My entry for "Smallest Driver" would have to be Rabbit Samuels, a late-50's,
early 60's California driver, mostly Comp Eliminator cars, Modified Roadsters, dragsters,
etc. As I recall, he barely weighed 100 lbs. A good "shoe" and won quite a lot
in a variety of different race cars.
remembering a driver with some tall accomplishments, 1/99|
The infamous Pat Foster / Damn Yankee at Indy story... or, "Don't piss off an
Irishman who's tossed his rods."
Foster and Cook take one bad ass Damn Yankee to Indy... the front spoiler says "When
You're Hot, You're Hot" and Foster was "Hot" and on his game.. bingo, #2
Come first round, Foster launches like a rocket and is on a pass when the rods come out at
half-track, car goes way sideways but Pat saves it. At the other end, Foster just gets out
of the car and starts walking back up the return road, totally frustrated and pissed. I
walk back with him.
Meanwhile, they clean up the track and the next car in the same lane apparently comes
unhooked in the grease sweep and loses, too.
By the time Foster and I are walking through the F/C pits, the racer who got in the grease
sweep is back, sees Foster and hollers out, "Thanks a lot, Foster!" (as if Pat
intentionally blew his motor up so they would lose!) Pat sees red, and lunges for them.
Fortunately, their team owner heard what was said, breaks them up, and diffuses the
situation. Unfortunately, Foster's emotions are still unvented.
A long day for Pat is finally over, and we're in my rental car in line to get out the pit
gate. Foster is in the back seat, as we see Al Bergler in his ramp truck ahead of us,
being attacked by an oversized Indiana farm boy, who thinks Bergler cut him off. It was an
obvious mismatch; looked like Andre The Giant vs. Pete Millar. This big guy was trying to
pull Bergler through the window of the ramp truck, and slugging him, while Al was
valiantly swinging back but doing as much damage as Olive Oyle to Bluto.
At last, Foster could vent his frustrations!! Pat yells, "let me outta this car"
(which was too close to open the doors) and proceeds to crawl out the window, runs and
throws a full tackle on the big guy. They're rolling around in the dust, with Bergler
jumping on top!
Pat gets the guy in a headlock and is telling him to calm down, which he doesn't do, so
Pat slugs him every time he moves. Finally, the state trooper outside the gate realizes
that all traffic has stopped (cause of Foster vs Bubba) and comes over, pulls out his
nightstick and taps it on Foster's back. Pat said he knew the next one wouldn't be a tap,
and slowly releases his prey. We all go to dinner; Foster's stress relieved.
Big has used pics of mine in all but his first book (the one he did with Brock Yates).
No he doesn't pay but I feel his contributions to the sport and basically saving the Top
Fuel class back in the mid 70's is reason enough to support him. Would like to hear some
TC stories. He directed me to make sure I shot Big's nighttime burnout one night, wouldn't
tell me why he said just make sure I shot it. After Big lit the motor on the famous Lions
rollers TC lined him up behind on the right lane, next to where all the fans used to stand
against the fence. I was to Big's left; TC walked up with the bleach bottle and laid down
a line of "bleach" behind the tires. I wondered what the hell he was doing.
Tommy then grabbed the back bar of the cage and pulled the car back into the
Big whacked the throttle and the flames out of the relief holes in the
curve of the headers lit the fluid and the whole drivers cage was engulfed in flame. At
that second Big dropped the clutch and blew out of it (this is when I shot and got a great
pic but in B&W not color cuz I didn't know what he was planning). Anyway, the crowd
went wild, but the people next to the fence got singed a little. Everyone thought
something has gone wrong and Big had the savvy to drop the hammer to get away from what
ever it was. TC had the biggest shit eating grin I have ever seen as he ran by me to
retrieve Big after the burnout (I had my jaw still hanging and part of my clothes were
still on fire). The fans applauded throughout his entire run. So went the first fire
burnout at Lions Drag Strip.
|John Ewald on Don
Garlits and the first fire burnout at Lion's Drag Strip, 1/99||
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