rocket expert. This shot is of Sammy Miller from 1976 in the staging lanes at Englishtown waiting to be inspected.

Sammy Miller is the quickest man in the history of drag racing. Photo by Norman Blake
Sammy Miller is the quickest man in the history of drag racing. Photo by Norman Blake

After a couple of fatalities (Russell Mendez at the Gatornationals and Dave Anderson at Charlotte) the sanctioning bodies and insurance companies banned them and the few who built these cars were forced to park them or take them overseas.

Sammy ran this 1976 Mustang II (later re-bodied as a Vega) and set track records everywhere he raced. Here are some numbers: 1/8th mile 1.91 seconds; 1/4 mile 4.40 seconds -- both on a shut-off run at Englishtown in June of 1977. He also ran a (are you ready for this?) 3.58-second 1/4 mile pass at Zanvoor, Holland, in 1985 where there were no speed restrictions.

Before Sammy got into rockets, he ran a series of Nitro Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters.

Other former nitro drivers who ran rockets in that era included Lew Arrington (Brutus/Captain America) and "Fearless" Fred Goeske.

Sammy also set a Land Speed Record of some sort on ice as he outfitted the car with ski-like contraptions and made two shots on frozen Lake George, NY.

Rumor has it that Sammy will be bringing his "Vanishing Point" rocket to Englishtown's Funny Car Reunion in July.

"Berserko" Bob Doerrer
berserkobob@earthlink.net

 

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