Racer's View - New England Hot Rod Reunion
by Rick Krafft
The NHRA Hot Rod Reunion at New England Dragway, was perhaps the most complete-entertaining event I’ve seen for any inaugural show. Steve Gibbs and crew welcomed in hundreds of race cars of every type and size, hot rods, slammed and hammered machines and just about everything you could imagine (as well as some you never could imagine) were all in attendance here in the great Northeast. Weather played a role in the event this time though, basically waiting for Sunday to pack the stands for a great day of show cars and racing. I was the lucky one in the pits however, getting to drive the thundering “Brand X” nitro fueled ‘71 Mustang owned by “Texas Jungle” team owner Henry Gutierrez”.
Our first run had our team anxious to see what we brought to the event. Around noon the funny cars were called up. I got suited up then strapped in the car, and reminded myself what crew chief Paul Smith had told me… to “pull the reins back at 1000 ft.” because we were testing new clutch discs. (Well, that’s not quite how Paul said it, but I got the picture, lol ). After a basic burnout I staged the car then clicked off a 5.86@ only 196 mph suggesting to Henry and crew we have a real hot rod here! I was lucky again, kuzz my way-tough competition was Mike Smith driving Billy D’s immaculate “Hard Guys” Mustang, who had all the beans to whoop my tail, but he struck the tires just past the tree and had to shut her down.
My new pal and teammate Phil Burkhart Jr. was next in line to run in the beautiful “Jungle Jim” Vega (also owned by Mr. Gutierrez) with none-other than “Jungle Pam” herself backing up his burnout! Then Phil proceeded to crank out a sweet 5.97@ 228 mph with the fans going wild in the bleachers! Back in the pits neither car had any mechanical blings so routine maintenance was the order. Clouds were then seen moving in again too, so just-in-case, we got both cars done in double-time for next round.
Run # 2, both Phil and I are slated to race each other, which we know the fans will really like too. We fired about the same time, but then I heard Phil’s car whine up and shut down. “Dangit all!” - I’m thinkin to myself. What is that all about?? It ends up he had an oil pressure problem and clicked things off leaving me to make a single run. It really surprised us both because Henry’s cars don’t usually have these problems, but this time Phil will have to wait.
On my run though, we thought the track was looking purty good. I did another basic burnout, backed up then slammed the pedal on yellow. She moved around a bit more than my first shot and I felt the tires struggling some, but the Brand X Mustang still marched to a low e.t. 5.73@ 241mph. I click-off a touch before the last stripe, but either way it ended up being the fastest the Brand X Mustang had been to that point. Needless to say everybody was in high-gear up the return road!
(L) Rick driving Henry Gutierrez' Brand X funny car - (R) Here's Rick wrenching on the car.
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