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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Ringmaster of the Nitro Circus

By James Morgan

Ringmaster of the Nitro Circus by James Morgan

This is a remake of a collage I made a while ago. I'm sorry the file is so friggin' big, but I wouldn't know how to make it any smaller. So, read the little story that goes with this, make a cup of coffee, beat the dog, and it should have downloaded by then.

Enter the "way back" machine, the clock turned to early June 1978. Location: Epping, New Hampshire. The air, while still crisp in the shadows, is warm on the face under the afternoon sun. Blaring out in the background on the track's PA is the steady pounding of late 70s rock from Boston's WBCN radio. At the moment, Thin Lizzy's "Jail Break" is thumping along. Eight thousand or so race fans have gathered for an annual ritual, the official start to Spring in New England for Nitro Fans. 

Down on the starting line, a parade of combatants commands the crowd's attention. At the center of the action, manipulating the crowd, working at a measured pace to be sure that at the precise time the crowd's frenzy is peaked: the Announcer. Part Drag Racing historian, part stand up comedian, part circus ringmaster, he informs, flirts, shocks, and insults the crowd and competitors.

"Hey you up there; yeah you! Mind moving over a bit, so we can all see your girlfriend? Thanks Bud."

"Folks, ya want to see a study in space utilization? Have a look at Big Al Hanna shoehorned into that thing!"

"Welcome back after an 8-year absence from NED the "Chi Town Hustler." These boys been doin' good, just look at Coil's waistline!"

"Folks, from out of our back yard in Massachusetts it's the snotty nosed kid from Stoughton, Al Segrini. Don't look at me like that Al, I remember when you were just a punk."

"Hey up there in row 8, you folks so broke ya all gotta share that cigarette?"

"Let's give a big New England welcome to "TV" Tommy Ivo; he's traveled all the way from lala land to be with us here today. Tommy ya ever gonna get older? Folks, don't he kinda look like Alfred E Newman?"

The ministrations continue until all the competitors have received accolades from the crowd. Then with the trailing notes of the National Anthem replaced with the cackling sounds of a pair of Nitro Funnies, one last high pitched, high volume exclamation before the burnouts, "On your feet or on your knees -- it's NITRO TIME!"

During the 70s, New England's announcer was Jan Landers. While I never personally met the man, I was entertained throughout most of the decade by his insane, frenetic announcing pace. Just as "Jungle" would have a hard time conforming to today's stuffy corporate Drag Racing culture, so too I believe Jan's style became dated. But for that brief moment, he was the right voice.

P.S. - For those who must know, Pete Williams in the "Chi Town" ran 6.27 @ 229 to defeat Al Segrini, driving Fred Castronovo's "Custom Body," who ran a quicker 6.24 @ 225. Low ET was Williams with a 6.21.

James Morgan


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