Modern Top Alcohol Dragster: Two modern day Top Alcohol
Dragsters provided a stark contrast to the nostalgia cars. Todd and
Michelle Bauknecht came all the way from Cleveland, TN, to race
their '95 Uyehara machine. With 526 inches of blown Keith Black
power on board, Todd was aiming to meet or better their best times
of 3.96 seconds at 186 mph. Todd's crew consists of Mitch, Jack,
Kenny, Scott, and Jeff. Todd's own Bauknecht Excavating sponsors
Rick Murry and the Schild Racing team also came from Cleveland,
TN, in their late model Top Alcohol Dragster to face hometown pal
Modern Top Alcohol Funny Car: Cecil Roberson was on hand
with his "Trimmer Racing" Corvette Funny Car. With 526
inches of KB on board (and Alan Johnson heads on top), Cecil was
looking to do some damage to the field and perhaps to eclipse his
previous best numbers of 4.01 at 180 if the weather held. By the
way, Cecil is a trim carpenter, hence the name.
Don and Sharon Roddy brought their own 1990 Corvette Funny Car.
Don and his All Girl Crew have already won on the Southern Fuel
Coupes tour this year and were looking for more at Ware Shoals.
Jim Dickey came up from Fairburn, GA, with his My Favorite
Charity supercharged altered. Dickey has been one of the local
hitters at Ware Shoals and he came to town to ensure that
The Southeast Gasser Tour: The Gasser Tour arrived in full
force with 14 cars participating in an exciting show.
Ringleader Rickey Bowie of Greenwood, SC was on hand with his
supercharged 355 inch NiteFire '48 Anglia. Rickey was looking to
stay top dog of this pack with his five-second beast.
Larry McClendon came from Ocala, FL with his ‘41 Willys. The
car hits 7.20s and 7.30s in the eighth mile with a blown small block
Mac Pressley came down from the Charlotte suburb of Stallings,
NC, with the Hartsoe Bros. '48 Anglia. A blown 454 Chevy with
carburetors provides the go power for driver Keith Davids. This car
was the national record holder in 1970, 1971, and 1972, and the car
still has the original paint it had when it set those records!
Jim Guillen came down from Matthews, NC, with his great looking
'57 Ford Popular known as "Rolling Thunder." Jim's car
didn't reach the states until five years ago. It was brought over
by an English schoolteacher. Jim's 385 inch Ford powered machine
has run a best of 6.78 at 98 mph in the eighth.
Roger McConnell was there with the "Mighty Mouse II"
'48 Anglia. The Mooresville, NC, racer uses a nitrous oxide
injected 400-inch small block Chevy for power. The car has gone 5.24
on the juice, but can run 5.80s without it.
Danny Austin from Locust, NC was on hand with his cherry '50
Anglia. Danny's car has been in storage for 17 years! He finally
broke it out this year and lets a 355 inch small block Chevy do the
Mike Coger from way down in Waynesville, GA (one hour north of
Florida) had the newest car in the field. Mike's '69 Nova
sported 477 cubic inches of Chevy Rat Motor on methanol. The car
looked great with alternating read and yellow anodized injector
stacks sticking out of the hood. Mike's big Chevy goes 5.80s and
5.90s in the eighth.
Dave Cox came down from Dequila, GA (north of Atlanta) with his
Flattop II – a '32 Ford with a 406 inch small block Chevy for
power. On the roof of Dave's car were written the words "This
Side Up," a reminder not to repeat a feat performed earlier
Jerry Curtis brought the hot purple Fat Rat '41 Willys from
Asheville, NC. The ‘Rat uses a 469 inch Chevrolet Rat (what else?)
and has gone 6.15 at 112.
Gerald Baker came down to stem the tide of Chevy powered entries
with his 1941 Plymouth from Swannanoa, NC. The 451-inch Mopar
powered beast has run a best of 6.08.
Ted Stiles was down from Raleigh, NC, with his unique '41 Dodge
Pickup Truck. The 426 Max Wedge powered machine has a 7.03, 98 mph
eighth mile pass to its credit and has seen the 11's in the
Robert Ashley from right around Ware Shoals brought out his
awesome Mercury Cyclone to take on all the visiting gassers.
Local favorite Bailey Hastings, Jr., was on hand to turn back all
the invaders with his rather modern '33 Willys.
Bailey Hastings, Sr., was on hand too, racing this awesome
straight axle '55 Ford.
The Plum Gone car of Jack Moore was one terrific
looking Austin Pickup Truck and it ran hard, too!
Nostalgia Front Engine Dragsters: Matt Stambaugh thrashed
to make the Southern Classic Thunder event. As recently as the
Thursday before the event, car owner Rick "Surf" Stambaugh
reported that the car was still apart and the team did not know if
they would make the show on time. But there they were, the New
Generation digger now sporting an injected big block Chevy instead
of the former blown small block.
In town to face the New Generation machine were three bad
hombres. The blown Smokey Mountain Express machine was one of them.
Two tough tunnel ram and carb equipped machines were on hand as
well, including John Ring's Clayton, GA-based Mountain Glass rail.
The Pro Mods: Alan Pittman and Westbrook Motorsports –
The Grave Digger '41 Willys. This internationally known drag
racing star got his start running right here at Ware Shoals. When
Ken Westbrook and Alan Pittman heard about the Southern Classic
Thunder event, they generously agreed to appear and make some runs
to support the cause of Nostalgia Drag Racing in the South. One of
the most popular Pro Modified teams on either the IHRA or NHRA
trail, the Grave Digger team rightfully commands a hefty sum to
appear at booked in shows.
In an incredible display of generosity, Ken and Alan agreed to
run at Ware Shoals for no guarantee... if the fans came, they would
take as much of their regular appearance fee as the promoters could
pay them. If the fans didn't show, then they'd just consider
these test runs. (The Classic Thunder promoters and Ware Shoals were
proud to be able to pay the Grave Digger team its full appearance
When local Top Sportsman/Pro Modified racer Anthony White heard
that Alan Pittman and the Grave Digger were coming back home to lay
claim to the Ware Shoals track doorslammer records, it forced him
into doing something that perhaps no other drag racer in history had
done. He became the home town boy who also won the long distance
Anthony did this because his employer had closed up shop in South
Carolina and shipped him off to work in faraway Texas. When Anthony
got word that Alan Pittman and the Grave Digger were coming, he made
a call back home and told them to fire up his CWA-sponsored 1990
Corvette and have it ready to face the ‘Digger for local
doorslammer bragging rights.
Rehearsals: Despite cloudy skies and reports of rain in
all the surrounding areas, drag racing fans started streaming into
Ware Shoals Dragway at around 3:00 p.m. Promoter Raford Gambrell
began to cheer up. Just then, word came that the breaker box in the
concession stand had blown! It was a write off. Raford was about to
have the biggest crowd of the year and there would be no way to feed
them! Raford headed off to nearby Greenwood to buy a new generator.
It was the first of many challenges...
Nostalgia and grudge match cars of all shapes, sizes, and eras
made time runs all day long. Finally, two of the show cars came up
for a time run. The cars were the Top Alcohol Dragsters of Todd
Bauknecht and Rick Murry in the Schild Racing machine. After two
monster burnouts that seemed all the more impressive given the
fans' close proximity to the track, Bauknecht laid solid claim to
the Ware Shoals track records with a 3.978 second blast at 181.79
mph! In the other lane, Rick Murry shook the tires and actually
crossed the centerline at the top end to get the closest look at
Bauknecht's new record.
Shortly thereafter, a racer got into REAL trouble. A grudge racer
blew his motor at the top end and his engine caught fire. The racer
didn't realize it, however, until he had turned around and started
driving down the return road. Instead of stopping on the asphalt,
the racer pulled off into a dry grass field next to some woods.
Track officials were on the scene immediately and discharged a fire
bottle into engine compartment. At the same time, the ambulance
rolled to the scene and verified that the racer was out of the car
and OK. Another track official pulled two more fire bottles from the
bottom of the timing tower and made his way down to the top end.
By this time, however, the grass under the car had ignited and
the fire was starting to move towards the woods. The call came over
the walkie-talkie to get the starting line fire extinguisher and to
get the local Volunteer Fire Department on the phone. The three
additional fire extinguishers had little chance against the rapidly
spreading grass fire and the car fire. The VFD was there within ten
minutes and got the top end blaze out, but unfortunately, the
racer's car was a loss. With all but a few small fire bottles
depleted, Raford worked a deal with the VFD fire truck to stick
around for the remainder of the race after that. There were no
Soon after that, of course, the skies opened up. It couldn't
have rained when they were trying to put out the grass fire! Fans
scrambled for their cars, but an hour later, everybody came back
out. Almost nobody had left! The Ware Shoals crew commenced drying
the track and it finally was time for the show to begin.
Act One: Things kicked off with Danny Goveia from
Charlotte, NC, in the Carolina Thunder 409 '62 Bel Air Nostalgia
Super Stock taking on Bruce Dillon from Jamestown, NC, in his
Asphalt Hustler '63 Plymouth Super Stock with a mighty Max Wedge
426 under the hood. The Super Stock cars were not a planned feature,
but made a terrific addition to the show. After lots of starting
line antics, the Super Stocks were wheels up and rolling! Mopar got
to chalk one up in the first round as Dillon's Plymouth took a
close one over the bubble top, 6.69 at 104 mph to 7.03 at 98 mph.
The rompin', stompin' Southeast Gasser Tour came out next
with six B/Gassers and eight A/Gassers on tap. The B/Gas cars led
things off with Jim Guillen's Rolling Thunder car taking a 6.72 to
7.414 win over Larry McClendon's big red Willys.
Up next, Danny Austin took his red Anglia to a 7.02 to 7.52
decision over Ted Stiles' pretty yellow Dodge pickup.
In a battle of local heroes, Robert Ashley's red Comet Cyclone
took a close 7.22 to 7.336 decision over Bailey Hastings, Sr. in his
great looking, straight axle '55 Ford.
The A/Gassers were next. First up, Keith Davids took the Hartsoe
Bros. car to a stout 5.81 to handle Gerald Baker's unique '41
Plymouth at 7.20.
Mike Coger then lined up his massive (in comparison) injected
'69 Nova against Jack Moore in the beautiful but diminutive
"Plum Gone" '48 Austin pickup truck. It was Coger's
turn to be Plum Gone, however, as the big red Chevy took a 6.01 to
Rickey Bowie then lined up his awesome blown "NiteFire"
'48 Anglia against Roger McConnell's nitrous assisted machine.
McConnell got the jump at the line with a great .410 light, but
wheelstood right into the left guardrail, forcing him to lift. In
the other lane, Bowie was laying down a backbreaking 5.55 second,
127 mph pass.
Local racer Bailey Hastings, Jr then brought out his '33 Willys
for a broke bye and went 6.03 at 112 mph.
It was time for front engined nostalgia dragsters. Rick Stambaugh
lined up the hastily prepared New Generation injected big block car
against the supercharged small block Smokey Mountain Express
machine. At the green, the ‘Express took off like a shot and
recorded a 4.95, 123 mph to 5.519, 123.92 mph win over the injected
Next, John Ring took the Clayton, GA-based Mountain Glass digger
to a 5.705, 126.65 mph win when his opponent broke.
The Nostalgia Funnies were next with the Ernie Walker Jungle Jim
tribute machine facing the Lonnie Partane Swensen & Lani tribute
machine. The Vega is rigged up with a huge flame throwing device
that shoots flames about twenty feet in the air when the car is
first fired. Walker also has a second set of plugs routed to the
headers to increase the appearance of header flames (an old Rickey
Bowie trick, still in use on the NiteFire).
Playing Jungle Pam this evening was 14-year-old cutie Jungle
Jessica, who was instructed in some of the moves of the great Ms.
Hardy beforehand. Neither car got too much smoke on its burnout.
Walker later attributed this to the cars running on pure methanol
when they are used to a diet of 25 percent nitro. On the actual run,
the Vega won handily, 6.43 at 103 to 7.35 at 83, as Partane
continues to shake out the S&L Mustang.
A battle of 1990 Corvette funny cars was up next. Don Roddy and
his All Girl Crew machine faced Cecil Roberson and the Trimmer
Racing flopper. After great burnouts that got the fans on their
feet, Roddy took a 4.455, 163.81 to 5.519, 114 decision as Roberson
broke something at the top end.
Three-time Southern Fuel Coupes champion Jim Dickey was on hand
with the My Favorite Charity blown 23-T. Dickey was set to make a
single run in the first round, but instead, Classic Thunder
announcer Bill Pratt put out the call to see if there were any local
grudge racers tough enough to face the blown altered. Sure enough,
local dragster racer Larry Roberts stepped up to the challenge.
Roberts' wife cranked up the nitrous a bit on the big block
Chevy dragster and sent her husband to the line. All were ready for
Roberts to post a respectable, but losing time. But the place went
nuts when Roberts actually BEAT Dickey, the dragster driver
recording his best ever run at 4.513, 154.63 mph to defeat
Dickey's off pace 4.630, 142.46. Dickey later revealed that he had
broken on that pass, but WOW, what an upset!
Todd Bauknecht and Rick Murry then lined up their Tennessee TADs
once again, switching lanes this time. Bauknecht again took the
measure of Murry, who again could not hook up the Schild Racing car.
The times were 4.319, 147.94 to 5.055, 160.
It then was time for the car all the fans were waiting for: the
Grave Digger! As it came around the corner onto the track, its blood
red eyes pierced the night. Every fan in the house was on his or her
feet. Following a monster burnout, Alan Pittman lined up the green
and black machine against game local hero Anthony White. After an
even launch, Pittman pulled the Westbrook Motorsports machine to a
clear lead, despite hazing the tires down the entire eighth mile.
Score one for the Grave Digger, 4.53, 164.49 to 5.283, 111.79.
Intermission: Between pro rounds, the heavens opened up
once again, not with a flood, but with a steady, bothersome drizzle
that was just enough to put a damper on things and to slow down the
program. After an hour, it was clear that we would not be able to
complete all three planned pro rounds. Eventually, the skies
cleared, the tired Ware Shoals crew dried off the track, and the
second round commenced. This time, we did lose about half the crowd,
but the fans that stayed witnessed more magic.
Act Two: In Nostalgia Super Stock, only Danny Goveia could
return after the rain delay. Bruce Dillon broke the big Mopar and
had to hit the highway. Goveia evened up the match with another
entertaining, 45 degree angle, chassis twisting launch, followed by
a loud bang back to the pavement and a 7.73 second pass at 93 mph.
The Southeast Gasser Tour was up next and didn't disappoint.
Robert Ashley's big red Mercury Cyclone claimed another victim as
it defeated Larry McClendon's Willys, 7.18 to 7.40.
Jim Guillen's turquoise Rolling Thunder Ford Pop then took a
6.92 to 7.05 decision over Danny Austin's great looking red
Gerald Baker was up next (thanks to the break rule) and won a
6.263, 119.80 decision over Jerry Curtis and the Fat Rat Willys at
Up next, Jack Moore's purple Plum Gone Austin pickup grabbed a
5.88 second win as Roger McConnell's troubles continued in the
Mighty Mouse. The ‘Mouse slowed to an uncharacteristic 6.68.
Rickey Bowie was up next with the NiteFire Anglia. This car does
the best burnouts and those methanol header flames are AWESOME.
Every nostalgia funny car and gasser in the country should call
Rickey immediately to find out how to implement this setup. In fact,
all the Top Alcohol cars in the country should give him a call,
Rickey followed up the burnout and flame show with a stout 5.478,
129.33 win over the Mac Pressley-owned Hartsoe Bros. machine at a
close 5.84 at 120.
Mike Coger then put the big Nova up on its tail at the tree and
marched to a holeshot win at the expense of Bailey Hastings, Jr. and
his slick '33 Willys, 6.010 to 5.997.
The nostalgia digger finals were next. It was down to Matt
Stambaugh in the fuel injected New Generation machine against John
Ring in the carbureted Mountain Glass rail. (Stambaugh was back in
the show after the Smokey Mountain Express driver packed up and hit
the highway as soon as the second set of rain showers came through).
"Nitroooo" Matt Stambaugh got the better of John Ring at
the tree and won the nostalgia dragster title on a 5.537, 123 mph to
5.44, 128 mph holeshot.
Ernie Walker and Lonnie Partane brought their nostalgia funnies
back out with similar results, the Vega defeating the Mustang, 6.29
at 107 to 7.10 at 77.
With Cecil Roberson broken, the final two matches were supposed
to be Don Roddy's funny car versus Anthony White's doorslammer,
followed by Jim Dickey versus Alan Pittman in an all out battle for
Ware Shoals bragging rights. It was not to be, however, as SFC champ
Dickey also broke on the first run.
What to do? The call went out once again for the "The Giant
Killer," Larry Roberts. While Don Roddy and the All Girl Crew
lowered the body on the screaming yellow Corvette funny car, Larry
Roberts' "All Woman Crew" (his wife) helped him prepare
the nitrous dragster. Roddy did a blazing, half track burnout.
Roberts did a modest one that just did cross the starting line.
After all that, the digger lined up next to the flopper and... HE
DID IT AGAIN!!! Roberts once again put out one of the show cars when
Roddy inexplicably redlighted away a 4.539, 158.47 mph run. Roberts
tooled through at a coasting, but winning, 4.95 at 107.
Alan Pittman did a crowd pleasing, eighth mile burnout, then
lined up the blown Grave Digger Willys against Anthony White in the
nitrous-injected CWA Corvette. Pittman was vulnerable, hazing the
tires all the way down the track to a 4.737, 158.22 mph pass, but
White couldn't capitalize, the Corvette following the Willys
through the traps at 5.035, 123.
All that was left was the finals of the Southeast Gasser Tour,
but the fans got a bonus. Cecil Roberson and his crew kept on
thrashing on the Corvette funny car and got it back together. They
came out to make a run for the fans. After a nice launch, the
Trimmer Racing Corvette made a 500 foot blast and then hit the
chutes on a 5.53, 106 never say die effort.
The Southeast Gasser Tour final was between the crushing blown
NiteFire Anglia of Rickey Bowie and the massive '69 Nova of Mike
Coger. Bowie had a clear performance advantage, but Coger was
chopping down the tree all day and looked to make it close. Mike
chopped a little too close in the final, however, getting a redlight
for his efforts and tossing away a fine 5.548, 117. Bowie chased the
Nova all the way through the traps to capture the event title with a
5.471 at 129.85 mph blast.
Epilogue: Despite a number of challenges, the inaugural
Southern Classic Thunder event was a huge success.
The fans (more than 1,850 paid tickets) were overflowing and
happy. (Plus kids under 12 were admitted free and local racers could
get crewmembers in for free). That means there were well over 2,000
people stuffed into tiny Ware Shoals Dragway. I don't know where we
would have fit any more.
The Ware Shoals track owner was happy. It was his biggest event
in recent memory. He will be using part of his take for track
The show racers all got paid and were happy. In fact, of the
promoters' portion of the gate, 71.4 percent was paid out to the
show cars. Most of the racers received more appearance money than
they ever had before.
By the way, the Southern Classic Thunder promoters got this crowd
despite rain storms all day in the surrounding areas that certainly
held down the crowd. (The phone in the timing tower rang off the
HOOK with folks asking if the race was still on.) It also rained
twice at the track that day, and the fans waited patiently (the
first time, anyway).
According to the manager of the Cross Creek Mall, the Friday
night car show the most well-attended event the mall had ever had.
By the way, all this was accomplished with less than one month's
worth of promotion.
All this bodes very well for the Classic Southern Thunder series
and for nostalgia drag racing in the southeast.