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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Cone Heads before Saturday Night Live

By Gary Peters

There are days when you go racing when you can never seem to do anything wrong. And there are days you try to do everything right, and everything goes wrong. But it was unusual to have both of these scenarios happen during the same race. We were off to New York National Raceway for their IHRA Summer Nationals. I don't remember why we thought we should go to this race, but there was probably nothing else lined up for the weekend. These were the days before you needed to pre-enter. You just had to show up at the track, try talking your way in without paying, and race.

Well, we paid our way in and we start looking for a spot to park our rig. As we tow around the pits, we notice a very large field of Top Fuel cars. They're everywhere, and a good majority of them are what we would consider touring pros, you know, the Ivo's and King and Marshall crowd. What in the world were we thinking? How would we make any money here? Just qualifying would be a monumental task, and all for 300 bucks. We probably would have left and headed up the island to Long Island Dragway if time were available and we wouldn't have paid to get in. We find our spot, park the trailer, and unload the car. Folks are starting to gather around; I guess the car was known by many, although we never raced at this track before.

There are so many Top Fuel cars, the track decides to make it a 16-car field instead of eight. A little luck for us; we figure we now have a chance to qualify. At least that would pay for the Nitro. First round of qualifying and we misread the track. We softened up the clutch too much and turn a 7.04, not good enough. Back to the pits and we figure it's time to load her up, tighten the clutch, and open up the stack between the disks. By this time in our racing, we were pretty sure if the track held, and we didn't smoke the tires, we would run a 6.5 as always. Good enough for the first half of the ladder. We're ready and we push the car onto the fire up road. The two cars in front are off and firing. They are coming down the track when one of them loses it, crosses the centerline, and knocks out the lights and cones marking their spot.

The track crew fixes the timing equipment and replaces the cones. We tell Dale to run the car as hard as it will go, but in our usual manner, click it at the first cone, pull the chute at the last cone, and save the engine. It's amazing how much damage takes place in that last 66 feet. The car sounds good; Dale leaves and carries the front wheels for about 20 feet, right on. I'm waiting for the announcer to tell us the ET. He announces a 6.94, only good for the 17th spot. I'm scratching my head wondering what happened, were is the 6.5 or 6.6? The miles per hour are way down also, just over 200. We pick up Dale and ask him what happened. He says nothing, the car was pulling fine, and I clicked it at the first cone. He tells us he knows the car ran better than that.

We start towing the car back. I stop and look out over the finish line and see that the first cone is at the wrong spot. Who put that thing an additional 32 feet towards the starting line? There wasn't even a white line by the first cone, and no cone at the last MPH timer. We get back to the pits and I go running up to the timing tower. Well, I'm told they made a mistake, but no one else seemed to have a problem. No kidding, most of the killers ran their cars out the back door, as the saying went. The Top Fuel crews always coveted high MPH. Bad luck on our part, first we pay to get in, lay down a suck run, and then don't qualify. We position the car to be pushed back into the trailer, but decide to watch the racing. I'm not my jovial self; we came to race and the bad luck god struck us down.

We're standing around the trailer waiting for first round when I see a track official walking towards us. Maybe they changed their minds. Another shot at qualifying? He walks up and tells us we should get ready, we're in under the break rule, one of the cars can't make first call. This has me feeling somewhat better, but we would still have the number one qualifier to run. Oh well, it's 300 hundred bucks, and we can still watch the race. To make a long story short, we walk through the whole field of cars and win the race. Talk about going from no luck to all luck, all in one day.

We're told to bring the car up to the starting line for pictures. The fans are yelling and screaming, especially the Chevy clan. The next thing I know, who do we see walking up to us but Linda Vaughn? We never even saw her at the track; we were too busy getting ready. We all gather around her and the car for the picture. So here I stand next to Linda. I'm only 5 ft 6 inches tall, and Linda is at least 6 feet tall. I only ever saw her from a distance over the years. Sometimes when you meet someone face to face, some of the glamour and beauty fades. Not so with Linda. The look on my face must have told her something; she put her arm around my head and neck and pulls me close. Don't be so bashful see says, smile.

Gentleman, my head is inches from the land of plenty, and I'm looking at her two big beautiful EYES. I'm hoping the photographer takes his time, but by this time, I don't know were to look, and its a little embarrassing not knowing where to focus my eyes. Linda keeps saying we all should relax and enjoy the moment. Is she kidding? I never saw any of the pictures from that race. Maybe we looked too dumb for them to have ever been published. To this day I would love to know if we cone heads blew it by looking like the Marx Brothers next to so lovely a women as Miss Hurst. Never saw anyone so breathtaking as her, except my own wife, naturally.

Gary Peters


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