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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Coup Deluxe*
"Part II"

2002 Bill Ott

The crowd was good and ready for the fireup at the Funny Car Reunion. Photo by Bill Ott
The crowd was good and ready for the fire up at the Funny Car Reunion. Photo by Bill Ott

Sunday July 28, 2002
Raceway Park E-Town

Coup: a successful move or action; a closed two door automobile with a body smaller than that of a sedan.

Deluxe: of extra fine quality

"Her aluminum finish..... slightly diminished
Is still the best I've ever seen"**

Yeah... Jefferson Airplane said that. While heading out to the track Mashie and I passed by Jim White's "Plastic Fantastic" Maverick. Powered by an injected 429 big block Ford. Jim's Maverick was waiting to take its place with the twenty eight other "Plastic Fantastics" that would soon be lining both sides of the track, and on the count of three... all starting up at the same time. The term "Fire up the next pair" kinda' pales in comparison to the term "Fire up the next fourteen pair (plus one straggler), NOW!

But first, Berserko Bob takes center stage to introduce us to some of the people that made this thing happen, and let us all get a glimpse of the Grand Marshall of this event... the one and only "Jungle Pam" Hardy. Great choice Bob. Who could deny that Ms. Hardy's (and others like her) on track antics were as much a part of the show as the cars themselves. And god bless her... she's STILL among "the best I've ever seen".

It only seemed appropriate the first car towed out on the track was Jerry and Lesley Smith's "First Love" Nova... "First Love"... first out on the track... get it?

As the remaining twenty eight cars were being moved into position on the track, it occurred to me this would be a great time to join in on the mayhem taking place between the Armco barriers... funny cars, push cars and golf carts everywhere... some cars still being moved into position... people wandering around, bumping into and tripping over each other... photographers searching for that just right position for that just right shot... crew people tightening electric starters to blower snouts... other crew people checking everything one more time, running for that squirt bottle of gas... drivers getting suited up, or taking their positions behind the wheel... and EVERYONE grinning from ear to ear.

Then it happened... at 1:42 PM Sunday July 28th, ol' Berserko hisself gave the nod and wave and all of these machines hit their first note damn near simultaneously. In a matter of just a few short seconds, Raceway Park was overwhelmed by the sound of all of this pre '72 machinery barking to life, just like it did back in '72.

It was music for the ears and eyes (no fooling?)... don't know how else to describe it. An alcohol motor being goosed here. The unmistakable cackle of a NITRO motor there. Thought I caught a glimpse of a header flame somewhere. Multi colored bodies lined up back to back and side by side as if in some sort of military formation, raised skyward saluting those in the stands, occasionally rocking side to side as throttles are cracked open. People cheering. A barely noticeable exhaust cloud forming over the track. And Old Glory waving proudly down near the starting line. True Americana.

Then... just as quick as it started... all of the Hemis... 429's... big Chevys...small Chevys... and assorted other iron and aluminum blocks fall silent. But that silence didn't last more than a second or two before the roar from the crowd, as well as from all out on the track started. This is when I happened to glance towards the pit side stands... wow! One hell of a crowd!! In spite of the gloomy skies, gloomy forecast, and 90 + degree temperatures (and matching humidity). The folks in this part of the country LOVE their door cars.

OK... time to get all of this stuff off the track, and get down to some racing. This is where my notes got a little shaky... way too much going on... and I'm having way too good of a time.

The first pair was scheduled to be Lou Sgro in the ex Kenney Goodell Challenger vs. Bob Rosetty in the ex Joe Jacono "Rollin' Stoned" 'Cuda. At the last minute the Rosetty car was scratched and the JAL Racing "First Love" Nova filled the vacant slot. Lou ran a 7.59 while the JAL car went 8.54.

Next... NITRO cars... Rob Bruce's "Zombie" Firebird and Frank Jonkman in the "Nitromare" Mustang. The Zombie's burnout was bitchin' and easily won the "Doug Herbert Performance Parts/Draglist.com Burnout Challenge", unfortunately Rob smoked 'em again on his pass. BUT... not to be outdone, over in the other lane... the Nitromare ran a 6.91 @ 183 then easily won the "Chute Metal/Ohshit.com Top Speed Through The Sand Trap Challenge" when his chutes failed. Frank's car suffered significant front end damage to both body and frame in the catch fence but will be up and running again soon.

The next pairing got even weirder... Bob Gibson in the "Tom and Jerry" Duster did a nice burnout, backed up, went up to stage and went way past the beams, backed up and staged again, then left before the tree was activated. Sounds like bad brakes (breaks?) or... Bob's starting line technique needs a little work? Just kiddin' Bob.

Over in the other lane the colorful "Fascination" big Chevy powered Camaro (sorry, didn't catch the driver's name) sat patiently throughout "Tom and Jerry's" antics to run a labored 10.44.

Next Willie Johnson in the "No Money, No Funny" Nova put on a great demonstration of how to properly execute a dry hop... a big blast from the motor, 'kinda similar to the sound of a cannon being fired... as the car leaps forward, carrying the front wheels about a foot in the air. Way cool... and a crowd favorite. Matter of fact, ol' Willie won the "Drag Racing Online Best Dry Hop Award" hands down.

Hey... here come more NITRO cars. Rocky Pirrone's "NITRO Charger" from Philly and Mike Adams Texas based "Blue Angels" Ground Attack 'Vette. As per usual Tom Fox slapped a righteous tune up on the Charger. Man, you ain't heard nothin' until you hear this baby idling after the burnout, throwing header flames you can see... in the daylight. Cool!

Rocky and Mike left together and at about the thousand foot area a puff of smoke and a POP! emerged from the Charger... seems the intake safety valve blew out and a few valves got damaged along the way. Rocky managed a rapidly slowing 7.31 @ 174 MPH. Rocky told me later the car ran straight as a string and was hooking! Too bad... this pass was going to be an easy six. Mike's "Blue Angels" car ran an on again off again 8.11 @ 174 in the other lane.

Next up. Dauphin, Pa.'s Bruce Larson and the USA 1 Camaro. Bruce and his Camaro need no introduction in these parts... or anywhere else for that matter. Bruce did a nice burnout... but then, everyone stood as Jungle Pam walked out on the track and guided Bruce through his back up. Shades of the seventies! Bruce then ran an 8.03 @ 135 early shut off (half track) pass. The NITRO burning big Chevy sounded just right.

Speaking of half track squirts... ol' BIG brought out Swamp Rat Thirtysomething and made a lot of noise on a good looking abbreviated tune up pass. BIG's trying to get a handle on things for this Wednesday's Best of Three against Shirley right here at E-Town. Should be fun.

There's been a lot of down time and it sure is hot... time to find something cold to drink. Those in the stands get to pass the down time either watching the Go-Cart races on the miniature road course beside the spectator stands or the junior dragster meet happening at the far end of the pits. It's also after 4 PM already and I haven't finished checking out all of the machinery in the pits yet. Time to go.

On my way to the concession stand to pay another $2.50 (American) for a bottle of tepid water (some things never change) I ran into Jack Redd who told me he knew where some brew was on ice. "Interested?" he asked. He only had to ask once. We walked to a desolate coroner of the pit parking area where the only vehicle around was a gray and black chartered bus with the luggage doors thrown open and a rows of coolers inside.

Seems a bunch of guys from the Maryland, D.C., Virginia area chartered themselves a bus and left the driving to someone else. Jack introduced me to everyone milling around outside and enjoying the air conditioned comfort inside. And what a lineup... while not the complete 'cast of characters' it included... George Reese... Ron Vito... Dave Reitz... Tom Sneden... Emory Mark... John Redd and his wife Biba... Al Coluzzi... Henry Guyther. As well as "All About Town" charter bus service's finest wheel man Bill Bevon (sp?), who also has a drag race connection, he works for engine builder John Paris.

Now these guys know how to attend a Drag Race... in style. My old photos from Atco got everyone stirred up and before I knew it a major Bench Race and B.S. session was under way. You know, it's true... as the years pass the faster and quicker you were! 

While we were doing our best to empty those coolers... trying to save weight (and fuel) for the long ride back 'ya know... Bill the 'wheel man' announced "All you kids back in the bus... time to go home!"

After a head count it was determined that all were present, the luggage compartment doors were closed, and the bus roared off into the distance. Sooo... there I stood, shaking my head, with an ice cold brew in my hand (call it a 'going away' present from the boys), with just the smell of Diesel in the dust. From complete bedlam and laughter to dead silence in the matter of a minute or so, unreal! THAT was fun!

Making one more pass through the pits I stumble upon an extremely long dragster that had 'that look' about it. Got to talking with the dragster's owner John Mick and it turns out this 'ol digger has an interesting past. It was originally built down in Hurst, Tex. by Ed Mabry sometime late in 1971 for that "Smilin' Okie" Jimmy Nix.

Now here's where the story starts to get blurry... it's either Jimmy's last front engine ride, or... perhaps instead, Jimmy opted for one of the newer RED's and never took delivery on this one, or... he bought this one, but never ran it. Early in '72 is when BIG changed the configuration of all dragsters to follow, so the time line is just about right. Currently John is running a Morgan McClure Racing injected small Chevy, and has coaxed it to a best of 9.27 @ 141 at Epping.

Man, I'm getting too old for this wandering around the pits all day stuff. But, I still got enough energy for just one more pass before heading back to the car and the drive to Pa. As I'm passing by Bob Rosetty's "Rolling Stoned" pit area, I hear someone mention that the gray haired gentlemen sitting in the car wearing that huge smile under his moustache is none other than "Joltin" Joe Jacono himself.

Well... as soon as Joe is out of the car, I broke out my old photos again, and show him the one I keep of the Nailhead powered Lynwood (and you thought we'd get through this without me mentioning a Lynwood, huh?) Joe ran that used to dominate Top Eliminator honors at Atco with for a few seasons.

Next thing I know Joe and I are chatting like old friends. Lynwood's make a great conversation piece, no? Joe's retired now living the high life down in Florida, get this, going to college earning a degree in computer engineering... just to have something to do! Man, you can't feel tired standing around all of the energy this guy puts out! Joe's a real sweetheart and I look forward to seeing him again.

BUT... it is a long 175 miles back home and it's getting later. I guess it's time to wrap this thing up. Found Mashie and thanked him once again for his help earlier in the day. Checked in with the Sgro Racing crew, Lou and Colleen. Again, thanks guys for the place to keep my gear. Dropped by one more time to see the ever smiling Rocky Pirrone, Donna, and the rest of the crew... you guys put on a hell of a show today. Thanks.

As a matter of fact, everyone here put on one hell of a show today. Be proud!! Berserko told me there were 8500 spectator tickets sold. Be damn proud!! And this is just the First F/C reunion... wait'll next year, huh?

Opening the trunk of the Malibu and throwing my stuff in I take one more look at the track... one more listen to the cars burning out... and think about what Webster had to say...

a successful move or action; a closed two door automobile with a body smaller than that of a sedan; of extra fine quality.

Yep... I guess Coup Deluxe about sums it up. Time to drive home. More old B.S. later.


** 1967 Marty Balin/Jefferson Airplane
RCA Music
"Plastic Fantastic Lover"

P.S. The photo enclosed is the crowd prior to the twenty nine car start up.

Read Coup Deluxe Part One HERE.


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