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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Badco Does E-Town

2001 Bill Ott

Approaching E-town by air near the shutoff area. Photo by Bill Ott
Approaching E-town by air near the shutoff area. Photo by Bill Ott

Saturday, May 19, 2001 
Raceway Park - Englishtown, N.J. 

Hush brother - we'll cross the square 
Act natural, like you don't care 
Turn slowly, and comb your hair 
Don't trouble the midnight air 
We're standing just where he stood * 

No way, this NOT going to be one of those almost perfect days that comes along every once in a great while. Woke up around seven AM to mid sixty degree temperatures, with the sun burning off a light fog. You know, the kind of fog that makes everything look peaceful... not eerie. Ms. Boop arose before me this morning, so as I make my way into the kitchen, the coffee has just finished brewing. Halfway through my first cup, while getting caught up with last night's E-Mail, the phone rings. 

It's my old friend ' Treetop Al' on the line." Hey" he says, " the Good Doctor Bob's on his way over, so you'd better get your ass over here... if you're going with us!" Did he say " IF you're going with us?" ... Damn right I'm going! Raceway Park is just a mere one hundred and fifty miles from here - as the crow flies. And that's the route we'll be taking. 

But first, we'll all meet at Al's and decide who's vehicle we'll go in. I went over in the Nissan (the ol' pickup is still down), Al has a late model Chevy pickup (his '64 Chevy pickup is also still down), and the Good Doctor shows up in "Chromius Maximus"... a '58 Pontiac ragtop (with the top down of course), complete with factory Tri - Power and a bitchin' Continental Kit hung on the back. Guess which vehicle we chose to go in? 

First stop... Lemoyne Diner for breakfast. Strange... seems all of the conversation was about cars, or Drag Racing, or both. Returning to the parking lot after breakfast, we fielded questions from the small crowd that had formed to admire the white, chrome, and stainless steel beauty. They DON'T make 'em like this any more!! The dual Glasspaks give the Pontiac a throaty rumble, so the Good Doctor had to goose it a few times to impress everyone... it did! 

Second stop... Hanger Number Seven - Capitol City Airport. I've been looking forward to this particular moment for a few weeks. It seems that Doctor Bob and Treetop Al have 'traded up' from a Piper Cherokee to a Piper Saratoga and today is going to be my first chance to ride in the new beauty. And what a beauty it is.... gray and white exterior with a brown crushed velour interior. Seats six... the Cherokee seated four, and the three hundred horsepower Lycoming six is a little stronger than the Cherokee (not that there was anything wrong with the Cherokee, mind you). 

As we're trying to stow our gear in the Saratoga, 'ol Chromius Maximus has attracted another small crowd of admirers. Another question and answer session and it's time to park the Pontiac in a corner of the hangar and try to get out of Dodge, before another crowd forms. Funny thing... all of these nice airplanes around here... and an old Pontiac convertible gets all the attention. I guess it's true, EVERYBODY likes old cars! 

Taxiing down Runway 26 in "Saratoga 8473 Charlie" we're cleared all the way to Old Bridge Airport and advised the weather is fine and is expected to get even better as the day progresses. Great flying weather!! After Dr. Bob executes a picture perfect take off at precisely 11 AM, we climb to 3500 feet and level off and begin to cruise at 165 knots. I've flown with Treetop Al before but never with Dr. Bob. As soon as we're airborne I realize there's TWO excellent pilots sitting up front (Al has an instructors license), so I can kick back and really enjoy this ride. Once the AutoPilot is engaged, the conversation picks up where we left off at the diner. 

Just as the B.S. is really getting serious, it's time for our approach to Old Bridge. This is one fine set up, with the landing strip running adjacent to the track. As we're making our approach, we watch two Alcohol (still can't bring myself to say Federal - Mogul) Dragsters do their ritual burnouts and make a pass. Looks cool from up here. 

After a perfect landing, we step out of the Saratoga at exactly 11:45 AM. Not too bad... one hundred and fifty miles in forty-five minutes! As most of you may or may not know, my daily gig is driving an eighteen wheeler out of Harrisburg. I used to run to one of our terminals, that was just a few minutes from Pension Rd. in Old Bridge, the exact same route we just covered. It took at least three hours in the middle of the night, with no traffic! Man, you can't beat this! 

Cruising around the airfield in search of a parking spot we roll by a HUGE twin engine (turbo-prop) plane, with the letters "KC" on the side. Any bets on who's plane that is? Seems like anywhere you go, there's always somebody with a bigger toy! 

The trusty Saratoga 8473 Charlie. Photo by Bill Ott
The trusty Saratoga 8473 Charlie. Photo by Bill Ott

After we secure the plane and square up the parking fee with O'Brien Aviation, it's through the back gate and to the races. Gotta get down close to the finish line before the Alcohol dragsters are all done. Ain't nothing in the world like the sound of a blown alcohol dragster, wound up and screamin' through the lights. Once heard it described as the scream of the She Bitch from Hell... yeah!! Used to sound even cooler when they didn't wrap the whole motor with a bulletproof security blanket. The alcohol funnies have a completely different sound at the big end - not quite as cool... probably due to the security blanket and body covering the engine. Ah, there we go again... longing for the old days, excuse me. 

Some turnout - One hundred grand 
Get with it, we'll shake his hand 
Don't bother to understand 
Don't question the little man 
Be part of the Brotherhood * 

Ran into Greg Anderson and his crew pitted down south of the cheap seats. Got a chance to shake his hand and congratulate him and the whole Vegas team on the great job they've been doing. Greg went two rounds at the Southern Nationals on hole shots.... way to go Dude!! Every once in a while someone comes along and makes Pro Stock interesting for a while. Looks like Greg's the man this season. Seems like Pro Stock was always interesting when Bob Glidden was around. See, there I go... longing for the old days AGAIN! Speaking of Bob Glidden... the committee at the Drag Racing Hall Of Fame did a good thing, voting Bob in. If anyone belongs in the Hall Of Fame, it's Mr. Glidden and family. Thanks. 

Wandered into the Pro pits just in time for the NITRO warm ups. Nothing like a healthy dose of NITRO fumes to get your head in the right place! Anyone that thinks these things are a little wimpy since the ninety percent rule was passed, needs to stand close to the Dunn/Hoffman/Mooneyes car during a warm-up. That baby is stout!! You could have turned a bus around in the area no one would get near while this rascal was idling! Though I was gonna' pass out, myself. Gotta get me one of them gas masks, like the True Believers carry around with them. And I thought I was a hard core fan. 

Passing by the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Dunn pit during what appeared to be a lull in the action... when you ALWAYS qualify in the top half, I guess you can afford to be a little laid back... I got a chance to say hello to Jerry Gwynn. I want to take this opportunity to thank Jerry personally for the act of extreme kindness he showed during our brief encounter. The Gwynns have always been a class act, and continue to be. Thanks again. Said hello to Lee Beard... another class act 

Heard the annoying sounds of the Pro Stock Bikes doing their burnouts in the distance, so I guess it's time to go find a good vantage point for today's opening NITRO session. But first... man, it's getting hot, think I'll score a bottle of cold water before I head trackside. "What's that? Two dollars and fifty cents for a half liter bottle?". Hell, that breaks the all time record of two dollars a bottle I once paid on the Connecticut Turnpike, but at least it'll be cold. Wrong... matter of fact, it may have been a little warmer than the air temperature. Hey, I'm two dollars and fifty cents poorer... but I ain't a damn bit cooler. Ya know, maybe P.T. Barnum was right! 

Found a good spot along the wall right where the concrete pad ends and the tarmac begins. While the Pro Stock session is winding down, I can't help but notice the track sure is slick past the end of the launch pad. Most were spinning the tires from this point on, and a few even showed a wisp of tire smoke further downtrack. Can't recall ever witnessing this phenomenon before! But, every once in a while they did hook up. Of particular interest was the match-up between Mark Pawuk's Grand Am and Ron Krisher's Cavalier... identical 6.917 ET's. Pawuk's .004 hole shot was the margin of victory. This pairing was also one of the semis for the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel. Pawuk will pair off with Jim Yates in the Final and a $76,000.00 payday for one of them, next session. 

Next up - Top Fuel. Same thing... no race track after the launch pad. Don't understand why the Safety Safari didn't address this issue, maybe because of the hot sun beating down on the track? But, just like Pro Stock every now and then someone did make an impressive pass. Just can't remember who. Seemed to be a lot of top end wheel spin and broken blower belts. Had a great vantage point as the S & S (who?) Top Fuel team spit out a head gasket and put on a bitchin' pyrotechnics show. 

The Funny Cars were dealing with the same race track too, and did their best to negotiate it. Once again though, one or two passes were great. I particularly enjoyed Del Worsham's 4.88 to 4.92 thrashing of John Force. This was a good Drag Race, with both cars putting down fine passes. 

Overall, having witnessed more than a few of these sessions over the years, this one wouldn't rank among the best. But, at least we've got one more to go. 

Back to the pits to check out the pre-final session thrash. First stop - the Kalitta/Matco Tool pit area. Three sessions on the books and these guys aren't in yet! Everyone on the crew appears concerned, everyone that is, except Connie. Hell... he looked like he was having a good time! I can recall watching 'ol Connie back in the summer of ' 62 or ' 63 making a warm-up pass at Atco (prior to a best of three match with BIG), and scattering pieces of that old iron 392 from the starting line all the way to the traps. THAT was impressive!!! Only problem was... no one carried spares back in those days (there I go again!), so BIG had to entertain that crowd all alone. Nothing in these days of 325 MPH dragsters can compare to watching Swamp Rat III make a pass with Swingle on board. Nothing!! Except maybe "The Greek" doing a wheelie in the lights at 185 MPH with the tires smoking! 

Speaking of the Greek... read that he broke the 300-MPH barrier a race or two ago. At this rate, by the time he's eighty (he's 73 years young at present) he should be running about 365 MPH on the weekends! Hey, I'm still working on that elusive Greek autograph. 

Earlier in the day, Dr. Bob and Treetop Al display a great example of Hands On Flying. Photo by Bill Ott
Earlier in the day, Dr. Bob and Treetop Al display a great example of Hands On Flying.
Photo by Bill Ott

Lotsa warm-ups, NITRO fumes, clutch dust, and noise. Overall, not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Sounds like an angry hornet flapping it's wings in the distance... must be Pro Stock Yamasukkiha qualifying. Time to find a good spot to check out the racecars on their final qualifying pass. I wanted to stand in about the same spot along the track as I did in the first session, hoping to see either an improvement in the track surface or a lot of excitement. 

Looks like a lot of people went home early (And I thought The Sopranos was on tomorrow night!) as I found some empty seats in the top row at the same place along the track, right where the concrete and tarmac meet. During the first session it was SRO. It felt kinda nice to sit down, I've been standing all day. 

Just as I'm getting comfortable... my cell phone rings. It's Dr. Bob and Treetop Al on the phone... remember them? Seems we got separated back at Greg Anderson's pit and they were getting a bit concerned. Told them I spent most of the afternoon with Kenny Bernstein, feet up in his transporter, drinking cold Buds. Don't think they believed me. Told them where I was seated and that I was saving a few seats for them. I wasn't too hard to find... there's two trees behind the stands, and I was under one of them. In about five minutes we were re-united. 

They got comfortable just in time to watch Jim Yates' 6.89 edge out Mark Pawuk's 6.91 for that 76 large. It appears that the track surface has 'came around'. Bet they'll be a hell of a party at the Splitfire pit area tonight! I still remember the great job Yates did of keeping the car under control at the final Friday session at the Keystone Nats. last September. Of other interest "The Professor" ran 6.87 @ 201.19... both good enough for low ET and top speed of the day. Pawuk qualified #1 yesterday with an impressive 6.83 (there was quite a few cars in the ' 80's). Local favorite Tom Martino didn't make the show. 

Next up - Top Fuel... First up - Doug Kalitta. Remember, this is their last shot to make the show. How about a straight as a string 4.70 @ 313. Good enough for # 5. See, I told ya Connie was having a good time. This was one of the more impressive passes of the weekend... think about that .70... a nice safe pass (read: tuneup) that made the show, without blowing the tires off. That's the way it's done... nice and neat. Score another one for old age and treachery! A few more passes by the Proze and it's evident that the track is much improved. Only one tossed blower belt this session, courtesy of David Grubnic. 

Before we know it, it's down to the last pair. Seems like once again, they saved the best for last. Kenny Bernstein in the left lane, and Doug Herbert in the right. Doug ran an awesome (I hate to use that word, but I'm running out of adjectives) 4.62 @ 316, but K.B. lays down a 4.56 @ 323. Kenny's third "fifty" of the weekend!! So Doug lays down a great pass, but Kenny steals all his thunder. Hell, Doug runs a .62, and nobody even noticed! 

I think Kenny wants the Championship real bad this season. And it appears that Tim and Kim do too! Personally, I'll stick my neck out, and put my money on Kenny and the Richards, right now. The three of them are proving to be a formidable team, and the whole crew appeared to have that " That's right... we're winners" attitude. Kenny seemed real laid back today, and like 'ol Connie, was obviously having a great time. Matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I've seen 'ol K.B. more accessible, or talkative. I want to see him win a championship with no clouds hanging over it. Maybe he'll even keep the trophy this time, he deserves it... yet another class act. 

Sometimes, when I think of Kenny, I picture him in the Dallas based Anderson Brothers pearl white front engine dragster, at Austin (Texas) Raceway Park on fire, in the lights, just before sunset. One of the worst looking fires I can remember ever witnessing. He made it all the way to the end of the track and maybe even crossed the highway at the end of the shut-off area. Scared the hell out of all of us, but he came out OK. That must have been back about 1967. Ms. Boop and I were dating at the time we saw that one and we've been married thirty-three years! 

Where were we? Oh yeah... Englishtown 2001. Time for the Fuel Floppers to do their thing. Interesting highlights... Tommy Johnson Jr. on fire in the lights. Force getting even with Worsham, .82 to .86, these two put on a great show today, thanks guys. This might have been the quickest side by side F/C match-up ever. I'm not sure, but I'll bet that somewhere there's someone who keeps up with such things. Del Worsham IS a Championship waiting to happen. Al Hoffman and Scotty Cannon both didn't make the show this weekend, but, nobody tries harder. Final pair - Tony Pedregon blazes the tires, while Dean Skuza in the other lane, puts down a nice pass. The Raven's been on a roll all weekend. 

A few more points of interest to pass along... talked with one of Bruce Larson's crew this afternoon and he assured me Bruce is planning on bringing the Camaro F/C to the ADRA event at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway, the weekend of June 16th. Should be fun... be there! Also, saw Cory Mac sitting under the tent at the Army pit area, talking with the Shoe over iced tea. Could maybe be something interesting in the works? 

Well, that about winds it up for today's action. After a soda and a sandwich it's time for a leisurely walk back to 'Saratoga 8473 Charlie'. it's a beautiful evening, and they were right earlier today... the weather is even better than this morning's perfect conditions. Lifting off from Old Bridge Airport at exactly 7:45 PM, I know it's going to be an enjoyable ride back to Harrisburg. 

Leaving E-Town after a great day. Photo by Bill Ott
Leaving E-Town after a great day. Photo by Bill Ott

In the Trenton, N.J. vicinity, we pass over top of two hot air balloons, cool. Once again the conversation turns to cars as we cruise along at about 3500 feet. Seems like we'd get tired of this stuff after a while, but no. The Good Doctor executes another flawless landing on Runway 26 at Capitol City Airport. Time to fuel up the beautiful Saratoga then stow it away in the hangar. Treetop Al informs me that maybe next time we'll take the twin engine plane... cruises a little faster, 'ya know. But also thrives on aviation gas! 

After we throw our gear in ' Chromius Maximus ' it's just a few minutes drive over to Treetop Al's place. We all shake hands and agree we gotta do this again sometime soon. Damn right... count me in! 

Yes it was, 
Chain lightning, 
And it feels so good! * 

Heading North towards home on Interstate 83 in the 'ol Nissan I find myself thinking... no way this was NOT going to be one of those perfect days that comes along every once in a while. Good friends, good weather, good racing, AND there's still South Park later tonight! It don't get no better than this. More old B.S. later. 


1975 W. Becker & D. Fagen * 
ABC Dunhill Music (BMI) 
"Chain Lightning" 

P.S. - I'd like to thank SOAPS BY BETTY at http://home.infospace.com/mzbooper1 for their support.


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