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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

The Day Gary Ritter Turned 5.98, 242 --
With His Eyes Closed!

By Cole Coonce

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.

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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.

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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.

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NR 5-SECOND SUPPORT CLUB MEMBERS:

GOLD Members:

John Mills
Jack "the Sheriff" Harris
Stan Terrill
Pete Millar
Bruce Dyda
Bryan Ellis
Al Schramm
The Charlestown Dragway Reunion V
MC 900' Jesus
Bobby McLennan and Champion Speed Shop
M&H Racemaster, Inc.

SILVER Members:

Pete Esvelt
Claude Robichaux
Pat "Ma" Green

PLATINUM MEMBERS:

Titan Speed Engineering

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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:

http://www.nitronic.com/club5/

 

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