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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"Plastic Fantastic Lover"
P.S. The photo enclosed is the crowd prior to the twenty nine car start
Read Coup Deluxe Part One HERE.