In April of 1988, I was a senior in high school. It was about this time
that the local track began its high school drags program. My auto shop
teacher made my class a gentleman's agreement: Bring the winning trophy to
the school, and your grade will go up. All the way up. We're talking
"A" for the semester.
Little did I know that this was his way of hooking a new generation on
the thrills of drag racing, but what did I know…I was 17.
My pals and I loaded our sole modes of daily transportation with all the
necessary tools a 17 year old with no experience at the track needs: An air
gauge, and shoe polish.
My particular mode of transportation was a 1977 Camaro with the
formidable inline six-banger in it. Furthermore, it was the six-banger with
the lightweight cast integral head/intake manifold combo. I never heard it
with less than two rods knocking. It had no less than 18 colors on it, and
consisted mostly of swap meet parts. It was ugly.
Got to the track and made a few time runs…to the tune of an astonishing
19+ seconds. Of course, such a speed machine needed at least a minute in the
water box to ensure good traction when the bulb dropped…right.
Made 3-4 passes…all were similar in time. I was leaving way early on
the tree, still cutting terrible lights, and pressing 3 seconds on the
60-foot lights. It was a sight to see.
I dialed a 19.350 … I figured I was on the safe side. Unbelievably, I
went all the way to the final round with this thing.
I decided to leave the dial where it was, and made my last pass. (You
know how sensitive these things are to cool, late night air…)
In the lights, it was too close to call. I did the obligatory wave to my
competitor, who promptly did the obligatory shrug, as he didn't know who
won either. As I approached the timing booth on the return road, I was
handed a piece of paper…
The car ran 19.350 on a 19.350 dial.
The trophy was shinier than my car, I got an "A", and I still
have that time slip.