Modern Top Alcohol Dragster: Two modern day Top Alcohol Dragsters
provided a stark contrast to the nostalgia cars. Todd and Michelle Bauknecht came all the way from Cleveland, TN, to
race their '95 Uyehara machine. With 526 inches of blown Keith Black
power on board, Todd was aiming to meet or better their best times of 3.96
seconds at 186 mph. Todd's crew consists of Mitch, Jack, Kenny, Scott,
and Jeff. Todd's own Bauknecht Excavating sponsors the team.
Rick Murry and the Schild Racing team also came from Cleveland, TN, in
their late model Top Alcohol Dragster to face hometown pal Bauknecht.
Modern Top Alcohol Funny Car: Cecil Roberson was on hand with his "Trimmer Racing" Corvette
Funny Car. With 526 inches of KB on board (and Alan Johnson heads on top),
Cecil was looking to do some damage to the field and perhaps to eclipse
his previous best numbers of 4.01 at 180 if the weather held. By the way,
Cecil is a trim carpenter, hence the name.
Don and Sharon Roddy brought their own 1990 Corvette Funny Car. Don and
his All Girl Crew have already won on the Southern Fuel Coupes tour this
year and were looking for more at Ware Shoals.
Jim Dickey came up from Fairburn, GA, with his My Favorite Charity
supercharged altered. Dickey has been one of the local hitters at Ware
Shoals and he came to town to ensure that
The Southeast Gasser Tour: The Gasser Tour arrived in full force with 14 cars participating in an
Ringleader Rickey Bowie of Greenwood, SC was on hand with his
supercharged 355 inch NiteFire '48 Anglia. Rickey was looking to stay
top dog of this pack with his five-second beast.
Larry McClendon came from Ocala, FL with his ‘41 Willys. The car hits
7.20s and 7.30s in the eighth mile with a blown small block Chevy.
Mac Pressley came down from the Charlotte suburb of Stallings, NC, with
the Hartsoe Bros. '48 Anglia. A blown 454 Chevy with carburetors
provides the go power for driver Keith Davids. This car was the national
record holder in 1970, 1971, and 1972, and the car still has the original
paint it had when it set those records!
Jim Guillen came down from Matthews, NC, with his great looking '57
Ford Popular known as "Rolling Thunder." Jim's car didn't
reach the states until five years ago. It was brought over by an English
schoolteacher. Jim's 385 inch Ford powered machine has run a best of
6.78 at 98 mph in the eighth.
Roger McConnell was there with the "Mighty Mouse II" '48
Anglia. The Mooresville, NC, racer uses a nitrous oxide injected 400-inch
small block Chevy for power. The car has gone 5.24 on the juice, but can
run 5.80s without it.
Danny Austin from Locust, NC was on hand with his cherry '50 Anglia.
Danny's car has been in storage for 17 years! He finally broke it out
this year and lets a 355 inch small block Chevy do the pulling.
Mike Coger from way down in Waynesville, GA (one hour north of Florida)
had the newest car in the field. Mike's '69 Nova sported 477 cubic
inches of Chevy Rat Motor on methanol. The car looked great with
alternating read and yellow anodized injector stacks sticking out of the
hood. Mike's big Chevy goes 5.80s and 5.90s in the eighth.
Dave Cox came down from Dequila, GA (north of Atlanta) with his Flattop
II – a '32 Ford with a 406 inch small block Chevy for power. On the
roof of Dave's car were written the words "This Side Up," a
reminder not to repeat a feat performed earlier this year.
Jerry Curtis brought the hot purple Fat Rat '41 Willys from
Asheville, NC. The ‘Rat uses a 469 inch Chevrolet Rat (what else?) and
has gone 6.15 at 112.
Gerald Baker came down to stem the tide of Chevy powered entries with
his 1941 Plymouth from Swannanoa, NC. The 451-inch Mopar powered beast has
run a best of 6.08.
Ted Stiles was down from Raleigh, NC, with his unique '41 Dodge
Pickup Truck. The 426 Max Wedge powered machine has a 7.03, 98 mph eighth
mile pass to its credit and has seen the 11's in the quarter.
Robert Ashley from right around Ware Shoals brought out his awesome
Mercury Cyclone to take on all the visiting gassers.
Local favorite Bailey Hastings, Jr., was on hand to turn back all the
invaders with his rather modern '33 Willys.
Bailey Hastings, Sr., was on hand too, racing this awesome straight
axle '55 Ford.
The Plum Gone car of Jack Moore was one terrific
looking Austin Pickup Truck and it ran hard, too!
Nostalgia Front Engine Dragsters: Matt Stambaugh thrashed to make the Southern Classic Thunder event. As
recently as the Thursday before the event, car owner Rick "Surf"
Stambaugh reported that the car was still apart and the team did not know
if they would make the show on time. But there they were, the New
Generation digger now sporting an injected big block Chevy instead of the
former blown small block.
In town to face the New Generation machine were three bad hombres. The
blown Smokey Mountain Express machine was one of them.
Two tough tunnel ram and carb
equipped machines were on hand as well, including John Ring's Clayton, GA-based Mountain
The Pro Mods: Alan Pittman and Westbrook Motorsports – The Grave Digger '41
Willys. This internationally known drag racing star got his start running
right here at Ware Shoals. When Ken Westbrook and Alan Pittman heard about
the Southern Classic Thunder event, they generously agreed to appear and
make some runs to support the cause of Nostalgia Drag Racing in the South.
One of the most popular Pro Modified teams on either the IHRA or NHRA
trail, the Grave Digger team rightfully commands a hefty sum to appear at
booked in shows.
In an incredible display of generosity, Ken and Alan
agreed to run at Ware Shoals for no guarantee... if the fans came, they
would take as much of their regular appearance fee as the promoters could
pay them. If the fans didn't show, then they'd just consider these
test runs. (The Classic Thunder promoters and Ware Shoals were proud to be
able to pay the Grave Digger team its full appearance fee.)
When local Top Sportsman/Pro Modified racer Anthony White heard that
Alan Pittman and the Grave Digger were coming back home to lay claim to
the Ware Shoals track doorslammer records, it forced him into doing
something that perhaps no other drag racer in history had done. He became
the home town boy who also won the long distance award!
Anthony did this
because his employer had closed up shop in South Carolina and shipped him
off to work in faraway Texas. When Anthony got word that Alan Pittman and
the Grave Digger were coming, he made a call back home and told them to
fire up his CWA-sponsored 1990 Corvette and have it ready to face the ‘Digger
for local doorslammer bragging rights.
Rehearsals: Despite cloudy skies and reports of rain in all the surrounding areas,
drag racing fans started streaming into Ware Shoals Dragway at around 3:00
p.m. Promoter Raford Gambrell began to cheer up. Just then, word came that
the breaker box in the concession stand had blown! It was a write off.
Raford was about to have the biggest crowd of the year and there would be
no way to feed them! Raford headed off to nearby Greenwood to buy a new
generator. It was the first of many challenges...
Nostalgia and grudge match cars of all shapes, sizes, and eras made
time runs all day long. Finally, two of the show cars came up for a time
run. The cars were the Top Alcohol Dragsters of Todd Bauknecht and Rick
Murry in the Schild Racing machine. After two monster burnouts that seemed
all the more impressive given the fans' close proximity to the track,
Bauknecht laid solid claim to the Ware Shoals track records with a 3.978
second blast at 181.79 mph! In the other lane, Rick Murry shook the tires
and actually crossed the centerline at the top end to get the closest look
at Bauknecht's new record.
Shortly thereafter, a racer got into REAL trouble. A grudge racer blew
his motor at the top end and his engine caught fire. The racer didn't
realize it, however, until he had turned around and started driving down
the return road. Instead of stopping on the asphalt, the racer pulled off
into a dry grass field next to some woods. Track officials were on the
scene immediately and discharged a fire bottle into engine compartment. At
the same time, the ambulance rolled to the scene and verified that the
racer was out of the car and OK. Another track official pulled two more
fire bottles from the bottom of the timing tower and made his way down to
the top end.
By this time, however, the grass under the car had ignited and the fire
was starting to move towards the woods. The call came over the
walkie-talkie to get the starting line fire extinguisher and to get the
local Volunteer Fire Department on the phone. The three additional fire
extinguishers had little chance against the rapidly spreading grass fire
and the car fire. The VFD was there within ten minutes and got the top end
blaze out, but unfortunately, the racer's car was a loss. With all but a
few small fire bottles depleted, Raford worked a deal with the VFD fire
truck to stick around for the remainder of the race after that. There were
no further incidents.
Soon after that, of course, the skies opened up. It couldn't have
rained when they were trying to put out the grass fire! Fans scrambled for
their cars, but an hour later, everybody came back out. Almost nobody had
left! The Ware Shoals crew commenced drying the track and it finally was
time for the show to begin.
Act One: Things kicked off with Danny Goveia from Charlotte, NC, in the Carolina
Thunder 409 '62 Bel Air Nostalgia Super Stock taking on Bruce Dillon
from Jamestown, NC, in his Asphalt Hustler '63 Plymouth Super Stock with
a mighty Max Wedge 426 under the hood. The Super Stock cars were not a
planned feature, but made a terrific addition to the show. After lots of
starting line antics, the Super Stocks were wheels up and rolling! Mopar
got to chalk one up in the first round as Dillon's Plymouth took a close
one over the bubble top, 6.69 at 104 mph to 7.03 at 98 mph.
The rompin', stompin' Southeast Gasser Tour came out next with six
B/Gassers and eight A/Gassers on tap. The B/Gas cars led things off with
Jim Guillen's Rolling Thunder car taking a 6.72 to 7.414 win over Larry
McClendon's big red Willys.
Up next, Danny Austin took his red Anglia to
a 7.02 to 7.52 decision over Ted Stiles' pretty yellow Dodge pickup.
a battle of local heroes, Robert Ashley's red Comet Cyclone took a close
7.22 to 7.336 decision over Bailey Hastings, Sr. in his great looking,
straight axle '55 Ford.
The A/Gassers were next. First up, Keith Davids took the Hartsoe Bros.
car to a stout 5.81 to handle Gerald Baker's unique '41 Plymouth at
Mike Coger then lined up his massive (in comparison) injected '69
Nova against Jack Moore in the beautiful but diminutive "Plum Gone" '48
Austin pickup truck. It was Coger's turn to be Plum Gone, however, as
the big red Chevy took a 6.01 to 6.579 decision.
Rickey Bowie then lined
up his awesome blown "NiteFire" '48 Anglia against Roger
McConnell's nitrous assisted machine. McConnell got the jump at the line
with a great .410 light, but wheelstood right into the left guardrail,
forcing him to lift. In the other lane, Bowie was laying down a
backbreaking 5.55 second, 127 mph pass.
Local racer Bailey Hastings, Jr
then brought out his '33 Willys for a broke bye and went 6.03 at 112
It was time for front engined nostalgia dragsters. Rick Stambaugh lined
up the hastily prepared New Generation injected big block car against the
supercharged small block Smokey Mountain Express machine. At the green,
the ‘Express took off like a shot and recorded a 4.95, 123 mph to 5.519,
123.92 mph win over the injected car.
Next, John Ring took the Clayton,
GA-based Mountain Glass digger to a 5.705, 126.65 mph win when his
The Nostalgia Funnies were next with the Ernie Walker Jungle Jim
tribute machine facing the Lonnie Partane Swensen & Lani tribute
machine. The Vega is rigged up with a huge flame throwing device that
shoots flames about twenty feet in the air when the car is first fired.
Walker also has a second set of plugs routed to the headers to increase
the appearance of header flames (an old Rickey Bowie trick, still in use
on the NiteFire).
Playing Jungle Pam this evening was 14-year-old cutie
Jungle Jessica, who was instructed in some of the moves of the great Ms.
Hardy beforehand. Neither car got too much smoke on its burnout. Walker
later attributed this to the cars running on pure methanol when they are
used to a diet of 25 percent nitro. On the actual run, the Vega won
handily, 6.43 at 103 to 7.35 at 83, as Partane continues to shake out the
A battle of 1990 Corvette funny cars was up next. Don Roddy and his All
Girl Crew machine faced Cecil Roberson and the Trimmer Racing flopper.
After great burnouts that got the fans on their feet, Roddy took a 4.455,
163.81 to 5.519, 114 decision as Roberson broke something at the top end.
Three-time Southern Fuel Coupes champion Jim Dickey was on hand with
the My Favorite Charity blown 23-T. Dickey was set to make a single run in
the first round, but instead, Classic Thunder announcer Bill Pratt put out
the call to see if there were any local grudge racers tough enough to face
the blown altered. Sure enough, local dragster racer Larry Roberts stepped
up to the challenge.
Roberts' wife cranked up the nitrous a bit on the
big block Chevy dragster and sent her husband to the line. All were ready
for Roberts to post a respectable, but losing time. But the place went
nuts when Roberts actually BEAT Dickey, the dragster driver recording his
best ever run at 4.513, 154.63 mph to defeat Dickey's off pace 4.630,
142.46. Dickey later revealed that he had broken on that pass, but WOW,
what an upset!
Todd Bauknecht and Rick Murry then lined up their Tennessee TADs once
again, switching lanes this time. Bauknecht again took the measure of
Murry, who again could not hook up the Schild Racing car. The times were
4.319, 147.94 to 5.055, 160.
It then was time for the car all the fans were waiting for: the Grave
Digger! As it came around the corner onto the track, its blood red eyes
pierced the night. Every fan in the house was on his or her feet.
Following a monster burnout, Alan Pittman lined up the green and black
machine against game local hero Anthony White. After an even launch,
Pittman pulled the Westbrook Motorsports machine to a clear lead, despite
hazing the tires down the entire eighth mile. Score one for the Grave
Digger, 4.53, 164.49 to 5.283, 111.79.
Intermission: Between pro rounds, the heavens opened up once again, not with a flood,
but with a steady, bothersome drizzle that was just enough to put a damper
on things and to slow down the program. After an hour, it was clear that
we would not be able to complete all three planned pro rounds. Eventually,
the skies cleared, the tired Ware Shoals crew dried off the track, and the
second round commenced. This time, we did lose about half the crowd, but
the fans that stayed witnessed more magic.
Act Two: In Nostalgia Super Stock, only Danny Goveia could return after the rain
delay. Bruce Dillon broke the big Mopar and had to hit the highway. Goveia
evened up the match with another entertaining, 45 degree angle, chassis
twisting launch, followed by a loud bang back to the pavement and a 7.73
second pass at 93 mph.
The Southeast Gasser Tour was up next and didn't disappoint. Robert
Ashley's big red Mercury Cyclone claimed another victim as it defeated
Larry McClendon's Willys, 7.18 to 7.40.
Jim Guillen's turquoise Rolling Thunder Ford Pop then took a 6.92 to
7.05 decision over Danny Austin's great looking red Anglia.
Baker was up next (thanks to the break rule) and won a 6.263, 119.80
decision over Jerry Curtis and the Fat Rat Willys at 6.66.
Up next, Jack Moore's purple Plum Gone Austin pickup grabbed a 5.88 second win as Roger
McConnell's troubles continued in the Mighty Mouse. The ‘Mouse slowed
to an uncharacteristic 6.68.
Rickey Bowie was up next with the NiteFire
Anglia. This car does the best burnouts and those methanol header flames
are AWESOME. Every nostalgia funny car and gasser in the country should
call Rickey immediately to find out how to implement this setup. In fact,
all the Top Alcohol cars in the country should give him a call, too...
Rickey followed up the burnout and flame show with a stout 5.478, 129.33
win over the Mac Pressley-owned Hartsoe Bros. machine at a close 5.84 at
Mike Coger then put the big Nova up on its tail at the tree and
marched to a holeshot win at the expense of Bailey Hastings, Jr. and his
slick '33 Willys, 6.010 to 5.997.
The nostalgia digger finals were next. It was down to Matt Stambaugh in
the fuel injected New Generation machine against John Ring in the
carbureted Mountain Glass rail. (Stambaugh was back in the show after the
Smokey Mountain Express driver packed up and hit the highway as soon as
the second set of rain showers came through). "Nitroooo" Matt
Stambaugh got the better of John Ring at the tree and won the nostalgia
dragster title on a 5.537, 123 mph to 5.44, 128 mph holeshot.
Ernie Walker and Lonnie Partane brought their nostalgia funnies back
out with similar results, the Vega defeating the Mustang, 6.29 at 107 to
7.10 at 77.
With Cecil Roberson broken, the final two matches were supposed to be
Don Roddy's funny car versus Anthony White's doorslammer, followed by
Jim Dickey versus Alan Pittman in an all out battle for Ware Shoals
bragging rights. It was not to be, however, as SFC champ Dickey also broke
on the first run.
What to do? The call went out once again for the "The Giant
Killer," Larry Roberts. While Don Roddy and the All Girl Crew lowered
the body on the screaming yellow Corvette funny car, Larry Roberts'
"All Woman Crew" (his wife) helped him prepare the nitrous
dragster. Roddy did a blazing, half track burnout. Roberts did a modest
one that just did cross the starting line. After all that, the digger
lined up next to the flopper and... HE DID IT AGAIN!!! Roberts once again
put out one of the show cars when Roddy inexplicably redlighted away a
4.539, 158.47 mph run. Roberts tooled through at a coasting, but winning,
4.95 at 107.
Alan Pittman did a crowd pleasing, eighth mile burnout, then lined up
the blown Grave Digger Willys against Anthony White in the
nitrous-injected CWA Corvette. Pittman was vulnerable, hazing the tires
all the way down the track to a 4.737, 158.22 mph pass, but White couldn't
capitalize, the Corvette following the Willys through the traps at 5.035,
All that was left was the finals of the Southeast Gasser Tour, but the
fans got a bonus. Cecil Roberson and his crew kept on thrashing on the
Corvette funny car and got it back together. They came out to make a run
for the fans. After a nice launch, the Trimmer Racing Corvette made a 500
foot blast and then hit the chutes on a 5.53, 106 never say die effort.
The Southeast Gasser Tour final was between the crushing blown NiteFire
Anglia of Rickey Bowie and the massive '69 Nova of Mike Coger. Bowie had
a clear performance advantage, but Coger was chopping down the tree all
day and looked to make it close. Mike chopped a little too close in the
final, however, getting a redlight for his efforts and tossing away a fine
5.548, 117. Bowie chased the Nova all the way through the traps to capture
the event title with a 5.471 at 129.85 mph blast.
Epilogue: Despite a number of challenges, the inaugural Southern Classic Thunder
event was a huge success.
The fans (more than 1,850 paid tickets) were overflowing and happy.
(Plus kids under 12 were admitted free and local racers could get
crewmembers in for free). That means there were well over 2,000 people
stuffed into tiny Ware Shoals Dragway. I don't know where we would have
fit any more.
The Ware Shoals track owner was happy. It was his biggest event in
recent memory. He will be using part of his take for track upgrades.
The show racers all got paid and were happy. In fact, of the promoters'
portion of the gate, 71.4 percent was paid out to the show cars. Most of
the racers received more appearance money than they ever had before.
By the way, the Southern Classic Thunder promoters got this crowd
despite rain storms all day in the surrounding areas that certainly held
down the crowd. (The phone in the timing tower rang off the HOOK with
folks asking if the race was still on.) It also rained twice at the track
that day, and the fans waited patiently (the first time, anyway).
According to the manager of the Cross Creek Mall, the Friday night car
show the most well-attended event the mall had ever had. By the way, all
this was accomplished with less than one month's worth of promotion.
this bodes very well for the Classic Southern Thunder series and for
nostalgia drag racing in the southeast.