Swamp People from the East
By Fred Vosk
This ain't quite drag racers emerging from the "ooze," but it's pretty close. Musta been '63, right after 'they' lifted the fuel ban. I was walking through the pits at Lions with -- I think Kenny Lee or Fat Jack -- or more likely both of
'em. Anyway, we came upon this black Dodge suburban (carryall). The back doors were open, and there were these two little girls in the back playing with old head gaskets. Weird right off the bat. We walked around the truck and there was Garlits working on the race car (he wasn't "The Old Man" yet). There were so many bad cars running at The Beach every week in those days that Big being there was no big deal. Except that he was one of those "Bad guys from the East" that everybody wanted to beat! In fact, he was the guy from the East that everybody wanted to beat the most! However, back to the memory.
Garlits had a guy working on the car with him who was speaking some totally unintelligible language. Garlits seemed to understand him -- and replied in what sounded like somewhat the same tongue. I mean, it sounded like just a bunch of weird noise. We kinda figured that's how Garlits keeps his speed secrets (i.e., had invented his own language). The guy working on the car with him was Connie Swingle (we understood that much). Later, we had 'Goob' come over and interpret for us. Tuller was from Oklahoma too, and could understand most of what Swingle was saying. Smart guy -- knew his race cars.
Later, when they ran, we happened to be up by the starting line. We got to witness one of the cooler (stranger?) starting line performances I had seen. (Maybe neater then Don Ratican). They fired up the car and brought it around. Swingle was driving (Garlits was healing from burns, or something). Garlits hops outta the truck and walks over to the car to check the heat and stuff. He's wearing carpenter type jeans. He reaches down and he has a wrench hanging in the hammer holder loop on the jeans. Garlits takes it out, sets the barrel valve, and hangs the wrench back in the hammer holder. Too much! I think "The Swamp People" might have won that night...