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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Pro Comp A/Fuel Dragster Memories

By Steve Leache

This awesome coffee table is a warm reminder of Steve Leache's former partner, John Morey. Photo by Steve Leache
This awesome coffee table is a warm reminder of Steve Leache's former partner, John Morey.
Photo by Steve Leache

[Former Division 1 Pro Comp barnstormer Steve Leache sent Danny White this awesome letter after reading Danny's story on the debut of the Pro Comp category. This was such a great letter that we asked Steve if we could use it as a Story of the Day and he agreed. If every racer who reads draglist.com would send us a similar letter, our lives would be complete! bp]

Danny - Yup, it took a while but I finally found the 1998 Internet page you wrote titled "1974: Pro Comp Makes a Welcome Debut."

'74 was a fun year because it was in the fall of that year that John Morey and I teamed up with my S&W chassis and John's A/Fuel motor to form the "Rat Poison Dragster." For about a half a dozen years John had campaigned an A/FA with the same name. The altered was brutally fast but so unpredictable that John was in the grass more than he was on the track. At a comp meet at Tom and Sally Evers' New London Dragway in Lynchburg, Virginia, I was running my new S&W chassis with a tired small block in C/GD. John was there mowing the lawn as usual in his altered. 

John and I had been friends since about 1955 when he delivered the afternoon newspaper while driving his stock Model A coupe. John was no dummy. He'd let the neighborhood kids ride on the running board provided they ran the newspapers up to the customer's door. John just pointed to the house, grinned, and drove around the neighborhood. I was one of the kids on the running board. 

Well, that hot summer afternoon at Lynchburg my old friend and I formed a new bond...sort of. That afternoon I told John that if he wanted some real success he ought to put his motor in my car and I'd drive. John was a man of very few words. When I made my comment he simply raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and walked away. The middle of the following week I was eating dinner back at my home in Maryland when I heard a truck back into my driveway. I went to the door and saw John leaning against his Chevy Carryall. A huge injected Hemi was sitting on the tailgate. John simply said "Ya' ready?" That was when the real bond between us began. 

We went to MIR the following weekend so I could upgrade my license to Fuel and then headed south to Suffolk Dragway to try our luck. We got a taste of both ends of our luck that weekend at Suffolk; we just didn't realize it at the time. After qualifying well and winning a couple of rounds the car got way crossed up near the finish. I lifted and got beat by Jeff Rapp. We knew the car was a strange combo for the time. We had a big inch, late Hemi while most of the guys ran smaller, early Hemis. Consequently, we had about 400 pounds of lead bolted under the rear axle. We also had no wing. Wings were relatively new and basically untried in Pro Comp at the time. We also had a fast steering ratio. In wasn't until later that we found this mixture to be more than a mortal man could drive. What we didn't know at Suffolk was that we had a very fast race car with an appetite for crossing the finish line backwards. 

Blissfully ignorant, we wintered out the remainder of the year and headed in March of 1975 for the Gators. After qualifying in the top half of the field, we got progressively faster. Ultimately, we set low E.T. with a 7.0 and faced Walt Weney in the final. With two S&W cars in the final, Walt was a very happy man. Too bad it was such a lousy race... On my dry hop, the Mopar ring and pinion lost their teeth but I had enough momentum and a good enough set of brakes to stop exactly with both staging lights lit. I waited for Walt to stage, hoping he'd lose fire or red light. At the green, Walt managed to make it about 50 feet down track before his motor let go. I watched him leisurely coast across the finish to a National Event win while I sat idling on the starting line. 

The following weekend the ill handling aspect of the car came into play. Back at Lynchburg we had qualified #1 and in the finals got crossed up again. At Englishtown it happened yet again, but this time it was compounded by a flat rear tire and a near scrape on the guardrail. I'd had enough. My ego was sore, my pockets were empty, and I was scared to death of the car. Being an old altered driver, John stepped up to the driver's seat full of confidence. Half a dozen races later with more trips into the grass than the altered ever did, we decided to sell the evil thing. John built another altered. This time a blown alky model and I ended up running a BB/FC called the Flaming Arrow. 

Unfortunately, in 1979 my bond with John took an entirely different and completely unexpected course. John was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died in April of that year. Friends to the end, he left me his motor in his will. And, like friends will, I took care of his elderly mom for 14 more years. It's been decades now since he died. I had a couple of years of racing left in me with my FC, then I left the sport but it never left my heart. As I'm writing this, I am fortunate to be reminded of John and the very A/FD you wrote about... You see, the injectors for that car now have feet and a glass top. I'm looking at them... they make the niftiest coffee table you've ever seen.

Steve Leache
NHRA 1301 A/FD


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