A FUN, SUCCESSFUL RACING CAREER
by Ben Griffin
I hope this story doesn't sound like bragging. My intent is to show today’s up-and-coming drag racers what is possible in this sport and how much absolute joy it can bring you while you are doing it (and also how the great memories will stay with you long into your retirement years!). As most of you NDW readers and Facebook members know, I saved a lot of articles and photos from my racing days that I’ve been sharing with you. I have a lot more to post, so I hope you don't get tired of reading them and seeing the race cars way back in the '50s through the '70s when they were really gorgeous! The funny cars all looked like Fords, Chevys, Dodges and Plymouths were supposed to look. All were American cars with owners, drivers and teams names on them instead of twenty different sponsors like today's cars. The dragsters also had beautiful paint jobs and clever names like the Frantic Four, Hemi Hunter, Swamp Rat, Snake, Mongoose, Blue Max, Jungle Jim, etc.
Some of the friendships formed in your racing days will last for your lifetime and some will surprise you, because they will be former opponents that you had bitter battles with on the drag strip. The passage of time, however, will smooth out the wrinkles in those relationships. You'll meet with those guys and gals and laugh together about those good old days. I am lucky enough to be a member of just such a group that meets for lunch in Dallas at a local cafeteria. This is usually once a week, and whether we have a dozen show up or as few as three or four, we all have a great time bench racing for a couple of hours. Our annual Christmas party has become a huge event, with ex-racers coming in from as far away as California and includes cackle cars in the parking lot!
When I was racing I relied mainly on two talents: mechanical skill and driving consistency. I was a mechanic before I was a driver and I think that was vital to my becoming a good driver. “Bones” Carroll taught me how to build a winning Chrysler fuel motor. He was the most meticulous person I have ever seen, with no detail too small to warrant his attention. I have seen him sit on a stool and hand-file the end gap in a set of piston rings for hours, fitting each three-ring set to a particular cylinder before assembly.
God gave me my second talent: a very consistent body clock that synchronized beautifully with the christmas tree that all drag strips used in the 1960s and ’70s and very quick reactions that enabled me to earn the reputation as a "hole-shot artist"...one who never red-lighted but almost always left first. Along with that was the ability to shift a 2-speed or 3-speed transmission by feel, body timing and the sound of the engine without the need for a tachometer or any red light shift warning. All I ever had was an oil pressure gauge and I rarely looked at that after the engine fired and the needle jumped to 50-lbs.
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