Home  Drag Lists  Forum  Blog  Links  Stories  Pictures  RacingJunk  Goyda Collectibles  Movies  Store  Help  More  RSS



Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Rickie Does the IHRA Northern Nats

By Rickie Howard

I just returned from the IHRA Northern Nats in Stanton, Michigan...and I too took notes.

I arrived on Thursday night with an ex-GI buddy of mine, driving his new RV while he followed with his van and open trailer with car in tow. We were celebrating a 30th anniversary get-together as prior military/life long friends and a chance to enter a "National" event with his '62 Nova. Although we were only in the "ET" class, we felt like "Pros" after setting up camp with the rest of the gang. Although, setting up the RV canopy made us look like rookies.
Chilly weather Thursday and Friday night brought out the jackets. I didn't mind since it's been so hot everywhere lately.
There's nothing like hearing the rumble of a SS/AA Hemi roll by your window at 6:30 a.m. while you're still trying to sleep. After about an hour of this, I got up and asked where everyone was going, and my buddy said, "oh, they just use the back roads here in the pits to warm their cars up"...hmmm!
For a race that doesn't sell beer, it was everywhere... all weekend. I'm a non-drinker, but I too had four over four days... five total so far for 2001.
Tech'ing in the car wasn't as bad as we expected, but then again, we're just running ET...not Pro Mod.
Yes, only 7 Top Fuelers were on hand, but after talking with "Joe", one of Jack Ostrander's crewmen, I was told "Pontiac Jack" himself was going to pull out his No. 2 car and qualify for the last spot. Both went out in round one.
Spotted a "Plain Jane" funny car with just a few decals on it, but the "Jay's Potato Chips" sponsorship was a dead give away. Welcome back, Rick Kraft! I asked him how long he's had that "Jay's" sponsorship and he told me since '83. Yeah, I took photos of that car too back at the SpringNats in Columbus. He was pleased as punch to meet someone like me that remembered him. He told me he's been out of the sport for over a year and a half. He didn't know about the "DRAG LIST" until I mentioned it. He qualified #14... but went out in round two. I asked him if much had changed since he left the sport, and he responded by saying, "not so much the technology as much as the preparation it took"... He also said he was trying to make up a year's worth of racing in this race alone!
Ron Kammes smacked the concrete block the tree was planted in during a Pro Mod qualifying attempt. The block looks like a piece of wedge cheese, painted red. Eight guys on the starting line tried to move it back into place after Kammes punched it over into the right lane and failed. It took the tractor to move it. Both right corners of his Vette were knocked off in the impact. Walked by that night to watch them "paste it back together" and damn, if he didn't do it again the next day. I had a crew pass wrist band (for helping my buddy when he ran) and was standing on the starting line taking photos when someone grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me back. At first, I thought the "starter" was moving us back, but it turned out to be one of Ronnie Hood's team owner's son (6 foot 4 inch black dude). He said, "Look out, this guy might hit us." He was close...but Kammes hit the right guardrail this time. I was standing in the left lane.
The only Nova Pro Mod went off the end of the track after sailing part of his hood off into the RV camp on the right side of the track. Helicopter came and went after it was reported the driver was "burned". Spent four days/nights at the track and never saw the car after they pulled it out of the sandbox.
Where is the crowd? Yeah, Saturday night was packed. Got lazy sitting around the RV and almost missed out getting a good seat on the top end for Saturday night's last qualifying effort, but another "group" of my buddies "local racers" were camped out already up in the bleachers and saved us a row to climb up into. But for both Friday and Sunday... no one! What's up with that? I'm not complaining, because I got a top row for Sunday to shoot photos and from where I was at, I could fill the entire viewfinder with action. Most overhead comment from the Saturday night crowd? " where's the funny cars, wheelstanding school bus and rocket dragsters?" Almost everyone sitting around me had no clue who the racers where.
Passed U.S. 131 Dragway on the way up to Stanton and noticed the lack of trees along the highway. You can actually see the progress going on at the track which includes new aluminum bleachers, etc. but an official "state" sign in black and white reading "THESE TREES WERE CUT ILLEGALLY" peaked my curiosity.
Lots of Canadians here at Stanton this weekend...including one in our party of 20, and she even sang her national anthem. The rest of us just hummed ours. But also noted (the ex-military in me coming out) where the hats left on a bunch of fans during the Star Spangled Banner.
Found this half-primered up Duster sitting in the staging lanes...thought it looked familiar, so I asked the driver... which turned out to be Rod Boertman... Dave Boertman's son. He told me it was his dad's car that won the 1972 Stock World Championship. Later found Dave himself, just a row over from our RV in the camp, and he confirmed the story Rod told me. He also said he was going to paint it back the way it was (Nationwise) and bring it back next year.
Spotted a little white Monza with red stripes and the name John Heck on the doors running Hot Rod (9.90 index) and when asked if it had any Pro Stock history, I was told, "yes, it's the ex-Toma & Michalek Vega"...was wrecked once and the nose changed over to a Monza. I made another racer's day by spotting another car from the past.
Got rained out last year and couldn't return for the re-schedule that was held almost a month later. This year, the rain held off 'til the race was over and I was heading back to the RV.
All the winners with trophies were returned to the starting line after the race and the crowd was allowed to walk out and see them up close. The track was so sticky, it almost pulled my tennis shoes off. It was a surreal scene watching everyone walk around as if they were in mud or something.
Harley guys had a beef about the track for the final...seemed they were bumping around in the shut down area all day and was close to being thrown off, so they decided to cancel the final and run it off somewhere else later. Safety first.
The "Gotham City" '57 Chevy was actually a Top Sportsman car... looks like a Pro Mod though.
Got a "free" valve spring from Shannon Jenkins '68 Camaro Pro Mod after setting a track record 6.28. Record went lower in the next pair up, but still, I have a nice paper weight for my office this week and a neat story to go behind it.
Scott Weney was a no-show. Mark Thomas, Jimmy Rector and Larry Dobbs seem to be about the only funny car guys to qualify for the Northern Nats all five years since it's return to Stanton.
Scott Weis told me in Columbus during the "SpringNats" (yeah, yeah, the Pontiac Excitement Nats, what ever...) that he was going to be at Michigan in Top Fuel...well, he was a no show too.
Defending funny car champ Von Smith was absent (he went NHRA this year)... and Jerry Yeoman wasn't around either to defend his Pro Stock title.
Was standing with my back against one of the concrete columns supporting the tower on Saturday when I noticed Jerry Haas standing behind me. I asked him what he was doing here, and he said, "watching the Pro Stocks"... duh? I felt dumb asking that one.
Pits after dark was a new experience. Golf carts full of "teenagers" racing around, drinking and driving... hmmm. Bet NHRA wouldn't put up with that.
No cell phone towers anywhere near Mid-Michigan Motorplex... only 2 pay phones on the block house that sells food. Are you listening IHRA? I couldn't get a call out on the cell phone with me standing on top of the RV.
That "Cool Bus" is cool.
Bottom line, best time I've ever had at a race... $60 for 4 days. RV made a big diff!
Buddy of mine red-lighted in round one...but hey, it was our first time. Next year, we're stepping up to Hot Rod...

Rick Howard
"Combat Camera experience pays off..."


Free Homepage Translation

Home  Drag Lists  Forum  Blog  Links  Stories  Pictures  Racing Junk  Goyda Collectibles  Movies  Store  Help  More  RSS

Drag Photos  Drag Blog  Facebook  Twitter  60s Funny Cars  70s Funny Cars  80s Funny Cars  Gasser Madness  Project 1320  Drag Times


Web draglist.com

Copyright 1996-2014 by Bilden Enterprises. All rights reserved.