Barefoot Girls and More at the '01 USA-1 Dragfest
©2001 Bill Ott
Saturday, Nov. 10
Stony Creek Barn
Take me back down where the cool water flow
Let me remember these things I know
Stoppin' at the log where the catfish bite
Walkin' along the river road at night
Barefoot girls dancin' in the moonlight **
Hey!! Let's start right off talking about the 'barefoot girls.' Man, you should have seen them... or maybe you already have. One of the many cool features at this year's Barnfest was a big screen TV showing some fine Nostalgia videos. Except for this ONE, shot by Chuck Jolliff at George Ray's Dragstrip down in Paragould, Arkansas. This ain't Nostalgia. It was all taped in just the past few years, and these folks appear to be having as good a time as 'ol John Fogarty was singing about.
Being a NITRO guy, I never thought I'd enjoy a door car video... but this one is fun to watch. You can get the whole story on the track and video at
Okay... enough of this shameless crass commercialism... now where were we?
Oh yeah... we're at the 4th annual "USA -1 Nostalgia Dragfest'' at Bruce Larson's Stoney Creek Barn, just a few minutes from beautiful downtown Dauphin, PA. Now the first three events took place in the springtime, but the ol' barn needed a new roof this spring and like most building projects, it ran behind schedule, forcing cancellation of this year's Dragfest until the end of racing season. But with the temperature holding at right around 70, humidity about zero, and not a cloud in the sky... in the middle of November... who can say that was a bad thing?
The G-Man and I arrived in Dauphin a little early and made our annual visit to the local Hardee's to stare in awe at the ineptitude of the entire staff... and once again... they didn't disappoint us. After an amusing and confusing encounter regarding a cup of coffee and two cinnamon rolls, we felt that indeed, some things never change and maybe that ain't too bad either. Let's hope the 'higher ups' at Hardee's never find out about this place!
With breakfast taken care of, it's just a few minutes drive to the barn, straight through ol' Dauphin Boro. A brief history here: besides being the home of Mr. Larson's business and racing enterprises, Dauphin's other claim to fame is its former reputation as one of the most notorious speed traps in Pennsylvania. I said former because all of that ended when PenDot (Penna. Dept of Transportation) had a bypass built around the town. Route 322 is a favorite shortcut for Northbound trucks heading up to I-80, folks heading for the Buffalo - Niagara Falls area, or Penn State fans going to State College for a weekend football game. Trouble was, you had to pass right through Dauphin. With a 35-MPH speed limit and a local cop who was always in a bad mood, the money just kept pouring in. Now with the new road finished, and the speed limit raised, you can fly by town, hammer down, and wave "Hi" as you pass.
Arriving at the barn ahead of the crowd, I was greeted by "Mashie" Mihalko again. Now, this is starting to get weird. At every one of these nostalgia events I attend in this part of the country, Mashie is ALWAYS the first person I run into. People are gonna start talking! Mashie gave me a few great color shots he'd taken of Bruce Wheeler's 'Wheeler Dealer' at York US 30 back in the ol' daze. Bruce, wait 'til you see these... you're 'gonna love 'em! Mashie is one hell of a good photog (as well as a good guy!)
Speaking of York US 30... Darwin Doll and Bill Stiles both put in an appearance and gave a brief update on the progress of the upcoming York US 30 / Musclecar Madness Event taking place July 12 - 13, 2002. Sounds like it's going to be a great time. You can get the full story at
www.yorkus30.com. More shameless crass commercialism?
Heading for the entrance to the barn, we stopped to admire a few of Bruce's cars that were parked out front. A nice stock blue Model A Ford roadster, a chopped and channeled Nailhead powered Deuce pickup, and a white full size '62 Ford Super Stocker powered by a 406 motor. The S/S Ford also had fiberglass fenders and hood.
At the door, we were greeted by Dick Gerwer (who along with Dave Heisey and Bruce, are the guys who put this whole deal together). I spent a few minutes getting caught up and bragging about the California Hot Rod Reunion before stepping inside. Hey, is this cool? Instead of the usual dash plaque to commemorate the event, the guys decided to go with an iron-on patch. Very nice, as was the collectable numbered ticket with a photo of the Costilow and Larson AA/SP Cobra on it. I'm still waiting for Bruce to announce that the Cobra will be this event's door prize. Now THAT'S something to take home. Probably never gonna happen.
Moving inside I found a spot on one of the tables to show my old Atco stuff. Turns out I'm sharing a table with Gary Peters, Dale Thierer, Carl Riegger, and Kent Lewis, who collectively campaigned the "Hemi Hunter" dragster. Here's a great piece of trivia... Dale drove the Big Chevy powered NITRO burner to the 1971 NHRA Division 1 Points Championship.
Gary told me the boys are planning on building a replica of the original, and they were here to drum up some interest and maybe some support with the project. Kenny Kissinger at Kenny's Custom Chassis in Leesport, Pa., should be starting the chassis any day now, and the boys are shooting for an April 2002 debut. Looking forward to listening to another one 'cackle.' Good luck, guys.
Right next to our table Mike Goyda had set up shop with hundreds of photos to admire or purchase... preferably the latter! Joe McNally seemed to be having a blast going through the photos. And a special seat was added at the table for Jim Amole to hold court and identify any photos in question. As near as I can figure, the only cars Jim doesn't know about are the ones that were destroyed on the way to the track for their maiden run. The guy's amazing!
Jim brought along some sort of an air dam or tray that was mounted on the hood of Bob Harrop's '65 Flying Carpet Dodge. This car won the first Super Stock Nationals at York US 30 and has been signed by a lot of the 'names' that attended that event. The tray was designed to fit around the injector stacks and was held down by a few Dzus fasteners. Trouble was, it wouldn't stay put at speed, and scared the hell out of Bob every time it flew off!
Among others who brought their collections to share with us were Bill Pratt, who also brought some work by the late Ray English. Ted Pappacena came over from Long Island, N.Y., with his Drag Racing Imagery photo collection. Paul Hutchins drove up from Front Royal, Virginia, and brought his photos from Kansas, Arizona, and California. Sounds like "Bubba" Hutch really gets around, no? Watch for him lecturing at a college in YOUR neighborhood soon! :-)
While all of this is taking place, the aforementioned videos are playing to a good-sized crowd in the back room... Bruce had three funny cars on display (the '89 Sentry 'Champ' car, a beautiful Corvette, and the infamous USA 1 Camaro), the Metalflake Magenta Cobra, plus two restored bodies mounted on the back wall... and Mashie has his slide show going full bore up in the loft!
It's starting to get a little noisy in here so I decide to step outside. I got outside just in time to watch Brian Kohlman and crew unloading Mark Ulinski's legendary Charlie Allen '65 Dodge AWB Coronet. This car was making a very rare public appearance, but look for more in the future. Word was, it may actually be in competition soon.
But that's not all!! Jim Kramer brought Bud Faubel's "Honker," also a '65 Coronet AWB (this one's an "Amblewagon" built in Michigan for the factory). Bud and his wife were there to answer questions. And if you came up with one they couldn't... George Weiler of "Smarty Pants" fame as well as Bud's crew chief from '65 to '67... probably could.
Someone thought it might be fun to move these two beauties out to the street, and spread a little 'Gold Dust' around. Well, they were right. They looked great, parked side by side on the narrow street... kinda resembled one of the old Eastern tracks from back in the ol' daze! The rosin on the asphalt added that 'just right' touch. BUT, the 'coupe de gras' was the appearance of Dick McLaughlin... the original flagman at the York facility from '59 and '60. Dick then went on to flip the flags at Cecil County in '61, and then had to learn how to throw the switch on the 'tree' in '62. A lotta cool memories happening right here! Saw Geoff Stunkard firing away with the camera at these two... look for a future story on these. Would have been way cool to start these babies up, but no telling how the neighbors would have reacted.
Got to visit with Charlie Baesch from Glen Bernie, Md. Charlie and I met at the Midwest Hot Rod Reunion and both seem to attend all of the same meets in this part of the country. Charlie runs a cool Pontiac 421-powered Goat in N/SS. I've got a great poster size photo of Charlie's black GTO doing a fine wheelie that was taken one night at Atco. Even got it signed by the driver!
Time to put the toys up and move back inside... it's starting to get dark. And besides, I want to be nearby when the pizza guy gets here. On my way back inside, I had a chance for a brief visit with Joel Naprstek. Sat down with the globe trotting Terry Cook and we discussed Buick station wagons, Zephyrs, the Bloom and Bowers competition coupe from the Philadelphia area, and how we would solve all of the world's problems. Nothin' to it!!
Got to visit with a lot of other folks and make a few new friends, when I realized it was getting late. And tonight is the season premiere for South Park. Man, I gotta go... can't miss that! Don't hardly watch any TV, but never miss South Park. On my way out the door, I checked attendance figures with Dick, who was still manning the door. He told me they had two hundred tickets made, and they were all sold. Good deal!
Seems like I say the same thing every year, but enough can't be said about what a fine gentleman and gracious host Mr. Larson is, and what an honor it is to be able to attend this deal every year. Thanks again Bruce, Dick, and Dave... and all of the others I overlooked. More old B.S. later.
**©1969 J.C. Fogarty
Jondora Music - BMI