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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

The Little Red Fueler Makes a Pass

© Bill Ott 2000

Badco's Truck & the Strokers Dragster. Photo by Betty Ott
Badco's Truck & the Strokers Dragster. Photo by Betty Ott

Please indulge me on the date and location. Feel free to fill in your own...

It's Saturday July 28, 1963. The people lining both sides of the Atco Dragway nod approvingly as a red pickup pushes an unknown dragster down track. At about three quarter track the pickup slows to a stop as the dragster attempts a U-turn. The crewmembers jump out of the pickup and push the racecar back and forth a few times until it negotiates its U-turn on the narrow confines of the drag strip.

The buzz from the crowd falls off to a hushed whisper as the pickup slowly moves up behind the poised dragster until its front bumper makes contact with the push bar on the rear of the race car. The crowd falls silent and one can hear a few last minute shouts between the crew and the driver just before the engine in the pickup roars to life and the two vehicles move as one.

After this procession has sped down track a few hundred feet, the front of the pickup noses downward as the brakes are applied. The dragster continues on silently as the quiet is broken by the sound of the pickup's horn followed immediately by the sound of the 392 cubic inch Chrysler engine coming to life. A sputter at first, followed by a roar as the Hemi clears its throat and falls into that wonderful loping sound only one of these engines can make.

All eyes focus on the starting line area as the crew frantically repeats the U-turn ritual completed just moments before. By now, all in both the staging area and the stands are craning their necks to get a better view of this magnificent racecar as it approaches the starting line. As one crewman makes a last minute check of the engine, two others frantically wipe unseen dirt and dust off the huge slicks, as the driver lowers his visor and stares down track.

As the dragster approaches the starting line, the driver now focuses his attention at the flagman half-standing, half-kneeling about fifty feet down track. The flagman points a red flag held in his left hand at the driver while the green flag in his right hand is pointed towards the ground. The driverís eyes move as he makes one last glance at the engine temperature and oil pressure gauges. Then the driver nods his head at the flagman.

Within a second or two the flagman drops the red flag towards the ground, while at the same time he raises the green flag over his head and leaps into the air arching his back while jumping a few feet in the air and waving the green flag madly.

Simultaneously the dragster roars to life as all eight cylinders growl, smoke starts to billow of the slicks and the front wheels are now dangling a few inches above the racetrack while the dragster charges forward in an act of pure mechanical poetry. As the race car travels down track one can hear the driver make that shift to high gear, but that is the only time the sound from the screaming Hemi varies. By mid-track the smoke billowing off the tires has subsided, the front wheels are back on the ground, and the dragster can be seen leaving two distinct tire tracks as it speeds towards the traps.

As it clears the traps, the roar of the engine is replaced by an almost deafening silence except for a quiet echo coming from the trees. The huge ribbon type parachute has opened by now and the racecar is safely rolling to a stop. Now everyone's attention is aimed at the track announcer, while we all wait for the numbers on that beautiful pass.

Once again, the crowd roars to life as the announcer screams, "8.62 seconds at 177.12 miles per hour... a NEW track record!" By now, all the crewmembers have climbed back into the pickup and as it roars down the track to retrieve the proud racecar. All aboard wave and scream while the horn is blaring! Good job guys.

More old B.S. later.



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