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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Push Truck Racing at OCIR

By Bob Van Luven

I just read a story on draglist.com written by Chuck Johnson about "Burndown Wars" and playing games with the Snake on the fire up road at OCIR. It reminded me of another weird push start story.

Pomona Winternationals, 1969 or 1970, with the California Charger when it was owned by Keeling, Johnson, and Van Luven and driven by Norm Wilcox. In those days we flipped for lane choice and in qualifying we had to run against Don "The Beachcomber" Johnson. I think Hank Westmoreland was driving for him at the time. That year (most years) there was one good lane, if you didn't get it you just wasted a run. Anyway, we went over to Don Johnson to flip for lane choice and he refused to flip. He said something to the effect that "whoever gets to the line first gets lane choice."

Nobody knows what Don Johnson was thinking. He had a Datsun pickup for a push truck. Our push truck, on the other hand, was Chuck Johnson's brand new SS 396 El Camino. Chuck was never shy about going fast on the fire-up road, especially with this hot new El Camino. When the word went out to fire the next pair, Chuck floored the El Camino and ran top speed of the meet on the fire-up road. Don Johnson's Datsun coughed, sputtered, and crawled behind us. We got to the line first, took the good lane, and qualified on that pass. The Beachcomber got the bad lane and didn't qualify.

We never understood why Don Johnson refused to flip for lane choice. At least he would have had a 50-50 chance. Even Helen Keller could see that our push truck was a lot badder than his was and in a race for the starting line, he couldn't win, even if he had used nitrous oxide.

Unfortunately, I think that was the only race we won at Pomona that year.

Bob Van Luven


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