We were in the middle of the 1969 racing season. We were running our
faithful little B dragster around the local tracks, having a fun time. One
night as we hung out at the club garage, I casually said, "I always
wanted to build and race the ultimate dragster, an AA fueler." After
I said it, I thought it was just another dream that everyone has but never
quite achieves. Dale looks at me and says, "You guys build it, and
I'll drive it."
I look at Dale while I'm thinking to myself, "What a dumb thing to
say; he knows we'll never do it." I look at Jim; he shrugs his
shoulders, and says, "Let's do it." We start talking about how
we could accomplish such a monumental task. Naturally, money is the main
hurdle as always. We make a list of what we have, including the B
dragster, and figure that if we break down the car we could sell the parts
to raise some cash.
The list shows we should have enough to get started, if we can sell all
of the parts including the trailer. The next night, we start tearing apart
the car right in the middle of the ‘69 racing season. The Mondello heads
sell first; there's no turning around now. The short block goes next, sold
to one of our acquaintances who plans to put it into his Corvette. The
injection is next and so on. We break everything down to the smallest
denominator. It's racing season, and the parts go quickly. The car and
trailer are the last to go.
It's late August by this time, and already we're bored. What to do
until we start building the car? We have a game plan; we scheduled the car
to be started by S&W, and had decided to run a BBC, based on the
success of the USA-1 Funny Car owned and raced by Bruce Larson. We know
what to do; we'll make a trip to Indy for the NHRA Nationals. We can go to
the big one, hang around the AA/FD pits, and learn a thing or two. To save
money, we'll camp out. I again borrow my mother's car, we throw the
sleeping bags in the trunk, and we're off.
We get to the track, watch the day's qualifying, and it's time for
the first night's stay. We grab some fast food and about two cases of
beer to see us through the night. We're set up right outside of the track,
along the main highway on the opposite side of the railroad tracks running
along the road. At about eight o'clock, we run out of beer. We go for
more. This is the life -- out among nature, right next to the greatest
dragstrip East of the Mississippi. Lots of folks had the same idea, and a
pretty big party breaks out. We're all sitting around having a good time;
and the Tequila bottle is being passed around. That's all I can remember.
I wake up to the sound of the train's whistle. I knew the tracks were
around our camp site somewhere. I'm feeling all around my sleeping bag,
hoping I don't feel the steel tracks. I have a slight headache; I must
have drunk too much. All of a sudden, I feel a pair of boots. I finally
open my eyes and see the State Trooper standing by my sleeping bag.
"Good morning," he says, "Did you have a good
sleep?" I look up at him and sit up. Boy, Tequila really leaves a
lousy taste in your mouth. I look around and see that I'm in the middle of
the grass median strip of the highway. The sun's shining in my eyes as I
crawl out of my sleeping bag. Well at least I had my under pants on. I
grab my faithful Pennzoil hat lying on top of the rest of my clothes. It
shields by eyes, and now I can see the line of cars as far as the eye
A large cheer goes up from the folks in their cars. Boy, this fuel
racing sure is great. The trooper says I have one minute to get out of
there. I quickly get my clothes on and hurry to the side of the highway.
Everyone else is standing or sitting there. I slowly realize how bad I
feel. I can also tell I'm not alone. We finally get to the entrance and
find our seats. Around the time for the first round of qualifying, I'm
feeling much better. We're going to watch the qualifying, and then filter
into the pits to observe the goings on.
Now if you're old enough and were at the ‘69 Nationals, you will
remember this was an explosion packed race. Dale, Jim, and I are sitting
in the stands wondering what the heck we're getting into. Here comes the
next pair. Everyone is actually ducking down in the stands on every run.
Sure enough, Ka-Boom goes one of the dragsters. He explodes a clutch right
out of the car. I'm looking at something vertically sailing through the
sky, straight up. It's so high it's almost hard to see. It returns to
earth, hits the track, and shoots off in our direction. It goes right
through the brick wall of the lower timing tower. Later that day when we
return to my mother's car, the car in front of us has a broken back
window. Lying amongst the broken glass is another clutch disc.
That round of qualifying was complete. We're walking around the pits
watching the crews thrashing their engines for the next qualifying round.
Jim and I are standing next to a car. The engine's down to a bare block.
Melted pistons are lying around on the ground. One of the crew members is
scraping the melted aluminum off of the cylinder walls of the engine with
a knife. I look at Jim and say, "We're never going to be doing that.
If we hurt our engine that bad, we're going home." Well I still have
the pocket knife I used for many years to get the aluminum off the walls
before you could run the hone through them. So much for that saying
"never say never."
Years later, Dale told me that after seeing the carnage at this race,
he had second thoughts about his statement that if we'd build it he'd
drive it. Over the next Winter's building of the car, all of this was
forgotten. The following year we were off to the races and created our own
forms of carnage. Now that we're about to run the rebuilt HH down those
beloved quarter mile tracks, if you're at the track, come on over and
ask me to show you that antique pocket knife. It's a beauty.