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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

USA-1 Nostalgia Dragfest Continues Tradition of Fun

Bonus: An Interview with Bruce Larson

By Bill Pratt

The 2000 USA-1 Dragfest was great! Photo by Greg Gage

The 3rd annual USA-1 Nostalgia Dragfest at Bruce Larsonís Stoney Creek Barn continued the tradition of fun and camaraderie that East Coast nostalgia drag racing fans look forward to each spring. Again, Bruce opened the doors to his personal drag racing museum and moved out his beautiful street rod and early model T-Bird to make room for drag racing enthusiasts. 

As in years past, racing videos ran constantly, slides were shown, and photos, magazines, models, artwork, and more were displayed on tables for everyone to look through and enjoy. Both lunch and dinner were served, soft drinks were available all day, each participant received a terrific commemorative pin, and many participants received great door prizes Ė all for a measly $10 entrance fee! Over 110 people enjoyed this yearís festivities. Dave Heisey and Dick Gerwer again put on a winner.

This yearís program was bittersweet in some ways, however, as it was the first Dragfest not attended by event co-founder "Ray-Ray" English. Ray, who succumbed to a heart attack in March, nonetheless attended in spirit. Dave Heisey led all in a small remembrance and moment of silence just before awarding the door prizes. In addition, Ray himself had prepared four slide carousels months in advance of the Dragfest. Draglist.com webmaster Bill Pratt carried them to the USA-1 Dragfest sight unseen and displayed them for appreciative fans of Ray's work.

Bill Pratt, Bruce Larson, and Tim Pratt at the 2000 USA-1 Dragfest. Photo by Greg Gage

Bill later caught up with the eventís gracious host, Bruce Larson, for a short interview.

Bill: Hi Bruce. What have you been doing lately?

Bruce: Iíve been keeping busy with our lightning protection contracting business. Itís a family business that now is 83 years old. I always did it while racing. This business is very important with modern construction because of all the electronics. The old technology still works.

Bill: You had your USA-1 1968 Camaro nostalgia funny car out a few times in 1999. Are you going to race it again this year?

Bruce: I do have two show dates and one race date so far. Iíll take two or three more race dates, but no more. I don't want to wear the car out. The race date is July 28 at South Mountain Dragway in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. Itís neat because this is the same car I raced there in the old days.

Bill: What would it take to get you back into a full-fledged race car?

Bruce: The best bet would be to hook up with a team. It would take me 2.5 million dollars to start over myself. My drag racing credentials are there -Ė Don Garlits will vouch for that. But Don did not have a large budget and did not want to run the entire tour.

Bill: It does surprise me that nobody has called you to drive for them with all your experience.

Bruce: Kids are more marketable. Companies are trying to market to a younger set.

Bill: The USA-1 Nostalgia Dragfest has been great fun for three years now. Any plans to expand it?

Bruce: Iíd like to see it keep going. We made room for more people by moving some vehicles outside. If the guys who do it want to keep going, thatís OK with me. It helps me to improve the place each year.

Bill: What do you like about the changes in drag racing lately?

Bruce: The only change I like is that theyíre going faster all the time. But I donít like the politics anymore. I like promoting products for sponsors and helping sponsors sell their products.

Bill: What do you dislike about drag racing lately?

Bruce: Nothing Ė I love it! I love it when they say, "How are they ever going to go faster? And every year they do. This has been happening for years. We are working towards a zero ET!"

Bill: What was your favorite period in drag racing?

Bruce: Iíd have to say the championship year in 1989. It was a storybook year. In 1988, the team grew so much with some additional resources. Then the 1989 season went very smoothly. We did not break parts. We had the necessary resources. We were on our game. In 1990, we lost half our resources and still finished third in the NHRA points. Our sponsor, Datcon Instruments (Sentry Tachs & Gauges) was bought out by South Africans in a leveraged buyout. Our sponsor put himself on the line and salvaged half our money. I then sat out 1991, 1992, and half of 1993. Then Don Garlits called. I drove Donís dragster through 1994.

Bill: What are your favorite tracks?

Bruce: My home tracks are my favorites -- Maple Grove and Englishtown. I also enjoy racing at Indy, Gainesville, and Pomona. I have good memories from all of them.

Bill: What about your favorite race cars?

Bruce: The 1989 championship car was definitely my favorite. Way back, the first car I toured nationally with -Ė the 1963 Cobra -- was my favorite. It was a great car, a winning car. It was a pleasure to be touring nationally. We took the record away from Carroll Shelby, and then we campaigned in a class mostly dominated by Corvettes. The ĎVettes had more power, but they weighed 1,000 lbs. more than we did. We won on sheer horsepower to weight.

Bill: What does the future hold for Bruce Larson?

Bruce: I donít enjoy going to the races without a race car. I feel like a fish out of water. I keep my fingers in with the nostalgia thing. If something came along, Iíd be ready. I really wouldnít want to be involved with a team that attends only a few events a year or with a low buck team. I enjoy the championship chase and I know how to do it. My funny car and fueler licenses are current, but I would only take a Top Fuel ride now. Iíve had enough fires light up in front of my face! I drove funny cars for almost 25 years before I saw how nice it was not to have the motor in front.

Bill: Any other comments on the overall state of drag racing?

Bruce: The new fans are getting in on the ground floor of a new era in drag racing. Itís growing on the same ratio as NASCAR now. Itís recognizable on the same plane as a lot of other sports. And weíd have to say itís a result of the efforts of the NHRA. You may not agree with all theyíve done but theyíve put drag racing in front of a lot more people than I ever thought Iíd see.

Bill: What do you think about Bill Bader and the IHRA?

Bruce: If anyone can revive the IHRA, Billís the one to do it. Iíve had a lot of respect for his clean operation at Norwalk. Heís a personable guy, but heís got a lot of business and promoter savvy. I wish him the best of luck.

Bill: Thanks, Bruce!

Bruce: Thanks!


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