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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

More Old B.S.


Keep On Truckin' (Part 2)


By Bill Ott

When Alexis Arguello gave Boom Boom a beating
Seven weeks later he was back in the ring
Some have the speed and the right combinations
But if you can't take the punches
It don't mean a thing*

Saturday morning started with another spectacular sunrise and a weather forecast promising a repeat of yesterday's conditions. After another early morning warm up of the old Hemi, another few more minor adjustments all Sy and the boys have to do is wait for the first Top Fuel qualifying session to end. Then they'll get their chance to make that long awaited pass.

They sure made a pretty sight sitting there on the starting line... the old digger with the late model Corvette push car. Finally... we have ignition. Man, that Chrysler sure sounds crisp as Sy carefully guides Tom into the starting line beams. After a quick flash of orange and then green from the tree, the King and Marshall dragster is finally on its way. Looked like a pretty good 1/8th-mile pass from where I was standing, but I didn't hear any times announced after the pass. Must have been all that noise from the other racecars.

Sy Sidebotham guides driver Tom Steed into the lights. Photo by Vic Cooke
Sy Sidebotham guides driver Tom Steed into the lights. Photo by Vic Cooke

Arriving back at the boys pit area just as the post race tear down ritual is just getting started my first question is "What did it run?" "No idea." was the reply. Due to some sort of a technical snafu... no times were recorded. Wow, if it wasn't for bad luck, these guys wouldn't have any luck at all! Still Sy kept smiling and trying to keep everyone's spirits up. Besides, there's that CackleFest coming up in a while and ol' Sy's got to get busy on the wicked tune up he has in mind for cacklin' time.

The CackleFest got started a little later than has been the standard practice the last few years. It's all going to take place in the dark this time around. Besides the usual sounds from the "Cacklers" (or would that be "Cacklees"?) we'll be treated to a bit of a pyrotechnics show as well. I found myself a good spot to watch the festivities at about mid track (pit side) with some friends.

Once again I've got to comment on what an overwhelming thing this CackleFest is. This time I believe there were thirty something racers participating. Kings of the sport all... some were repops of famous old race cars either destroyed long ago or lost in the shuffle over the years... some all originals from back in the ‘Glory Days'... all an awesome sight this Saturday evening.

K & M firing up for the CackleFest. Photo by Paul Hutchins
K & M firing up for the CackleFest. Photo by Paul Hutchins

I watched the K & M car pass by somewhere about ‘mid pack' and immediately my attention was diverted to the rest of the cars being pushed down the return road, as well as the cars that were assembling out on the track. It was another minute or two when I realized the K & M digger wouldn't be too hard to pick out from the others out there. Matter of fact, quite a few of the folks in my general vicinity were pointing right at it. Must have been the cherry red headers that were attracting all of this attention.

Now Sy did mention something earlier about "leaning the barrel valve down maybe a turn and a half," but this... Wow... those white-coated headers were glowing in the dark! Turned out that's what he had in mind all along. Sure looked cool!

O.K. Now that we've got the Cacklefest under our belts, it's time for the Big Show a.k.a. The Ring of Fire. Now this is another giant leap into madness as somewhere around fifty race cars park in a huge circle out on the track and somewhere around thirteen hundred and twenty demented people stand in the middle of this circle. Hey... if you gotta ask why... you wouldn't understand!

Now Sy has a different thing in mind for this deal "something maybe a whole lot ‘fatter' than the earlier tune up." But it's ‘gonna be equally as spectacular he promised. He was right... a whole lot of flames (and NO red headers) this time.

As soon as this deal wound down, Sy, Tom, and the whole rest of the crew were getting pretty wound down themselves. So far... what a long strange trip it's been, but it ain't quite over yet. No sir. As the "Ring" came to an end the crowd that had been up until now standing in the center of things, moved closer to the cars for just one more up close look.

By now Tom had been sitting in the cramped quarters of the dragster for quite a while and couldn't wait to get out. He hit the button on the ‘quick disconnect' Butterfly wheel (back in '69 when Mr. Long built the chassis he had Mark Williams put together what was literally a ‘one off' steering wheel for some of his cars). Next Tom placed the wheel down on one of the slicks and climbed out of the car. After the exiting maneuver was complete Tom turned to retrieve the wheel... but. No wheel. Hey, bet it fell on the ground right? Wrong. The wheel was gone... vanished... kaput. A frantic search all around the car ensued, but nothing. Once again Tom's got a totally sick look on his face. Can you blame him?

Enter Tony Guida. Tony had come all the way from Warren, R. I. to be with the guys and had been video taping everything, including Tom's exit from the car. A quick rewind of the tape showed a huge guy with equally huge tattoos... grabbing up the wheel and disappearing into the crowd! Here goes that, "if it wasn't for bad luck" thing once again.

A quick run up to the tower to ask that this story be broadcast over the PA was about the only plan the boys could come up with. Maybe it would help?

As the word went out over the PA and by word of mouth through the crowd... it didn't go unnoticed by the Security guys. As a matter of fact, the guys watching the crowd leaving through the Main Gate observed a young (hey, if you want to, you can supply your own adjective here) lady leaving with a large chrome object sticking out of her coat. When asked what it was, she replied, "A steering wheel for a dragster."... yeah, what else? When asked where it came from she replied "I found it! again, what else would you expect her to say?

She was informed that if she surrendered the wheel and disappeared before the count of ‘one' this whole incident would be forgotten. She did and it was.

Now, what to do with this damn thing. "I know," said Security "let's call Steve Gibbs!" Remember him? "He's the guy who has an answer for everything!" In a matter of a few minutes the offending (or offended?) wheel was placed in Mr. Gibbs hands. In a matter of a few more minutes it was returned to it's rightful owners and returned to its proper place in the race car. BUT... no one took their eyes off of it the rest of the evening. And at least now the guys would be able to get a decent night's sleep.

Sy (left) looks like he's getting ready to plant a big wet one on Steve Gibbs seconds after the return of the missing 'Butterfly." Photo by Paul Hutchins
Sy (left) looks like he's getting ready to plant a big wet one on Steve Gibbs seconds after the return of the missing "Butterfly." Photo by Paul Hutchins

I dropped by their pit Sunday morning and found everyone once again in good spirits. ‘Gotta love these Yankees!

That was the last time I saw or heard from any of the guys until I had a conversation with Sy about ten days ago. I couldn't help but ask about after a three thousand mile trip... getting turned back right at the starting line... only one pass and no time slip... Tom's license still in limbo... an almost irreplaceable part being stolen... and a three thousand mile drive back home again... and almost no mention in the press about them even being there, if he ever planned on returning. "I'm not sure yet," he told me "after all, it WAS a lot of fun!"

More old B.S. later.


Bill Ott -- proud member of the Standard 1320 group.

*© Warren Zevon Music
"Boom Boom Mancini"

Thanks Bud  

Read Part One Here


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