In this day and age, racers, their crews and associates have to tip-toe their way around sponsors and maintain a squeaky-clean, non-confrontational image and reputation. It wasn’t always like that, and here’s Ben with another of his stories from the road…..
by Ben Griffin
Did you ever have a guy that just hung around your pit area at the races, never contributed anything? No mechanical skills or any other skills that you knew of but he was just there most of the time...even at some out of town races? Maybe a beer cup in his hand and with sun glasses probably hiding his hangover from the night before? I HOPE you never had one, but we did when I was just a pit crew guy for the Carroll Brothers, way back before I started driving for them. I don’t remember his name and I wouldn’t repeat it here even if I did.
We called him “The Hanger” since he always seemed to appear and would just hang around, drinking and mouthing off constantly about one thing or another. We ignored him most of the time because we were busy getting the car ready between rounds but he was always there irritating everyone around him.
Bones and Curt Carroll were two great racers from the early days at Caddo Mills, coming up through the gasser ranks to racing nationally competitive top fuel dragsters. The brothers were just too nice to flat run him off, however Bones would drop some strong hints now and then, but Hanger was either too dense to take a hint or he didn’t want to leave since he had nothing better to do and nobody else wanted him around either. Curt was the quieter of the two brothers but he was an iron worker and built like a tank. Only about 5’9” tall and 190 lbs. and solid as a rock. A high steel worker, Curt was one of those guys who walked around on narrow steel beams of new office buildings 20 stories up in the air with no fear.
So, we were at a two day race where you qualify on Saturday and run on Sunday and the Hanger was there as usual. We had qualified well on Saturday and with someone having a get-together that night, we cleaned up, changed clothes and went out to have dinner and a few laughs at the party.
We were at the party after dinner and the Hanger was already there, drunk as usual and running his mouth about everything he knew nothing about. He was weaving around, sloshing beer all over himself...you didn’t dare stand close to him if you wanted to stay dry. Then, in his rambling style of slurred speech he said something that Curt took issue with. I saw Curt bow up his neck and turn red and in a flash put his fist through the guy’s face. He hit him so hard his hand swelled up and started to bleed. Must have hit the Hanger’s teeth, maybe even broken his nose. But the Hanger was so plastered, when he staggered back he probably didn’t even know he had been hit, much less who did it. He fell on his ass and Bones grabbed Curt and hustled him away before anyone else could see what happened.
I never saw the Hanger again, but I’ll bet his jaw hurt really badly the next day when he woke up, undoubtedly with no memory of what had happened. He might have lost a few teeth too. Curt worked on the car all day Sunday with his hand wrapped in a handkerchief and never complained, but he had to have been in pain. Bones never said a word about it at the race (which we won by the way), but knowing Bones and his fantastic story-telling ability I imagine it was added later to the many colorful tales of his racing days.
My advice to you racers? Don’t let the Hanger worm his way into your pit!
Nostalgia Drag World - by Ben Griffin