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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

1997 Hot Rod Reunion --
The Big One That Got Away

By Dave Tuttle

I hadn't straddled a ring and pinion for about 7 years when Phil Tadlock asked me to drive his car at the 1997 Reunion. The Nostalgia A/Fuel class had just started that year and they needed another car to fill the 8-car show. Phil has a 197" Front Engine Dragster that I built for him back in 83, with a small inch Big Block Chevy (398"), Blown on alcohol, and a Powerglide. The rules, for those who don't know, limit you to a small fuel pump (8 gpm) and a 671 blower. That was the last year they held the meet in November and those who were there remember it rained most of Sunday. We got one chance to run on Saturday but I found out the hard way how good the brakes were and lost fire on the burnout. This put us into first round though without a tune up run.

First round paired us against J.C. Constant's injected fuel Donovan in another new car I built earlier that year. Staged and ready, at the hit of the throttle, this thing pinned my head to the back of the cage (the old neck muscles were a bit rusty) and carries the front wheels. When I finally peeled it back off it, all I could see was sky and a bit of
guardrail out the side! WHOOOOHH BABY! ... I REMEMBER THIS! From what I could see, it was going straight, so I hung with it and figured it'd come down when it ran outta gear. Sure enough and it was going straight as an arrow! I recall plugging it in high gear, lifting and looking for J.C. (he was real late) About the time I turned my head I thought "What am I doing, this ain't no bracket race!" 

As I swatted the throttle back down, I remembered that we couldn't run faster than 7.50 or we'd get thrown out for the chassis not being up to date. I looked for him again, lifted at the 1000-ft cone with my hand on the chute, and dumped the laundry at the first ET cone, still taking him by half a car! Our 7.23 @ 174 beat his 7.08 @ 198. After seeing some video of the run, it had the front wheels almost 4 feet in the air to the 330 cone! My soon to be wife had never seen me drive one of these monsters and had to be carried from the starting line! She just witnessed the wildest run of my life! (Who needs practice?)

The rains came before second round and we ended up getting a single when it did dry up as Larry Gotelli headed for home. The tiny 11 inch Goodyears were ice cold after doing a 1/2 track burnout and it smoked 'em like a fueler at the hit. Seeing I still had lots of racetrack left, I hit it again and although we stacked all the weight we had on it, the front wheels were 2 ft in the air again! (Gotta love it!) As I shifted, the tires went square from tire shake, something I'd never encountered. (WHAT THE *&$@%?) That's when I gave up and coasted. 

Mark Smith driving the former Spaghetti Benders car beat Larry Pettit on the other side of the ladder to meet us in the final (Mark's 7.10 to Pettit's 7.14). We were the first pair of finalists to run and were suited and ready to fire when the heavens descended upon us again. It was getting dark by then and Steve Gibbs gave the call that it was over. Bummer! We were holding our hand till the final and knew this thing would run in the 6's. Mark was given the win by running quicker in the semis. JEEZ, NOT AGAIN! I had just missed getting in the El Mirage 200-mph club the weekend before when I ran 199.28 in my Lakester.

A few weeks later we took Phil's car to the high desert track at Palmdale and ran 6.92 outta the box and 6.83 @ 203, which is still the A/Fuel record I think. Just some of the highs and lows of Drag Racing!

Fire the Next Pair!

Dave Tuttle

 

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