The Date: May 5, 1996. The Place: Sacramento, CA. This was the setting
whereupon the plot lines of the Left Coast "Prostalgia" fueler
wars continued to twist, turn, and implode. The tangle? Two weeks after
Hoosier "carpetbagger" Paul Romine made history in Indiana as
the first front-motored Top Fuel shoe to smash through the 5-second
barrier -- and simultaneously putting a dagger through the hearts of the
Bear Republic fueler guys who had been shooting at that target for a few
years -- Gary Ritter and the California race team of "W.W. II"
returned fire with a 5.98 shot at 242 mph. By Braille.
"I couldn't see," said "Blood, Sweat, & Nitro"
Ritter as he described what local nitromaniacs considered a retaliation
volley. For his historic run, Ritter had borrowed partner (and retired
shoe) Ted "the Bad Lieutenant" Taylor's old-school helmet and
fire mask. "It was okay with Ted's mask until the air caught it and
it was about to choke me to death," Ritter laughed. "And then
the helmet went up and so did the eyeholes."
Not only did Ritter join the 5-second club with his vision blocked, he
joined it *because* his vision was blocked. Indeed, Ritter was under
explicit instruction from his pit boss, the late Jim "the
Lizard" Herbert, to click 'er off at 1100 feet in order to avoid
winding the crank too high (Herbert was notoriously frugal and savvy that
way and in the nostalgia AA/FD society parts attrition is still considered
somewhat "uncool"), but Ritter was merely guessing where the
speed traps were. "I could see for a little bit, then it completely
went away so I said, '1-2-that's enough.'"
Taylor, who literally came within a millisecond (!) of claming the
5-second grail himself the year before in Bakersfield, greeted his
replacement at the turn-off at the far end of the drag strip with this
admonishment after the momentous run: "You drove it too far."
For the rest of the race Ritter used his own modern-type helmet, and, not
surprisingly, annihilated the competition and claimed Top Fuel Eliminator
as well as Low ET and Top Speed. His last conquest was of Gerry "the
Panzer Man" Steiner, with Ritter clocking a 6.20 at a mere 193 mph—one
assumes the diminutive speed was probably indicative of Ritter's clear
vision -- to Steiner's 6.27, 228.
BEGINNING WITH PAUL ROMINE IN SEPTEMBER, NITRONIC RESEARCH WILL GRACE
ALL CLUB MEMBERS WITH SPIFFY AND SUAVE "5" JACKETS. THESE BABIES
ARE NOT CHEAP. DONATIONS GRACIOUSLY AND GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED. FOR THE
INDIVIDUAL OR MANUFACTURER WHO *REALLY* WANTS TO MAKE THEIR DEDICATION TO
DRAG RACING FELT CO-TITLE RIGHTS ARE STILL AVAILABLE.
SUPPORT THE NITRONIC RESEARCH 5 SECOND CLUB: Co-title rights are still
available for the NR "5" CLUB. Get yer name in these press
releases, as well on the driver's jackets and support club t-shirts.
NR 5-SECOND SUPPORT CLUB MEMBERS:
Jack "the Sheriff" Harris
The Charlestown Dragway Reunion V
MC 900' Jesus
Bobby McLennan and Champion Speed Shop
M&H Racemaster, Inc.
Pat "Ma" Green
Titan Speed Engineering
NITRONIC RESEARCH 5 SECOND CLUB MEMBERS:
1. Paul Romine
2. "Blind Gary" Ritter
3. Bill "the Heartbreaker" Dunlap
4. "Swingin' Sammy" Hale
5. Roger "Radar" Lechtenberg
6. "Wild Bill" Alexander
7. Jack "the Sheriff" Harris
8. "Handsome Rance" McDaniel
9. Gerry "Panzer Man" Steiner
10. Lee Jennings
11. Jim "Holy Smokes" Murphy
12. Rick "the Kid" McGee
For more on the NR 5-SECOND CLUB and how you, the bleacher bum and the
nitromaniac can join its corollary, the NR 5-SECOND SUPPORT CLUB, point
your browser to: