More Old B.S.: A Roaring Success
Notes on breaking into a performance and
through a sound barrier on the same afternoon
©2003 Bill Ott
Yes Sir!!! Precisely what the gang from Dallas had in mind as they finished loading the digger into the trailer. Someone had put the Foreigner's latest album (Foreigner 4) in the cassette player and the chorus of "I'm Gonna Win" was fading into silence as Curt Carroll and crew closed the doors on the 43' Chaparral trailer they'd just purchased from that Beadle** guy across town. Ol' Raymond evidently made 'em an offer they couldn't refuse, as they wound up with his 454 powered crew cab dually pickup too.
Looks like the crew's gonna be riding in style... and air-conditioned comfort. But then again, Indianapolis Raceway Park is a long way from Central Texas (or anywhere in Texas) and so far, this summer has been a warm one. And then there's that damned Labor Day traffic... The National safety Council predicts that this 1981 weekend traffic will be the heaviest on record.
But so far in the global arena, this has been a pretty upbeat year. The hostages were released from Iran... we now have a female Supreme Court justice... an attempt on the President's life failed... the collapse of the Iron Curtain seems inevitable... the entire planet kicked back for just a while and enjoyed the nuptials of Prince Charles and Di... AND... there's still nine of sixteen slots open in the NHRA 250-MPH Club.
When viewed from the Drag Racing theatre perspective, this has also been an upbeat year for the Carroll Brothers team. Their "Texas Whips"*** dragster qualified #1 and reset both ends of the track record at the Cajun Nationals in Louisiana... took out defending Winston Champ Shirley Muldowney in the second round at Columbus, in what many consider one of the best side by side pairings of all time (thanks to driver David Pace's superb 'feathering' work after getting out of shape mid track)... Gary Beck AND Shirley both congratulated him on that win.... and just for the hell of it, at the same event, they set top speed of the meet (247.93 MPH).
Someone grabbed that Foreigner cassette and threw it in the pickup just before the garage doors were locked. So with the gang all present and accounted, for truck and trailer are on the road and eastbound on I-30. Next stop... The U.S. Nationals.
T-Shirt logo courtesy Dave Pace
On board for the next few days is Curt Carroll... wife Deloris... son Steve... and driver David Pace. Noticeably absent for this excursion is legendary prankster Bill 'Bones' Carroll who recently retired. Bill will remain with the team but strictly as the guy who stays home in Dallas builds those strong Keith Black engines. He has decided to put an end to his 'on the road' days... and nights.
The circus atmosphere that was the U.S. Nationals some twenty years ago produced some fairly impressive times both Thursday and Friday. But these first two days of qualifying were dominated by the sportsman categories with the Professional classes getting in just one pass each day.
Saturday's Pro qualifying session was topped by Shirley's 250.69, followed up almost immediately by Gary Ormsby's identical 250.69 blast. This pass got Gary into that exclusive NHRA 250-MPH Club. Eight slots left.
And why didn't you mention Shirley's pass getting her inducted into the club you ask? Must be some sexist reason, no? Hell no! Turns out she's already a member... since May of '77. And the one person that's been in the club longer than her? Who else... BIG. And he's been the founding member since October of '75!
The "Texas Whips" machine ran it's usually consistent 245 to 247 MPH passes on Saturday. Dave mentioned an unusual 'quirk' the dragster had that only the driver would have known about... I couldn't resist passing this one along. Seems that when the drag chute hit on any pass over 245 MPH the back wheels on the Tony Casarez (another Dallasite) built chassis would lift in the air. Who says you don't have to be crazy to drive one of these?
Another quirk about this dragster... it was the loudest on the grounds. Seems like the Carroll Brothers team borrowed a page from the infamous Jobe/Skinner/Sorokin (a.k.a. 'The Surfers) book of NITRO tuning wizardry. A little compression... a lot of mag... a lot of blower... and a whole lotta NITRO. Maybe 92 to 94 percent on an easy pass, and the rest of the time... just tip the can! This method saved time, as well as unnecessary wear and tear on the hydrometer. I forgot to ask what their favorite shade of food coloring was.
Sunday's Pro sessions ended with Gary Beck qualified # 1 with a 5.63 in Larry Minor's machine. Fellow Canadian Terry Capp managed to squeeze into that ninth slot in the 250 Club with a 250.00 pass. Dave qualified # 6 with a 5.73 and would draw Frank Bradley in tomorrow's first round of eliminations.
Monday (Labor Day) morning dawned with threatening overcast skies and rain in the forecast. But by 11:00 AM, the rain had held off and first round got underway as scheduled. "The Beard" (Bradley) red lit against Dave in the "Whips" car. Good thing too... the KB threw a blower belt at about 1000 feet.
Next round... Dave paired off with Dwight Salisbury driving Ray Fisher's show quality digger. Ol' Dwight got out on Dave and had him covered to just before the lights. That's where Dave blew by him on what he knew had to be one of his stoutest passes ever. Man, when that chute hit, it felt like it must have went a foot in the air! Dwight commented later that the "Whips" Hemi was so loud that it scared the hell out of him as it roared by.
After coasting to a stop at the turn around at the end of the track and removing his helmet Dave was informed by the smiling track personnel and crew members that he had just became one of the fastest ever with a pass of 250.00. By now Dave was convinced they had the right setup to win this whole thing. The 250 pass was just icing on the cake. Being one of the first sixteen cars to top 250 was something that hadn't even crossed the boys' minds.
Next round: Kalitta... one tough competitor, but they were more than ready for him. Dave was finishing up his usual pre race routine... burnout... back up... a quick dry hop... then ease into the beams oh so carefully, when Curt flashed the hand signal for 'broke' while motioning towards the other lane. Looks like our guys are going to single into the Finals. The NITRO gods are smiling here... but not on the other lane. Seems Connie's car never even fired. Diamond P has some legendary footage of ol' Conrad's exit from the car and the ensuing 'crash test' of a perfectly good helmet. This might still stand as the all time record for bouncing one off the track surface (I'll check the stats on that later).
Carroll Bros. "Texas Whips" at the U.S. Nationals 1981 - Photo Courtesy Dave Pace
Dave ran the "Whips" dragster to about mid track, and then clicked it off. No sense destroying any parts, or messing up a good combination with the Finals a little over an hour away. Back to the pits, where that song by Foreigner was reverberating from inside the
Kick it into overdrive*
I'm gonna win
Ooh, ooh, ooh
I'm gonna win
"Man, let's do it! We're ready for this NOW!" Then the rain started.
"But man, we're ready now!" And the rain stayed.
"Damn it, we're ready now!" But the rain put everything on hold, at least until tomorrow.
Tuesday morning brought sunny skies, and the rain delayed Top Fuel Finals at the 1981 U.S. Nationals. In the other lane... Johnny Abbott driving the Jolly Rancher dragster. While over in this lane, Dave's car is as sharp as ever... as loud as ever. But it's been a whole night that Dave has had to think about this deal. And that's way too long. The red light in the "Whips" lane gave the automatic win to the Jolly Rancher team. That damned rain... and that damned wait. And... those fickle NITRO gods.
But hey... anyone that can make it to the Final at Indy has done something. Something special... something that ain't easy... something that takes a lot of work... something to be proud of. Besides, this was Johnny's second Indy final... he lost two years ago to Kelly Brown in the "Over The Hill Gang" digger... he was overdue for a win. And let's not forget breaking that 250-MPH barrier and becoming members of that exclusive club.
OK kids... let's fast-forward to last October. A few of us are hanging out in the shade behind the stands at Famoso Raceway. We were passing around a copy of Bob Post's histrionic book "High Performance" when Dave said, "Hey, I'm in that book."
A quick check through the index revealed no Dave Pace, and I told him so. "Well," he replied with that Texas drawl, "look on page 348". And there it was. "Damn" I thought, "I'm sitting here with a member of Drag Racing Royalty. Might have found me something to write about."
So, a few weeks later as we're going over the details about that Labor Day Weekend way back in the eighties I told Dave I'd love to see the plaque they were given by the NHRA when they became members of that exclusive group. "Never got one", he told me. "Well then, the certificate they gave you... bet you had it framed, huh?" I said next. "Nope... never got one of those either" he said.
Matter of fact, it turns out none of the guys on the whole team never even knew about the NHRA 250 MPH Club****... or their membership in it! Not until the release of the "High Performance" book in '94. Curt Carroll passed away in '93... never knowing about their mention in the history books. Seems a shame... don't it. More old B.S. later.
*©1981 Atlantic Records
"I'm Gonna Win"
M. Jones & L. Gramm
Somerset Songs Pub. Inc
Evansongs Ltd. ASCAP
Also: Foreigner 4 was the largest selling album ever recorded on the now defunct Atlantic label.
** Raymond Beadle was the owner of Chaparral Trailer Co. at the time.
*** Have had zero luck in finding either the meaning of, or reason for the term "Texas
Whips." Even Dave has no idea. Someday I'll ask Olin Davis... when I have a lot of time.
**** A few more facts about the 250 MPH Club... The "Texas Whips" crew got in before Marvin Graham, Mark Oswald, Gene Snow, Don Prudhomme (but the Snake did it in a Funny Car just to mess with everyone's mind), and Joe Amato. If you discount the Snake's deal because it wasn't done with a dragster (hey, there ARE some people that just don't like floppers, damn it!) Jody Smart got position # 16 at Brainerd in August of '82.