Bracket Racing a Vintage Dragster
By John Spradlin
John Spradlin has lots of fun with his nostalgia digger at the bracket races.
Photo thanks to John Spradlin
A lot of people say bracket racing isn't drag racing. I guess I'm not a drag racer. Bracket racing is the only way to run your car around here. There isn't much in the way of "heads up" racing in my neighborhood. I like the brackets! It allows a car like mine to run with the faster as well as the slower cars and have a chance to win. Most of the racers spend what they are comfortable with. They have a lot of things to spend money on: wives, kids, education, homes, etc.
I KNOW I don't have the money it takes to field a competitive "heads up" car for any class. Even the stock classes require phenomenal amounts of $$. But I can take my car out to the track and have a full day of fun with an off chance of winning. It hasn't happened yet, but maybe some day. My car has a trans brake, a shift light, and a tach.
We try to go as fast as possible on each run. WHY? Because it's fun!
Bracket racing allows me, my wife, and friends to go have fun on a reasonable budget. I can even run my dually if I want. Although that would be incredibly BORRINNGG. There are those fans who have almost no money, but want to race. I say, go for it. They run front drivers (yes, boring), but THEY have FUN. There are a lot of very quick cars around here, including a couple of TA/FCs.
I correspond with a guy who loves the '60s style cars so much, he built his own FED chassis and is running high 10s with a mild SBC. You want to tell him he can't race because his car can't smoke the tires all the way, do wheelstands, or have the correct smell to his (gas)? Not me.
I grew up with the late '50s to early '60s. My first race was as a kid at Morrow Field (Colton Drags). Later, I went to Fontana. I saw all the great and not so great cars and drivers. I almost weep when I see the "Cacklefest" cars run. I SAW them run in their "heyday" and I never had a chance to run one then. And now I have one of those old cars.
I can't describe how my heart leapt when I first saw my car in the barn at the owner's house. I had to "maintain" as I first saw the length and style of the chassis. I moved some and there was the Tony Nancy emblem on the seat. I controlled my voice as I asked questions about it. I was a "goner." I took it home and my stepson worked on it while I was in California. I went to see it each year as I gathered the parts to make it roar.
Now, here it is some five years later. It's still not pretty, but it roars, relatively speaking. The first time out it ran the 1000-foot track at 8.05 @ 126 mph. For me, that's hauling. It's not a top fuel car, a Jr. fueler, an NE, or a comp eliminator, but it's my car. The latest runs were on 8.99 @150, 8.87 @ 153, and 8.96 @ 151, all in the quarter. I'm very proud of my car; someday it will be painted. At the CHRR, I found that it has a "Hanna" short body, although modified. I am so HAPPY. I LOVE DRAG RACING.
I covered a lot of ground that I didn't intend to do. I just got wound up. Bracket racing isn't for everyone, BUT it most certainly IS drag racing, just WAAY different from the normal class-type racing. It might surprise some that it does take a lot of skill to predict and run exactly what you say it will. You DO have to keep a wheel out in front of the competition, even if you tap the brakes to keep from "breaking out." It is still a mental game in which you race yourself.
I guess I've alienated many of you. If so, can I say, "Go to a bracket race. IGNORE the throttle stop cars, but watch the NO "E" cars as they are doing it with only their minds, hands, arms, and legs. BUT don't go with your mind made up that there is nothing to it."