The Summer of ‘72
by Ben Griffin
Three of our 4-car A/FC group went up North one summer to race with the UDRA Circuit. Me with my '72 Mustang Woody Gilmore car, Terry Pringle with Gene Snow's Rambunctious Dodge, and Sam Harris with Kelly Chadwick's Vega. A guy with an AA/FA generously loaned us his shop for a month for our four races. Wish I could remember his name but my ADHD prevents me from giving this super nice guy the credit he deserves. He was a lifesaver for us Texans who were used to tearing our cars down between races in motel parking lots.
Our first race was at Broadway Bob's Great Lakes Dragway in Wisconsin and Fred Mandoline loaned us his shop in Chicago (thanks Fred!). More on that race down the road, but see the SPEED Channel’s 8-minute video of it at YouTube.com: 72_udra_spring_nationals.wmv. Click Here to view video
The Pittsburg strip was down in an old abandoned coal strip mine. The starting line was slightly downhill and halfway down it went uphill, so I guess it equaled out as far as ET's were concerned. The scary part was the drop-off on both sides of the track, especially in the shutoff area. There might have been a guardrail but I don't remember one. It was a track where I had to hold the brake hard after staging to keep from red-lighting. Most of their spectators were UDRA fans and had never heard of us Texas hicks from that big tumbleweed patch down in Dallas, except for a few that had read about us in National Dragster or Drag News. They figured we would be creampuff cannon fodder for their hotdog local UDRA boys… SURPRISE!!
Jimmy Johnson, Gene Whetstone and I were preparing the car for qualifying and a few spectators came by, looked us over and moved on. We went up and qualified #1 and I think we set both ends of the track record on our first pass. Got back to the pits and a small crowd formed around us wanting autographed pictures. We had quite a few that my sponsor Amalie Oil had given us and I gladly signed them and then went back to set the tune-up for the first round.
We won that round, went back to the pits and a larger crowd was waiting for us. I signed more pics and went back to work. Won the second round and came back to a HUGE crowd waiting for autographs. I told Jimmy and Gene to prep the car without me and I signed my giveaway photos the whole time. Never got any time to help work on the car but Jimmy knew what to do and we pulled to the burnout box for the final round. I did a really long, Jungle Jim-style smoky burnout to give the crowd their money's worth, staged, then left with a good holeshot and won the event. After getting back to the trailer I gave away another bunch of autographed photos, picked up our prize money and we headed back to our base on the Susquehanna River, where we could rest up and then get ready for the next race at Atco, New Jersey.
More racing from our summer of ’72 tour to come…..
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Nostalgia Drag World - by Ben Griffin; photo courtesy of Ben Griffin
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