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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Highways, Troopers, Dogs, and Frau Blucher

By Gary Peters

If you have been following the Hemi Hunter tales, you may have read the story of the trip to the Gatornationals. I promised you I would tell the tale of the drive down to Florida with Dodger and Kathy Glenn. Someone wrote to our HH Guestbook, saying that he couldnít wait any longer -- could I PLEASE tell the story? I wrote back, telling him that I needed to be in the right frame of mind to accomplish this task. Todayís that day, so here goes.

Now if youíre old enough and went to the drags in the Northeast, you probably will remember Dodger Glenn. Over the years, he drove many a Top Fuel car. He was the John Force of his day, not so much in wins at the tracks, but in personality. He would just explode with excitement at anything that resembled or resulted in a racecar, especially on Nitro. He was always driving and racing, even if you were out shopping and just buying underwear. Other than that, he was always cool as a cucumber.

My wife Peggy and I picked the Glenns up at their house in Delaware for the drive down to Florida. It was early evening on Wednesday, and it was pouring rain. I had borrowed my motherís car to drive down. We load the suitcases into the trunk and weíre off. I start to drive down 95, but in no time, I can see Dodger is already bored. The girls are in the back seat, eating sandwiches that Kathy had prepared for the trip. They are also sharing a bottle of wine. Dodger and I didnít want to drink for obvious reasons; we new we had a long drive ahead, and didnít want to be tired from the booze. Yes I know. Doesnít sound like a bunch of racers, but we knew we had to get to the track and then go racing.

Dodger says, "Pull over; Iíll drive." I knew he would need to drive at some point, so I pull over and he gets behind the wheel. Weíre off, and before you know it, weíre cruising down 95 at ABOUT 95 in the rain. I figured there was no use in complaining. He would probably just go faster, although I also figured my Momís car was about rung out. It couldnít go any faster. I try to relax, and leave our fate in the hands of the gods of racing wizardry or something like that. Hours go by and we never leave the passing lane. The miles are rapidly clicking away, and weíre some place in Virginia. Itís still raining cats and dogs.

I had driven with Dodger before, but usually with a racecar trailer attached to the vehicle. That would usually slow him down to about 80 or so. Iím sitting in my seat starting to relax. I know Dodger will get tired shortly. He always pulled a little trick when he wanted someone else to drive. He would start to nod his head and pull onto the shoulder of the road until stones flew. He would keep doing this until someone said, ĎYouíre too tired. Pull over; Iíll drive." So Iím waiting for this ritual to transpire, when all of a sudden, I see the red lights flashing from the police car.

"Oh, no," says Dodger, "Quick. Get behind the wheel. I canít get anymore speeding tickets." Now really, I wasnít about to take the chance of switching seats at 80 MPH, in the rain, with a cop watching. Iím also thinking, "I hope Mom has the ownerís card in the glove box." Dodger finally pulls over. Iím going through the glove box, looking for the ownerís card when Dodger says, "You'd better stop it." I look up and see the cop has his gun against my side window. He doesnít know what Iím doing. Up go my hands, and I yell that Iím only looking for the ownerís card. The cop walks around the front of the car over to Dodger. Dodger rolls down his window.

The cop looks in and says, "Iíve been trying to catch you guys for 20 minutes. Are you crazy, driving in the rain like that? Let me see your license and ownerís card." I hand Dodger the ownerís card, and he hands the cop his driverís license. The cop says, "I need your real driverís license. This oneís some kind of license for a Top Fuel something." Dodger nonchalantly says, "I canít believe it took you that long to catch up to us. I was only doing 80. What the heck do they have you driving?" By this time, heís hanging out the window to see the copís car. Dodger says, "Why thatís a new Ford; you should have caught this Chevy in no time. Iíll bet they gave you one with a small engine in it." The cop says to Dodger, "Out of the car."

The girls and I are sitting in the car, and I hear Dodger talking a mile a minute. Kathy says to me, "Gary, he doesnít have a license, it was pulled months ago." Iím wondering if the jail cells will be cold and dirty, like in the movies. Dodger and the cop walk back to our car. "Gary, what size engine is in your Motherís car?" I tell him I think itís a 327. "See," says Dodger to the cop; "I told you they cheated you on you cruiser. Gary, come back here and tell us what size engineís in Bobbyís cruiser." I look back and see the hood up on the cruiser car. I also notice itís only a local policeman, not a state trooper. I walk back and say, "I think itís only a 302." Dodger says, "Bob, I told you your boss tried to save the taxpayers some money. You have a small engine."

"Youíre the race car mechanic, Gary, tell Bobby what to do to hop up his cruiser." The cop hands me back the ownerís card and says, "Get out of here, and say hello to your brother for me, Dodger." Iím dumbfounded. I have no clue what went on during the 10-minute conversation Dodger had with the cop. Dodger says, "You drive. I promised Bob I wouldnít drive anymore. I grabbed the wrong license when I left the house after I heard my brother was wounded in Nam." Dodger whispers to me, ĎGet in the car. Get in the car and drive. Heís letting us go." Iím driving down the highway and I ask Dodger, "What the heck was that about your brother? You donít even have one." Well, between the car comparisons, racing stories, and the story that his brother was in a Florida hospital with war wounds, the cop took a liking to Dodger. His personality just bubbled, which created a kind of an admiration for him. At the time, Dodger told us the whole story of what he had told the cop. It seemed perfectly normal, even to us. I really didnít care; we were on our way.

The gas gauge is showing us we need to make a pit stop. I pull off the road and go into a little gas station somewhere, I think, in South Carolina. I get out and the attendant walks over to me. In a heavy southern drawl, he asks me what I want. I tell him to fill it up; Iíd check my own oil. I hear Dodger get out of the car. Iím under the hood, when I see Dodger walking over to a dog chained up by the small building. I see the dogís ears perk up and he starts to snarl. The owner, who is pumping the gas says, "Stay away from that dog, boy, heíll tear you up." Dodger keeps walking towards the dog. The dog is barking and growling like crazy. He charges at Dodger and runs out of chain.

Now Dodger is as calm as can be. He moves to within six inches of the dog. I can now see itís a Doberman, and itís huge. The dog has totally lost control. Heís foaming at the mouth, barking with saliva flying from his lips and fangs. The dog is just out of Dodgerís reach or visa-versa. Iím thinking again, "What the heck is Dodger doing? If he gets too close, heíll be in the hospital and weíll miss the races anyway." Dodger keeps talking calmly to the dog, "Whatís wrong boy? Donít you like me?" The owner stops pumping gas and says to Dodger, "If you donít stop teasing him, Iíll let him loose on ya."

I look at the chain, hoping itís strong enough to hold this monster, which by this time looks like Lon Chaneyís best interpretation of a Werewolf. The owner is also getting madder and madder. "I told you boy, stay aware from that there hound, heíll tear your ass up." Dodger doesnít move. I quickly close the hood and say, "Come on, Dodger, letís go," as I hand the owner the gas money. Dodger is still talking trash to the dog, which is even crazier than ever, if that were possible. The owner goes walking over and stands next to Dodger. The dog is still nuts. I figure the next move would be for the owner to push Dodger to within range of the fangs snapping in the breeze. I better try to get Dodger back into the car.

The owner is now about as mad as the dog. "I told you boy, Iíll let him loose in a minute. Heíll chew you up." Dodger calmly looks right at the dogs owner and says, "Iíd hate to have to kill such a fine animal, but if you let him loose, thatís what will happen." I figure, here it comes, Iíd better get hold of a tire iron or something. The owner says, "What ya got boy? A gun in them there pockets?" Dodger says calmly, "Nope, but he only has one mouth and I have two hands. You let him loose and heíll be dead." Dodger turns and looks at the man, then turns around and gets back into the car. I jump in as fast as I can and get the heck out of there. Dodger calmly looks over at me and says. "Can you imagine that guy was going to let me kill his dog? People sure have funny ways down south."

About an hour later, we decide to stop for breakfast. I figure if we stop at a nice hotel, like a Howard Johnsonís, we might eliminate the dreaded grits. I pull in and we all enter the hotel. Itís a nice place and the receptionist takes us to our table. This nice young waitress comes over and gives us our menu. At the table next to us is an older couple. Just as the waitress is about to leave, the woman at the other table yells at her to get a move on, they donít have all day. I also hear she has a heavy German accent. The young girl is upset by the harshness of the older women. I can see her from where Iím sitting. Dodgerís back is to her. I feel a little uncomfortable about the rudeness towards the young girl. She comes back for our order and is standing by me. She says, "What will you have?" The German woman says again, "Whatís wrong? Didnít she hear me? Where is our food?" The young girl runs away to the kitchen, I guess to see if their food is ready. Back she comes with no food. Sheís at our table again, and gets more abuse from the German woman. I can see she is visibly shaken, but she takes our order and runs off to the kitchen again.

All through our meal, this German woman is relentless and flat out rude to the young waitress, even after she brings them their food. The waitress is just about in tears sometimes. The waitress starts to ignore the German women. This really flips her out and she gets her English all mixed up with German words. I look at Dodger, who is as calm as ever. The young girl is once again at our table, just shaking. Dodger looks up at her, calmly gets up and faces the German woman at her table and said, "I always wondered what happened to Herman Goeringís widow." Well, the tension by this time was so great; we all looked at each other and busted out laughing. The young girl is laughing so hard that tears are streaming down her cheek. Iím doubled over with laughter. Dodgerís face is as calm as ever.

The German couple jump up and goosestep out of the restaurant. We are all still laughing out loud. No one can stop. The young waitress says she will probably lose her job, but we made her day. She will at least need to pay for the German coupleís food order. They left without paying. We told her to bring us both checks; the whole episode was worth every penny. She never did, and we left for the races. So now you have a good idea of why I said the drive down to Florida would make a good movie.

I remember one time telling my wife that if Dodger would ever have his own car, Iím afraid he would try so hard to be successful that he could wind up in trouble or something even more drastic. Most know what happened after Dodger bought the Frantic Ford Funny Car. I look back at what I said and curse the day I said it. I remember the day Jim called me to tell me about Dodgerís crash. I was no longer with our car, and had stopped going to the races. Jim would still call me every week to fill me in on their results at the drags. He then told me that Dodger was gone. I said, "Sure he is. What did he do, blow the body off of the Funny Car and switch over to a Top Fuel for the day with just a bare chassis?"

I heard silence on the other end. Jim said, "No, you donít understand. He is really gone." I never said another word and slowly hung up the phone. I walked into Peg crying, and just said, "Something terrible has happened. Dodgerís gone." She just looked at me and said, "Gone where? Why are you crying?" I donít remember much more. I do remember Peg trying to call Dodgerís family on the phone. I had lost other friends in accidents before this happened, but somehow I could not get myself to believe Drag Racing had claimed Dodger. If you read the chapter in the HH story, you know what I did with the amulet from the Jade Grenade guys with the Hemi Hunter name inscribed on it. If you didnít grasp the meaning, here it is again.

At the funeral, I slipped it into Dodgerís hand. I never said a word to anyone until I wrote the story 30 years later. At the funeral, I was very calm. When I thought about the amulet thing and pushing it into his hand, I thought I would maybe feel a little pressure or squeeze on my fingers. Not to be, my friends. I just stood there and looked at him in his driverís suit. I kept staring at him, looking for a little smile from the corner of his mouth. Nothing. I finally walked away and didnít see a drag race for 20 years. Iím crying now, and probably rusting up my keyboard, so Iíll need to leave this one right where it is. Sorry. I didnít want this story to end this way. It was supposed to be a fun thing and help to explain the personalities that help create the history of any sport.

Jeez, time to lighten up a bit.

Gary Peters
gary.peters@macktrucks.com
www.hemihunterracing.com

 

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