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Mar 6, 2006

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CHRR 14 Diary, Part 2

Saturday, I had breakfast with Vern and Chris, then waited for Tom West, who was having a bit of car trouble. When he arrived, we transferred his gear into my car and headed for the track. I wandered with him awhile, but decided to search for Vern and Chris. I was hours of wandering, almost retracing steps from the previous day.

I spent some time with Jim Green, who had ex-World Champ Rob Bruins in his Assassin. The last time I had seen Green the car was still a pile of pieces, a bunch of assembled photo scrapbooks (mostly by Jim’s wife Betty) and a whole lot of dreams.

Rob Bruins was in Jim Green's gorgeous Assassin restoration for the weekend.

The Assassin was never a northwest threat; it was more of an enigma, a beautiful full tail, full body dragster with a SOHC Ford for power when those were in vogue. It had been a dream of Jim Crooke, a youngster with a pocket full of cash and Jerry Ruth to look over his shoulder. Crooke worked with Ruth for a year or so, then put together a competitive Top Gas entry with Ruth-built Chrysler power. Then came the Assassin. After a year or so of running, its “cammer” was replaced by a 392, several drivers were plugged into the seat, and suddenly, Assassin was gone. The name reappeared a couple times, when Jim Crooke teamed with northwest standout R. Gaines Markley. The car itself went in several directions but the major pieces were found after a great deal of detective work a few years ago by Green. He’s very into SOHCs so Assassin was a natural, and the restoration is impeccable. As a northwest trivia twist, Bruins’ championship came while driving for Markley.

I admired the recent Tom Hanna repops of Crietz & Donovan and Croshier & Baltes. Both are wonderfully accurate and respectful tributes to their teams. One bit of caution for those viewing this type of show: These two are great examples of full-bodied AA/FDs but from extremely different design eras. In 2005, a five-year-old car pretty well fits right in with the rest of the TF entries, not so in 1969. Side-by-side, the cars appear to be from different worlds.

Another car I spent time admiring was the Schubert & Herbert replica, built for Ron Johnson by Bob Meyer. In comparison to Assassin, Eagle, Creitz & Donovan and Croshier & Baltes, “Shoobie” is barely minimalist. It was built for a time when tracks were the absolute opposite of sticky, and a 750hp sbChevy in a flyweight chassis could outrun a 1200-1400hp Chrysler at Long Beach and other fog-covered strips.

Have you ever seen or met James Ibusuki. That's him on the far left getting ready to throw a rock at me for taking his picture. Hahaha - gotcha! Yes, those are copies of his paintings in the background.

When I finally found Family Scholz, we spent quite a bit of time in the Bucky Austin pit. Vern’s great desire was to sit in the Eagle but that never happened. I’m not one to mooch T-shirts, seats in Cacklers, etc., so after introductions, I told Vern he was on his own.

Tom West found us there and began a photo shoot of Eagle. He is working on a history book, using his own cutaway drawings to show the evolution of design in dragracing. It is a few years away but will be worth the wait.

Vern, Chris and I then headed for the grandstands to watch some qualifying and racing action, including most of the first round of NTF. I was literally shocked when Jim Murphy blazed his M&Hs in the first pairing and lost to Rick Williamson.

About halfway through the round, I got really ancy, said, “See ya later,” and headed for the starting line. As I walked through the lanes, I heard favored Brett Harris go down to Rick White.

One of the most impressive performances came from Rick Rogers who earned the final slot in the 250mph club, failed to qualify, got in on the break rule and downed Cheetah in round one!

I arrived with cameras just in time to see another big upset in the final pairing. Rick Rogers, who a few years back, bought the entire NTF operation from Professor Ginz, had failed to qualify although he’d run a career best and nabbed the final spot in the 250mph Club. That 6.119/250.00 made Rogers 17th, so when Jason Richey failed to make the call Rogers stepped in. In the other lane was Cheetah III, heavily favored to improve substantially from its 12th qualifying spot, a 6.103/236. But Rogers was out first on Terry Cox, hurtled to a thrilling 5.972/247 to 5.990/243, proving once again why dragracing continues to be so exciting.

Moments later came a thrill of a different kind altogether. Scheduled for exhibition runs between NTF R1 and Cacklefest were fuel altereds. The first pairing had Brett Hankins (Blue Blazer) against Ty Norton. After a great launch, Norton’s flaming T got slightly out of the groove, hooked left, slammed the left guardwall and rolled. It was a violent crash that spread pieces for several hundred feet. Try as they might, track personnel was unable to fully pickup the shrapnel and chose not to run any more cars. That took away the opportunity for the assembled crowd to see the Fiats of Randy Bradford and Mike Sullivan (Stannard/Schwarz), Rat Trap (Ron Hope) and of course, the Winged Express (Mike Boyd). Instead of racing, these guys chose to fire and idle down past the fans.

Randy Bradford didn't get to make the promised pass Saturday so idled down to the delight of the crowd - look at that wall of people! The CHRR may eventually take-off.

The actual first pair down for Cacklefest was a gasser and a funny car; the repop of Big John Mazmanian's Willys and Ed Lenarth's Jeep. With as much steam and liquids that poured out of Holy Toledo, Lenarth just about fried the iron 392!

Dave McClelland spent a few minutes reading the twilight goodbyes, the list of those racers who have headed for the last shutdown over the past year.

Though in this pushdown pic, Jerry Ruth looks bored. Trust me, he wasn't. When someone ran up and told him "Crietz has 93% in his!" Ruth responded "We'll up ours to 95%..." His cap says "BOSS"- believe it.

It is great to see Herm Petersen having fun again. His last FED was found, nearly intact. Restoration was still amazing - how would you like to mask that paint job?

Then it was time for “Cacklefest.” I had told Tom West that after about sixteen cars, I was going to head for the car. I wanted to be sure to see and hear the northwest cars, especially Herm Petersen and Jerry Ruth. I made a mental note of where they were during the pushdown parade, but as the cacklers returned, they were in a different order. Ruth was nearly last and after watching him go by, I realized that I’d waited much longer than I’d planned. So, I headed for the car at a high rate of speed, nearly ran into Tom in the darkness at the back of staging and we were on the road just ahead of the hoard. Back in town, we found a Chinese restaurant, and while eating, I confided that I had nearly had my fill of the event and might not go back the next morning. But I did.

The annual Standard 1320 group shot was well attended. It's kinda like a "Where's Waldo?" scene if you're looking for anybody in particular.

After getting back to the motel, Vern came over and looked through a couple hundred photos. We talked about the reunion, the cars, model building and soon it was about 1am again.

I thought the gear heads might like a few engine shots.

There is plenty of variety, a something-for-everyone hodgepodge. Just keep walking and looking, you'll find it!

I noted this little beauty in a Duster!

Here is what powers the repop of Bob Sullivan's "Pandemonium"

This whole 32 sedan appeared as a barnfind to me -- an altered dragcar right out of the '50s. Yes, that's a Buick.

In the morning, I ate a little and packed everything out – including all the new stuff. I filled the Element with fuel then I headed for the freeway. I looked both ways, and you guessed it, I headed north, back to the track. I checked on a few things, bid adieus to a few folk, looked longingly once more at Dragmaster Two Thing, and headed for the gate.

Flyin' Phil

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