By Jim Hill
Before the development and use of digital
"clocks," drag racing speeds were provided in the round glass
of the Chrondek timers. You read those "Speed Trap" numbers
and then looked up the true mph off a printed "Speed Chart."
The true mph corresponded with the reading on the speed clocks. Clock
operators always had to relay this info, plus the ET and the car
number/class, to the "Time Slip" worker in the
"shack" at the finish line. When this was done the clock
operator did a "re-set" on the clocks, accomplished by pulling
down on the ET and MPH toggle switches on the face of the Chrondek
timers for that lane. The other lane clock worker did likewise.
A typical set-up had an announcer, a couple of spotters who looked up
the car class, number, driver info, etc., off the printed entry card,
and fed that to the guy on the mike and the clock workers. Working the
clocks at a national event, where there were 1,000+ cars entered (yep,
NHRA used to regularly have 1,000+ car fields at the really big national
races like the Nationals!) could get hectic, especially when they
literally emptied out the staging lanes for Stock, Super Stock, and
Street Eliminator. Pair after pair, another pair of cars leaving as soon
as the previous pair cleared. Worst were the Comp Eliminator cars,
especially the Comp dragsters. Very small numbers and class
designations, hard to see and record accurately. Some were written on
the tires, in white shoe polish! Back then there were no permanent
numbers assigned to drivers.
I do miss those long, long lines of race cars.