The Classic Thunder Nostalgia Drag Racing series came to Darlington
International Raceway in Hartsville, SC, for a two-day Thanksgiving car
show and drag race on November 29-30. 2002. The weather cool but sunny.
Light jackets were the order of the day while the sun shone.
Unfortunately, good weather and classic drag racing machines were not
enough to lure fans away from their warm fireplaces and Thanksgiving
leftovers. The racers and show car participants were there, but the fan
attendance numbers were down, despite deep promotion on the Internet,
local television and radio, and even a half page ad in National Dragster.
Happily, Darlington owner Larry Hinsley liked what he saw and extended an
invitation to Classic Thunder to return twice in 2003 just not on
Darlington Classic Thunder was the site of an important official
announcement. Classic Thunder and the Midwest Nostalgia Super Stock
organization announced a partnership for 2003. Classic Thunder has
officially adopted the rules of the Midwest Nostalgia Super Stocks and the
70 plus members of MNSS will race at all Classic Thunder events for 2003,
unless the events conflict with an existing MNSS date. MNSS officers Jim
and Terri Wittenberg were at Darlington with their awesome "Precious
Metal" Super Stock Ford. The Wittenbergs' motor home was an oasis
for weary race organizers and their Super Stock Ford thrilled the fans on
exhibition passes. The addition of the Midwest Nostalgia Super Stocks for
2003 is a major step forward for Classic Thunder.
Classic Thunder officials also met with Larry Beals, who has been
putting on the excellent Nostalgia race at Bradenton for 20 years (before
this last year's event, which was hosted by the track's new ownership).
Also on hand to help out was former Top Fuel racer Marvin Noel, who has
been promoting the NMCA and other organizations for years. Classic Thunder
looks forward to collaborating at some level with both of these gentlemen
After a successful first day of car shows, swap meets, and getting
together, Sunday brought hard core nostalgia racing. The event was run on
a compressed, daytime only schedule to avoid the cool late fall evenings
and the conditions they bring. Qualifying took place after an extended
open time run session. As qualifying continued, it became apparent that a
second qualifying round would put eliminations into jeopardy. The decision
was made to limit qualifying to the one run. Despite many opportunities to
sort out their rides, the racers had to make sure everything was perfect
on one run. Note to selves: limit open time runs on late fall days! A cold
track made for a very narrow groove. Racers had to line up perfectly and
stay in the groove to have any chance of success. It was truly a drivers'
and track tuner's race.
The Pro Dragster category featured blown alcohol, injected nitro, or
any combination thereof in a four-car qualified field. The single
qualifying run really vexed the diggers. Glenn Somers took the number one
spot in his 1996 T-Bar chassised machine at an early shut off
4.875-120.98. Ware Shoals and Midway winner Matt Stambaugh came all the
way down from Fredericksburg, Virginia, with the New Generation machine.
The big Rat motor featured a new look and sound gone were the injector
stacks, replaced by a huge blower! Rick and Robin Stambaugh were still
dialing in the blown combination and Matt rode a fat 6.111-116.67 pass to
the second position.
John MacDonald from Harrisburg, NC placed his 1966 Junior Fueler into
third position with a shut off 6.454-95.93. The beautiful "March
Wind" machine of Roger Elmore made its debut with Ronnie Benton at
the butterfly. Unfortunately, the new car suffered apparent fuel delivery
problems and shut off during each hard launch. No doubt, the team will
iron out its problems to become a threat in 2003.
With only three cars qualified, it would be Stambaugh versus MacDonald,
with low qualifier Somers taking a first round single. Both MacDonald and
Stambaugh were looking to improve on their qualifying times and they did,
but they reversed the order. MacDonald found something in the pits to chop
more than a second off his aborted qualifier. He went 5.310 at 126.88 to
defeat Matt "Nitrooo" Stambaugh's improved 5.608 at 120.09.
The new motor combination had the Stambaugh machine set up fat and
shooting ducks on both passes. They'll be back strong in 2003. Glenn
Somers singled at 5.019-123.43.
Glenn Somers seemed to have the John MacDonald covered in the final,
but he had also been the quickest car at Ware Shoals and Midway, only to
bow out early. Would Somers be able to break his final round jinx? The two
small blocks were screaming different tunes, one blown and one injected.
At the green, Somers took a major lead with .557 to .771 reaction times.
The holeshot made the otherwise close 5.308-135.50 to 5.472-123.38 race a
four-car length victory. Glenn Somers and the "Smokey Mountain
Express" finally took home the trophy in 2002 Classic Thunder Pro
The A/Gas and B/Gas categories all qualified together, then the
quickest eight cars formed the A/Gas field and the second quickest eight
cars formed the B/Gas field. Once set, the B/Gas field ran on an index one
tenth quicker than the B/Gas low qualifier. This prevented sandbagging
A/Gas competition featured the eight quickest gassers of the 18 in
attendance. Leading off was Robbie Draughon from Fayetteville, NC in a '48
Thames at 5.276-132.74. Rickey Bowie's supercharged '48 Anglia from
Greenwood, SC was second at 5.343-127.58. Qualifying third was Kyle Bond
from Timmonsville, SC in a great looking '33 Ford three-window Coupe at
5.369-129.05. Rounding out the top half of the ladder was Heath Daniel in
the Mac Pressley-owned Hartsoe Bros. '48 Anglia from Mooresville, NC, at
Roger McConnell put the Mighty Mouse '48 Anglia into fifth at
5.508-129.25, followed by Jim Holland's beautiful blue, flamed '48
Austin at 5.683-122.21. Bailey Hastings put the swoopy, modern style '33
Willys into seventh position at 5.874-115.90 and Frankie Gurano blew
everybody's mind by taking a street legal '48 Anglia with DOT tires
and making the show at 6.055-no speed recorded.
Kyle Bond and Jim Holland led off the action with Bond matching his
qualifying ET exactly to drive around Holland's holeshot for the win.
5.369-128.71 to 5.716-119.47. Roger McConnell then tossed away a good
5.461-129.85 on a redlite, sending Heath Daniel on to win at 5.486-126.45.
Rickey Bowie then dropped Bailey Hastings, 5.304-128.05 to 5.855-115.85.
Bowie had experienced quite an event to this point. His wife's car broke
down on the way back to Greenwood, SC, the night before. Rickey had to
drive the limping car four hours back to Greenwood and then four hours
back on the morning of the race. There, as one of the Classic Thunder
organizers, he faced a hundred things to do in addition to racing. Rickey
was hanging tough, however.
The round ended with an unbelievable upset. Gurano strapped a holeshot
on the quickest car in the category, but most thought there was no doubt
that Draughon's 5.20 car would pass the little street rod like it was
standing still. But Draughon got out of the groove a bit, keeping Gurano
just out of reach. Despite a big top end charge by the low qualifier,
Gurano's '48 Anglia led Draughon's slick '48 Thames through the
lights, 5.864-119.93 to 5.994-128.49. The place erupted in cheers for the
Heath Daniel was having none of Frankie Gurano's little guy heroics
in the second round, however. With original owner Gwyn Hartsoe in
attendance to cheer on the team, Daniel took the former record holding
machine to a 5.577-125.85 win over Gurano's off-pace 7.906-58.62. Rickie
Bowie then faced Kyle Bond, who was having a career day in his '33 Ford.
Neither driver had a reaction time worthy of headlines, but Bond was more
than a tenth quicker than Bowie, who finally seemed to have succumbed to
the combined effects of no sleep and continual race organizer
distractions. Bond would have won even after an even start, however. His
consistent 5.376-129.01 led Bowie's 5.411-128.29 through the lights by a
car and a half.
The final was down to two completely dissimilar cars. Heath Daniel was
strapped into a completely authentic, period-correct '48 Anglia that
even sported the original paint job it had carried 30 years before. Kyle
Bonds chopped '33 Ford looked more like a street rod on steroids.
Without front fenders or a hood, Bond's machine seemed more altered than
gasser. There was no provision in the gasser rules requiring a full body,
however, and Bond's machine met all the other requirements. With Bond
enjoying a two-tenths advantage all day, Daniel had to hit the tree hard.
He did leave first, but only by .450 to .467. That wasn't enough to hold
off Bond and his screaming three-window coupe, who ran an incredibly
consistent 5.372-128.40 to defeat the burnt orange machine's 5.539 at
The B/Gas field was led by the ninth qualifier in the overall gasser
field, Jason Melton of Rudy, SC. Melton's 6.456-105.85 now put the
little lime green 48 Anglia into first place in B/Gas. Local favorite
Mike Peake took the number two spot with his pickup truck at 6.717-101.02.
Robert Ashley brought his '65 Comet Cyclone up from Newberry, SC to take
the third position at 6.742-103.30, followed by Danny Austin's Locust,
NC-based 50 Anglia at 6.770-100.41.
The bottom half of the field began with Jim Guillen's newly lettered
'57 Ford Popular from Matthews, NC, in fifth with a 6.914 at 96.46. Tom
Drake qualified sixth with one of the neatest cars in attendance, a '38
Simca. The car was brownish gold and orange. It may sound weird, but the
diminutive car looked great. The Matthews, NC, racer posted a 6.972 at
96.55. Mike Coger, itching to go "real" gasser racing, traded in
his injected 69 Nova for the "Riff Raff" 39 Plymouth. The
Waynesville, Georgia, racer placed primered machine in the seventh spot at
7.046-99.04. Ted Stile's wrapped up the field with his bright yellow 40
Dodge Pickup at 7.508- 90.18.
Also in attendance with his "Buzzin' Half Dozen" was the
IHRA's own "Staging Steve" LeTempt. The six-cylinder machine
gave up the ghost at the top end, but looked great. Steve filled in on the
microphone a little bit and had a great time.
Jason Melton kicked off round one with a 6.472-105.07 to defeat Ted
Stiles truck at 7.653-90.56. Jim Guillen then took the measure of Danny
Austin in a mild upset, 6.783 97.34 to 7.113-99.29. Local favorite Mike
Peake won his first round of Classic Thunder racing with a
come-from-behind 6.749-100.34 decision over Mike Coger's close
6.994-100.58 in the Riff Raff Plymouth. Coger got a huge jump at the line.
.562 to .698, but Peake had enough juice to get around him. The round
ended with an upset (based on qualifying times) as Tom Drake grabbed a
6.870-98.17 to 7.008-96.68 win over Robert Ashley's massive Mercury.
Drake's little Simca looked like a toy in comparison, but it was big
enough to win!
Mike Peake and Tom Drake led off round two with Peake's blue truck
getting a 6.748-100.36 to 7.033-97.93 win. Jason Melton and Jim Guillen
lined up next with Melton's 7/8 scale English Ford looking for all the
world like a miniature of the Guillen machine. After an even start, Melton
used a bracket like 6.457-105.70 to defeat Guillen's game 6.738-98.25.
Jason Melton and Mike Peake met in the B/Gas final. Melton's little
green Anglia remained solidly in the 6.40s with a 6.445-105.84 to hold off
Peake's valiant 6.790-100.21.
B/Altered eliminator was an interesting concept. Due to the wide open
Classic Thunder rules -- any front engine, non-door cars with any engine
combination not used in the pro fields the field was populated with a
unique collection of rail dragsters, competition coupes, and altereds.
Ronnie Howell of Elgin, SC, led qualifying with his carbureted 32
Bantam altered at 5.482-123.98. Thomas Jackson brought his 1965 slingshot
down from Bedford, VA and took the number two spot, 5.965-114.37. W.C. and
Laura Glasscock also journeyed south for the race. W.C. placed the
Keysville, VA-based 1964 Logghe digger into third at 5.977-115.68. In
fourth position was Dacvla, Georgia's Dave Cox and his awesome Flattop 32
Ford Competition Coupe at 6.233-112.95.
Rounding out the qualifiers was Florida's Frank Massimino and his
gorgeous 30 Ford Comp Coupe/Dragster. Frank was having a hard time
keeping the ultra light spoke front wheels planted on the launch. The red
and chrome beauty kept going either left or right during time runs. That
continued on his qualifying shot, and Frank logged a 7.387-88.44 to anchor
Howell took a 6.588-96.64 first round bye, and then Glasscock took his
early rail to a close 5.996-114.60 to 6.157-112.14 decision over Cox's
wild orange machine. Thomas Jackson then set low ET of the round with a
wire to wire win over the still-troubled Massimino, 5.928-114.79 to
Round two began with Ronnie Howell defeating W.C. Glasscock,
5.431-124.56 to 5.915-113.96. It was Thomas Jackson with the next bye run,
a consistent 5.977-113.96 pass to end the round.
The final match-up in B/Altered featured Ronnie Howell's IHRA class
legal 32 Bantam facing Thomas' immaculate rail job. Howell had been
quicker by about a half second at times. Harris would need a good jump off
the line to have a chance, but Howell got the holeshot, .430 to .602, then
maintained his half second advantage to take the B/Altered victory,
5.474-123.83 to 5.975-114.19.
Super Comp eliminator was not as diverse as B/Altered, but it wasn't
because the rules weren't just as wide open. Classic Thunder rules state
that any door car with a 1975 or older body and any engine combination can
show up to race heads up. Despite the open rules, Super Comp turned into
an all-Chevy affair, and only a surprising Chevy Nova kept it from
becoming an all-Camaro affair. David Goodson brought his wicked '69
Camaro roadster up from Weaver, Alabama to grab the top spot with a 5.148
at 134.60. Ervin Rose then surprised everyone with a '70 Nova that
looked for all the world like a mid six-second Super Pro car. The car was
a stone cold sleeper -- Rose nailed the second qualifying spot with a
5.316 at 130.43.
Bill Hansen came from Ninety-Six, SC, to put his '69 Camaro into
third place with a 5.518-125.36. Just a thousandth back was Tom McClester's
'69 Camaro at 5.519-125.92. Harold Rabon drove a '67 Camaro into fifth
at 5.978-115.28, followed by Todd Smelar in a '68 model at 6.433-106.19.
Paul Kauffman took the seventh spot with a 6.479-104.08 out of his '67,
and Paul Shelton, who had raced in the F/X category at Classic Thunder
Midway, held down the bump with a troubled 6.802-77.35.
Goodson and Shelton kicked off round one with predictable results. Goodson
improved on his low qualifying time with a slick 5.131-135.19.
Shelton continued to have troubles, improving only slightly to a
6.740-96.24. Tom McClester's '69 then took out Harold Rabon's '67,
5.534-125.12 to 6.154-110.05. Ervin Rose then jumped right up into David Goodson's league with an excellent 5.154-136.57 thrashing of Paul
Kauffman, who improved markedly but still trailed, 5.988-117.08. Bill
Hansen ended the round with a 5.740-97.63 broke bye win when Todd Smelar
couldn't make the call.
Ervin Rose and Bill Hansen went at it to kick off round two. After an
even start, Rose's big Nova began to inch ahead of Hansen's '69
Camaro, winning at 5.390-121.29 to Hansen's relatively close
5.540-124.72. Tom McClester needed a holeshot to have a chance against Goodson's flying roadster, so when he left the line three hundredths
back, it didn't look good. David Gordon again found the teens with a
5.176-134.77 decision over McClester's 5.542-125.82.
The final lined up the two clearly baddest dudes of the day, David Goodson
and Ervin Rose. Goodson had been in the teens all day. Rose showed
he had five-teen power, but had backed off to 5.30s in his semifinal round
win. Goodson had lane choice, but would Ervin jump up and surprise him?
Nope. Just as he had all day, Goodson again left first and led the Nova
driver at every increment. Still, it was the closest competition race of
the day, regardless of category. Goodson set Super Comp Low ET with a
5.129-135.13 victory. Rose followed about a car length behind with Top
Speed of the category, 5.192-137.69. This class is a lot of fun to watch,
but let's hope the 2003 season brings out the Ford and Mopar racers, not
to mention the other makes and models.
Three time Southern Fuel Coupes champion Jim Dickey was on hand with
his KB-powered 23-T to face Don Roddy's All-Girl Crew and their '90
Corvette in an all out race to the three second zone. It was to be two out
of three with the winner taking final bragging rights for 2002. The cold
air certainly provided optimum oxygen, but what would the 2500 horsepower
cars do on a cold track? The first round match left them both disgusted.
Roddy got into some fluid and smacked the right retaining wall. Dickey
dropped a valve and shut off. Roddy was done for the day and the year. The
next time you see the Roddy Racing machine, it will be a 48 Fiat
altered. In the meantime, Jim Dickey and crew thrashed for hours to put
the KB back together.
Ten minutes after the finals in all other categories, Dickey pulled the
23-T up to the Darlington starting line. Could the Darlington track
hold 2500 horsepower -- especially after several slower cars had
experienced problems hooking up when the track temperature was higher?
The few remaining fans were treated to a superb answer to these
questions as Dickey registered an outstanding .961 60-foot time then
deftly guided the T-bucket for 600 feet, where it started to drift. Dickey
lifted momentarily and tapped it back into the groove just before going
through the lights. Everyone was impressed with the run on a fast cooing
track, but NOBODY was ready for the numbers -- a stunning 4.012 at 174.75
-- new personal bests for Dickey. The top end bobble robbed Jim of a
three-second time slip, but only just. It was a truly amazing run for the
conditions and a fitting capper to a great day of racing.