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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Ben and Rachelle's Excellent Bakersfield Adventure

By Ben Inglis

Rachelle Anderson and Ben Inglis shared a wonderful weekend at the CHRR. Photo by Chris Stinson
Rachelle Anderson and Ben Inglis shared a wonderful weekend at the CHRR.
Photo by Chris Stinson

My dad and I left about 7:30 Wednesday evening from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had picked me up at work. We drove back to my house and I packed the last of my things while he grabbed us some food for the road. We filled up with gas, and were on our way. The plan was to stop in Winslow for the night and head out first thing in the morning. We stayed at a very nice Best Western Inn there, right near the Wall Mart. The next morning we grabbed some McDonalds and hit the road again (can you believe they don't super size the breakfast meals in Winslow?) 

My dad did the driving Wednesday night and Thursday too... He was feeling well enough to do it, and I don't mind just riding, so I just kicked back and enjoyed the ride. We stopped a couple of times for gas, and a couple more for food. We hit a Jack in the Box as soon as we found one. My favorite there is the Monster Taco. We don't have any Jack in the Box's in poor old New Mexico, so we always make a point of getting our fix while out of state :-) We got a couple of calls from Chris Stinson, who was well on his way towards the Patch by the time we even got up :-) Chris left Winslow at I think 3:00 a.m. or something out of control like that (LOL). But he called us over the cell phone a of couple times. 

We drove pretty steady from Winslow to Bakersfield; didn't get any tickets! Of course with the golf cart on the back of the truck, it's kind of hard to speed...but we kept up a good pace with as few stops as possible. Before we knew it, we were rolling into the edge of town at about 2:00. I am pretty sure we got out to the track around 2:30 because we went straight there, and opted not to check into the hotel first. 

We spotted Mr. Gibbs at the gate, and I was reintroduced to him as my dad's "Oldest Son Ben." I kind of like that...makes me feel like I'm mature or something. I told Mr. Gibbs it was nice to see him again, and was told somewhat sternly, "It's Steve." So as we pulled through (we were causing somewhat of a backup), I corrected myself and said, "We'll see you soon, Steve," as we pulled around to unload our Golf Cart.

A few minutes later, we were all set -- Golf Cart unloaded, wheel chair strapped to the back, sunscreen, hats, and my dad's "purse" with us, and we were cruising through pits by no later than 2:45. We stopped to gossip with a few of the teams my dad knows. I wish I could remember names, but I do remember faces and cars, and all were friendly. Many stopped what they were doing to come over to our cart and have a quick word with us. This seemed to be a theme for the weekend, as wherever we went, people seemed to gather around my dad. We ended up stopped more than we were moving through the pits.

We came across Chris and his group from Winslow, and were informed that "a pretty young blond girl over by the Vagabond car was asking if "Wheels" was here yet." I was happy to hear this :-) and Chris said, "I'm pretty sure she wasn't asking about Wheels, though." Well, at least someone wanted to talk to ME this weekend! We drove past the dragsters on "Memory Lane" and then headed up towards where we knew the Fuller cars would be on display. 

Before we got that far, I noticed the "pretty young blond" Chris had been talking about. As my dad stopped to talk to another group of people (like I said, I don't remember names well, so please forgive the holes...I'm forgetful, and at this point, just a bit distracted :-) Anyway...I made my exit at this point, let someone else have my seat on the Golf Cart, and made my way down the top half of Memory lane to greet Rachelle and her sister Jessica. I gave Rachelle the big hug I promised her, and the three of us went walking towards the Fuller cars. I don't know exactly what we did after that. I was just happy to see Rachelle again, and we talked about the drives out there, how everyone was, and things like that. Then I saw the cars.

Pete's car that Fred Vosk worked on wasn't there yet, but the Magicar was there again, as were the Vagabond and S&H. (I know there were more, but those are the only ones I can picture as I write this). They were all stunning. Bill Pitts had added some Gold Leaf this year, and it came out awesome. "The Vagabonds," AKA Terry and Larry, Jessica and Rachelle, have done a tremendous job getting their car restored, and the paint job is totally magnificent.

Rachelle and I walked around, checked on my dad a couple of times, and after admiring the cars that made it out on Thursday, we talked to friends that I hadn't seen since last year. I saw Bill Ott on Thursday, but didn't see the G-man until Friday. I really love seeing these two guys at the CHRR, and hope they'll be there next year. Their level of excitement and the amount of fun they have just blows me away. The first time I saw them last year, G-man was so happy to meet us, and so THRILLED to be out there, I thought he was going to burst!

Anyway, after a few hours at the track, we were ready to head back to the hotel to check in, get cleaned up, and go to the Double Tree for the Thursday night "Informal Dinner." I enjoy this dinner the most of all the ones the group has out there. I guess because it's small and informal, but yet you're sitting down, so you can talk to people :-) Also, there isn't anything "going on" that you have to pay attention to.

I bailed out early to go swimming with Rachelle and Jess at their hotel, and I left my dad in the care of Chris Stinson. Thank you very much, Chris, for helping my dad to his car many times this weekend so I could go and spend time with Rachelle.

Friday morning we headed out to the track pretty early to meet the folks we hadn't caught up with the day before. I got to see the Vagabond fired for the first time ever. WHAT A SOUND! I watched a little bit of racing Friday, but for the most part this weekend was meeting new people, talking with friends, and just in general checking out awesome street rods and restored dragsters. Hats off to everyone who does the restorations. I told Pat Foster and a few others that not everyone realizes how much work that goes into restore/recreate these old pieces of dragster artwork/history, but this drag racing fan does. 

Friday night was the "official" reception at the Double Tree. My dad and I left early to make sure he got into the room at the end of that long hallway where the deal was supposed to happen. I'm glad we did because not long after we got there, the WHOLE PLACE was packed. I more or less just hung out that night, checked on my dad a few times, and walked over to check out the skate park across the way. I grabbed a burger at the Carl's Junior across the way, and after the Andersons got there, Rachelle and I once again took off to the hotel to hang out in the hot tub and watch TV.

Saturday changed my life. I got to sit in a nostalgia front engine digger while they fired it off. I had helped Terry mix fuel the day before, and she had given me a great big thank you already (I was more than happy to help mix NITRO! -- who wouldn't be?) But I guess she wanted to make sure I was hooked on nitro racing forever :-) 

I was standing around after they had fueled the Vagabond, just wanting to be on one side of the motor or the other to get the full effect of the zoomies and the most nitro smell I could. But Rachelle walks over to me with the silver facemask worn by whomever sits in the car while it's running. She tells me to "turn around" and as I my heart jumps, hoping this means what I think it means (they CAN'T be wanting ME to sit in the CAR!!!!!) I say, "You're not putting that on ME are you?" She says, "Sure we are; you're getting in the car!" 

My heart jumps, and I'm already stunned. Then Terry is helping to tighten the mask (I'm glad I had it on...I love nitro as much as the next race fan, but it's a bit much when you're sitting practically on top of the engine!) Then Larry comes over to make sure I know what to do. OK, I think to myself, only three things to do: 1) Hit the start switch when Larry nods, 2) Engage the fuel when Larry waves, and 3) Cut the fuel when Larry gives the cut signal. Simple, I can do that...

So.... Larry runs the starter to check oil pressure. Then Larry runs it again and nods. I hit the switch. It starts, but someone didn't drop the line in the alcohol fuel bottle fast enough, so it goes out. Try again, and this time I hit it and it roars to life..."only" on alcohol fuel. After Larry checks a few things, he motions to engage the fuel, and as they pull the fuel line out of the alcohol and plug up a spot by the blower, I engage the nitro. A second or so later, the alcohol is burned up, and it's running on POP! 

The cage is rattling so much at this point I feel like I'm in a total body footsie-wootsie machine on nitro! (You know those things at the fairs that give you an automatic foot massage for 25 cents?) I've never felt anything like it! These cars (for anyone who doesn't know) shake you so much at an idle, that you can feel it in your brain casing :-) Then Larry got a semi-evil grin on his face, and opened the butterflies on the blower, just for a second, but WOW! WHAT A FEELING!!!!!! He revved it I don't know how many times, but it could not have been enough for this goat farmer turned computer nerd, turned nitro junky! 

For me it was an awesome and awe inspiring experience. I kept trying to imagine what it would be like to sit in a car like this as it idled up to the starting line, and then put my foot down on the loud peddle and try to keep it under control for 1320 feet. The power in these motors, while running on nitromethane couldn't have impressed me more. Thank you, Larry and Terry, for giving me one of the most awesome experiences a racing fan could hope for and definitely the most unique! 

After they shut off the car, and the crowd that had gathered stopped cheering, Rachelle and someone else wanted to help me out of the car. I didn't even want to move. I took off the facemask, inhaled a breath of nitro infused air, and just sat there. I said, "I don't think I can stand up," and so they made like they were going to help me out. I think they thought I was wedged too tightly, but I said, "No, no -- just let me sit here for a minute. That was AWESOME!!!" 

The Cacklefest later in the afternoon was a REAL treat; makes me wish I had been alive to watch drag racing back in the day. I got to stand on the back of Bill Pitts' station wagon and videotape him push starting the Magicar, with Jeep in it, on the way towards the starting line. WOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!! I felt like I was part of history or something :-) Someday I'll say, "I was at the first ever Cacklefest!"

Saturday night was the RCS dinner. In-N-Out burgers were awesome. I served up some goat cheese and crackers to all the tables, but was feeling pretty tired. I once more left my dad with Chris (thank you Chris), and Rachelle and I headed back into town to watch a little TV before she dropped me off at my hotel so I could get to bed.

Sunday seemed like a half day at the track compared to the others -- it just seemed to fly by. Saw Mousie Marcellus and got to hear the story about the "Why is Willie smiling?" picture. I love listening to Mousie's stories; he's truly what drag racing is about! Before I knew it though, Sunday at the track was over, and we headed out to the In-N-Out for the CHRR Finale. 

I loaded up our golf cart and handed out the last of our cheeses and the last of our dash plaques from the Charlestown Dragway Reunion. We headed over to the In-N-Out, where we had their awesome burgers again, and watched as they fired the Vagabond and the Magicar at the same time :-) WOW, what an ending. We headed back to our hotel, and I got dad all set for the night. Then I headed over to say goodbye to Rachelle and have one last meal at Jack in the Box.

Don't know how to thank everyone for including me in your reunion! Ma Green, you're wonderful. Mr. Fuller, your cars are amazing. I'm privileged to have met Mrs. Fuller, and Steven and Eric and their families, Jim Sorensen, Pat Foster, Fred Vosk, Tom Hanna, Bill Pitts, Bill Ott, Jerry Gross, Mousie, Mark Hovsepian, Chris Stinson, Mr. (STEVE ;-)) and Mrs. Gibbs, Darrell Tedford, Red Greth, Bill Turney, Larry and Jamie Steinegger, and Jack Harris and the Posse (great job out there). I can't even begin to thank everyone for being so kind to me and to my father, and for all the work all of you do to keep this sport alive, and more importantly, to keep nostalgia racing alive. I love seeing front engine nitro diggers/altereds run!

Thank you all so much. If I didn't list you, I'm sorry, but thank you all the same because everyone made this trip amazing for me.

Ben Inglis
(Son of Harrison)

 

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