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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Opening Salvo at the CHRR

2001 Bill Ott

Sunday's events at the CHRR began with this stirring flyover. Photo by Vic Cooke
Sunday's events at the CHRR began with
this stirring flyover. Photo by Vic Cooke

Sunday, Oct. 7
Famoso Raceway
and Battleground 
9:30 AM 

You know that the coming
Is so close at hand
You feel alright*

What a weekend! Can't believe it's Sunday already. Everything seems to be one big blur since I first drove through these gates Thursday afternoon. I've heard it said, "Time flies when you're having fun." Who can argue with that? 

Let's see... Thursday... walk around, meet people, watch races. Friday... walk around, meet people, watch races. Saturday... walk around, meet people, watch races. Sounds like my dance card was pretty full, no? Oh, I forgot to include the Thursday night Standard 1320 get together and dinner. Friday night's Awards Ceremony and accompanying car show and official "Coming Out" party for the Jade Grenade, complete with an honest to god "fly over" by the local constabulary! And of course, there was Saturday's "Cackle Fest" followed by the Eric Fuller Benefit Auction. 

Top all this off with a nightly bench race session in the Vagabond Inn parking lot, AND my annual middle of the night "pilgrimage" to the track (*The Nightfly '01*), and you're talking a well-rounded schedule. Not even enough time left over to turn on the TV... listen to the news... check out the weather... get depressed. It's been real nice living in this 'Time Capsule' the past few days.

Worked my way up towards the top of the bleachers this fine Sunday morning. Wanted a good vantage point to check out the Opening Ceremonies. Before the actual Ceremonies began, Dave McClelland announced the winners of this year's Photo Contest. The photos entered were on display all weekend at the Reunion Central tent. Glad I didn't have to pick a winner of that group of great photos. Tom West was the big winner... a great photographer, and a great guy.

The bleachers were still not quite full, so I took the opportunity to lean back and relax, just about the time Dave turned to all assembled and said... "My friends... I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but this morning, our Armed Forces started flying bombing missions over Afghanistan..."

WOW!! That was a shocker that got me sitting up straight again... part of me wanted to cheer, but part of me thought... "God please keep our fighting men and women safe." I knew this announcement was coming, but I wasn't expecting it to arrive here, not at this time.

Mr. McClelland then delivered the most eloquent and heartfelt ____ (words fail me here... "speech" is NOT the appropriate word), in his own words. Nothing was written down... everything Dave was saying was coming from the heart. He covered it all, from bless our guys, to go kick ass. When he finished, he left us all in stunned silence. What a delivery that was. I've never before witnessed such overwhelming silence at a Drag Strip.

He then interrupted the silence by asking us to stand while he introduced the pastor (whose name I forgot to record in my shock). The pastor delivered a fine few moments of prayer and blessing... both for our soldiers abroad and for the racers in attendance. Dave then asked us to remain standing while he introduced Ruthie Hedge to sing the National Anthem.

Ms. Hedge's singing of our song was mesmerizing. Such a beautiful performance... after we've all gotten accustomed to various "Stars" taking delight in butchering the tune, forgetting the words, dragging it on seemingly forever, and otherwise heaping all the disrespect they can possibly muster up... on our National Anthem!

As I gazed at our flag proudly blowing in the light breeze that was accompanying Ms. Hedge as she sang, my eyes slowly worked their way through the surrounding crowd. No one had to be told to remove their hat this morning. And I thought the eyes wouldn't start tearing until after the first pair of Fuelers was started.

While Ms. Hedge was singing the words "O'er the land of the free," the roar of a pair of T-6's was heard. They approached from the right, in close formation, seeming barely to clear the track surface, and trailing colored smoke as they passed by. The pair went into a hard vertical climb just over the starting line and disappeared into the sky, leaving only their smoke trail behind.

Follow all of this up with "And the home of the brave," and you've got a tough act to follow! As the crowd was cheering wildly (naturally), Dave was heard to say "Fire up the first pair!!!" Damn right.... fire up the first pair!!! And, Damn proud to be HERE!!!

More old B.S. later.

No marigolds in the Promised Land,
Just a hole in the ground where they used to grow**

*1973 W. Becker & D. Fagan
ABC Dunhill Music
"Razor Boy"

**1973 W. Becker & D. Fagan
ABC Dunhill Music
"King Of The World"

Thanks Don E.

Bill Ott


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