I remember the American Way car well!!! I was working
(gophering) for Jim &
Alison Lee at Maple Grove the day the Lee's car and the Am Way car collided. After a clean
launch by both cars it was very eerie standing on the starting line, watching the Am Way
car get airborne near the finish line and cross lanes, landing on top of our car!!! The
whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion and I remember thinking to myself, "This
can't be happening." Climbing into the push truck, it was even more eerie to drive
down the track and see nothing but a circle of rescue vehicles that obviously marked the
spot where the cars had come to rest.
As we approached, the wing from our car was laying
upside down in the traps -- the only recognizable piece of our car to be found outside the
circle. Fearful of what waited beyond the circle of trucks, we parked and sprinted over to
the scene. I had never seen somebody in shock before, but as we penetrated the wall of
vehicles and people there was Tom Raley still strapped in what remained of the very
mangled race car. Seems humorous now that as folks where attempting to cut him out of the
car to watch him swat at the helping hands while continuing to repeat the phrase
"Tell that f&#>+/< guying to use turn signals next time!"
After all was said and done, I remember talking to
Alison Lee on the phone and she was pretty mad at the Lehmans ... thought they should help
rebuild their car since the Am Way car caused the mishap. It never happened... But, it was
a real nice looking car...seemed kind stupid to run the car minus the back half of the
body like they did the day of the mishap ... screwed the aerodynamics all up!
BTW, I witnessed Marvin Schwartz's fatal mishap at Tucson, probably one of about 100 folks
who saw it (small qualifying crowd) and was probably the closest person to it. Don't know
if you want those kind of stories, but a lot of folks have asked, so I've told them. Don't
tell unless asked...
the end of the American Way streamliner experiment, 1/99|
Late 50's or so, Greek fires one on streets of So. Chicago, gets a little racy, wings
it and changes feet, goes under a viaduct, gets hit by a car (not hard), and Chris exits
stage left, back to his shop. Next day in newspaper, a report from police says they
interviewed a gentleman who said, "I came out from a side street and I think I hit a
pipe with a motor in it!!" Ever hear that one?
|Pat Foster on a late
night '50s fueler test session, 1/99|
The first time I drove the Surfers car at the beach, I ran in the right lane, close to
the fence. We pulled pulled up and staged, I hit the hammer, the front end went up and the
car turned right. One of the guys who was on top of a ladder with his camera went flying
off of it. To this day I don't know if I hit him or if he jumped. CJ was right in back of
me to see if I would be alright in the car. Remember we went though the pit fence a year
before. I let the car come down and didn't hurt it, we went back a put a big piece of lead
on the front end.
|Walt Stevens on
driving those wild and wooly '60s fuelers, 1/99|
First of all let me state that I am not a traitor to the great portholes in the sky
(AKA Buick). After receiving your email this morning about the Showboat vs Lil' Screamer,
I decided to call Jack Ditmars. The story from Jack is that he raced the 4 engined car at
Rockford Dragway (Tom McCourry owned and drove the car at this time). Jack started from
the rear of the apron and the Showboat was to go in pursuit as soon as Jack got to the
line. Jack won the David vs Goliath race. After the race McCourry stated "the gas
pedal linkage came loose on one engine and it was running on three engines only."
Needless to say Jack remembers this very well. Being a true Buick patron, maybe that's the
way McCourry tuned the car for slippery tracks. If there was a little sprinkle he might
even go down to two engines.
Even as photographers, we used to wait for the air to "come in" at the Beach.
Even if the temperature would not drop that much, you could feel the sea air get denser.
For those of you who never got there, we used to see times drop by probably .3-.4 second
between the rounds when the air came in. It used to happen at OCIR, too. Probably the
worst case was at the Manufacturer's Meet one year. Jess Tyree and someone else had just
done the first burnouts, so the air was full of smoke. They had just reversed toward the
starting line, when the fog bank rolled over the back fence. By the time they got back to
the line, you couldn't even see across the track. They ended up shutting them down and
having to postpone the race until the next week. I remember everyone fumbling around in
that fog trying to get cars and equipment back to the pits, and out of the track. While
that was an extreme, it was like that most nights at OCIR and the Beach ... waiting for
the air to arrive, and the times to drop like a stone.
|Tom West on the
legendary air at Lions Drag Strip, 2/99||