June 27, 2003
Shav Glick, L.A. Times
Old-School Dragsters Will Get Their Due
Old-time hot rodders will tell you there is nothing like the sound of a Hemi — a Chrysler engine with a hemispherical combustion chamber, produced from 1951 through the mid-1970s — to get your blood pounding.
To celebrate more than 50 years of Hemi-powered racing machines, Gary Meadors' Goodguys Rod & Custom Assn. will feature the classic engine this weekend at the sixth Pomona Vintage Nationals on the quarter-mile strip at Pomona Fairplex.
The Goodguys are drag racing's version of golf's Champions Tour. Only instead of an age limit for drivers, the age limit is for the machines. Only dragsters from 1972 or earlier — or their modern-built replicas — are eligible to compete in the 12 classes.
"Our top fuel drivers are not only Goodguys, they are real guys," said Meador, pointing out that all drive front-engine dragsters, not the safer, modern rear-engine variety that Don Garlits popularized in the early 1970s.
Don't think that because they are antiques, they aren't fast.
Roger Lechtenburg of Waterloo, Iowa, holds the Goodguys record of 248 mph in 5.787 seconds in his top-fuel dragster. To get an idea of how impressive that is, consider that Garlits won the 1971 Winternationals at Pomona with a 214.79-mph run in 7.03 seconds, the first triumph for a rear-engine top fueler.
"In addition to the racing, we will have some of the most famous Hemis of all time on display," said Meadors, who has headed the Goodguys since its beginning in Bakersfield in 1983.
Some of the significant vehicles will include the Greer-Black-Prudhomme Hemi dragster and a selection of Hemi vehicles from the Petersen Automotive Museum, among them President Eisenhower's Hemi-powered dual-cowl parade car.
With more than 58,000 members nationwide, Goodguys is second only to the National Hot Rod Assn.'s 80,000 as the largest drag racing association in the country.
Although the Goodguys are not affiliated with the NHRA, Meadors says, "Wally Parks is my idol." Parks, 90, founded the NHRA in 1951.
The Goodguys are returning to Pomona after a three-year absence. The K&N Filters Vintage Nationals will be the fourth meet of the year. The 22-event season began with the March Meet at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield and will wind down back at Famoso in November with the Fuel & Gas Finals.
Their events feature competition in top fuel, A/Gas, Junior Fuel, AA/Gas and eight other classes.
This will be the first time for the Goodguys under the lights at Pomona, with practice and qualifying today and Saturday running to 10 p.m. Eliminations start Sunday at 10 a.m. and will end at 5 p.m.
What About Winston West?
Winston Cup will become the Nextel Cup in NASCAR next year, but the Winston West will not be the Nextel West.
The 49-year-old series, which has carried the Winston name for the last 32 years, will have a new sponsor next year and will compete in the recently created NASCAR Grand National division with the Busch North series.
"We are looking forward to a new sponsor for the West Coast series," NASCAR spokesman Jeremy Davidson said. "For the first time, we have a series on both coasts with the same rules, the same cars, so we can have a national shoot-off at the end of the season.
"Both series are steppingstones to Busch, Craftsman Truck and Winston Cup. I don't want to speculate on a new sponsor, but there are several candidates."
Before it was Winston West, the stepchild series began as the Pacific Coast Late Models and later was called Grand National West.
The top 15 drivers in each the Winston West and Busch North series will compete Nov. 7-9 in the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway. Also during that three-day, invitational-only event will be competition among the top 10 drivers from four Elite Division series, among them the Featherlite Southwest, whose drivers will be at Mesa Marin Raceway for a 150-lap main event Saturday night.
The drivers at Irwindale, in what will amount to a national short track championship, will be competing for more than $500,000 in posted prize money.
Winston West drivers will get a look at Irwindale's paved half-mile oval July 26 when they drive in Round 7 of a 13-race schedule. Jason Jefferson, who had been running in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest series, won in his Winston West debut last Saturday night at Tri City Raceway in West Richmond, Wash. The season will end Nov. 1 at California Speedway.
Tickets for the Toyota All-Star Showdown are $45 for three days, $5 for Thursday, $15 for Friday and $35 for Saturday if purchased individually. The final night's racing will be televised on the Speed Channel.
The weekend of Nov. 6-9 will be one of the busiest in Southland history for motorsports fans. Besides the stock car showdown at Irwindale, there will be the Oval Nationals for the country's leading sprint car drivers at Perris Auto Speedway and the Auto Club NHRA Finals for drag racers at Pomona Fairplex. The NHRA finals will be run Sunday, with the other two events ending Saturday night.
In the Sunbelt Region of the Dodge Weekly Series, Brian Richardson of Bakersfield, who races late models at Mesa Marin, is the leader for the fourth consecutive week. Richardson has five wins in 10 starts. Rip Michels of Mission Hills, last year's super late model champion at Irwindale, moved up to second by winning his fourth Irwindale main event last week.
There are about 1,800 drivers competing in the Dodge Weekly Series. Winning is not the only factor in determining points leaders. Also figured in are top-five finishes and consistent performance.
Motorcycles will take over Ventura Raceway's Saturday night program when Outlaw Vintage racers return after a year's absence. Along with the vintage bikes, there will be a 600cc flat-track race for professionals. More than 125 riders are expected. Also scheduled at the Ventura County Fairgrounds is a two-day Antique & Classic motorcycle show.
Perris Auto Speedway will hold the Dwarf and Lightning Sprint Car Nationals tonight and Saturday night, for the third consecutive year. Dwarfs are scaled-down versions of 1930-50s cars powered by motorcycle engines. Lightnings are scaled-down versions of World of Outlaws sprint cars, also powered by motorcycle engines. More than 100 cars are entered.
For only the third time in Sprint Car Racing Assn. history, a rookie driver won a main event when Josh Wise, 20, finished first in last week's race at Perris Auto Speedway. The Riverside driver, whose background has been in U.S. Auto Club midgets, was driving his ninth SCRA race.
The estate of land-speed record holder Don Vesco and his racing products will be auctioned off today at 37210 Van Gaale, Murrieta. Items include an Offenhauser Sengine, Lycoming turbine engine, motorcycles, race cars and antique racing memorabilia.
Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, who has made a career of picking off victories in midget, sprint car and super modifieds during days off from his NASCAR routine, finished only seventh last week in a USAC sprint car race in Madera. The winner was Shauna Hogg of Roseville, Calif., only the second woman to win a USAC sprint car main event.
Patrick Long, 21, of Oak Park, won a German Carrera Cup race last week at the Norisring street circuit in Monsheim, Germany, in a wire-to-wire performance after winning his first Carrera Cup pole.
GNC Live Well 250
When: Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 10 a.m.); Sunday, race (FX, 11:30 a.m.).
Where: The Milwaukee Mile (oval, 1 mile, 9 degrees banking in turns); West Allis, Wis.
Race distance: 250 miles, 250 laps.
2002 winner: Greg Biffle.
Next race: NASCAR Busch Series 250, July 4, Daytona Beach, Fla.
GNC Live Well 200
When: Today, qualifying, 1 p.m.; Saturday, race (Speed Channel, noon).
Where: The Milwaukee Mile.
Race distance: 200 miles, 200 laps.
2002 winner: Terry Cook.
Next race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250, July 5, Kansas City, Kan.
European Grand Prix
When: Today, qualifying (Speed Channel, 5 a.m.); Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 5 a.m.); Sunday, race (Speed Channel, 4:30 a.m.).
Where: Nuerburgring, Germany (permanent road course, 3.196 miles).
Race distance: 191.76 miles, 60 laps.
2002 winner: Rubens Barrichello.
Next race: French Grand Prix, July 6, Magny-Cours
SunTrust Indy Challenge
When: Today, qualifying, 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, race (ESPN, 5 p.m.).
Where: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (d-shaped oval, .75 miles, 14 degrees banking in turns).
Race distance: 187.50 miles, 250 laps.
2002 winner: Sam Hornish Jr.
Next race: Indy 300, July 6, Kansas City, Kan.
Sears Craftsman Nationals
When: Today, qualifying, 3:15 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 3:15 p.m. (ESPN2, 7 p.m.); Sunday, early eliminations (ESPN, 2 p.m.), final eliminations (ESPN2, 6 p.m.).
Track: Gateway International Raceway, St. Louis.
2002 winners: Kenny Bernstein (top fuel), John Force (funny car) and Jeg Coughlin (pro stock).
Next event: Mile-High Nationals, July 20, Denver.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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