Friday August 28
We caught the 10:00 am ferry out of Port Jefferson Long Island to Bridgeport Connecticut for what I hoped would be an uneventful ride to Epping, New Hampshire, for the third annual New England Hot Rod Reunion.
We were doing okay as we left the ferry at Bridgeport and were tooling along nicely into Massachusetts when we heard a noise coming from under our car. Hmm, maybe we picked up a plastic bag? A few seconds later our Honda Accord started to sound like a road grader. Fortunately, we were at an exit and a gas station was on our right so we pulled in, literally grinding to a halt. They put it up on the lift and we saw that the lower half of the heat shield to the catalytic converter was hanging down. The attendant pulled it off and we were once again on our way. We arrived at the track at 3:00 pm, got out and went to get the credentials and ticket for my wife. I noticed there were no people in the stands. As Johnny Rivers once said, “Here we a go - go again”. (Google him)
No crowd is a bad omen, especially when the weather is supposed to cooperate for the entire weekend. Okay, it’s Friday and a lot of people are at work so hopefully it will be better tomorrow. Nothing was happening on the track due to a top end accident, so I decided to look around the pits to see who was there. Last year there were 5 N/TF and 5 N/FCs. So far I saw 3N/TF (Tony Bartone, Bill Dunlap, and Dick Gaylord) and 3 N/FCs (the Hard Guys Mustang, Crazy Jake Crimmons Mustang, and Bill Dee’s Nor’easter Corvette). There were 2 more N/FCs there, the Frantic Ford as well as its companion Super Camaro, but these two were booked in for match racing and not part of the N/FC competition. I saw the same two fuel altereds as last year, the Rat Trap and Pure Hell. This was possibly the last race for Pure Hell as Rich Guasco is ending the program. I’m glad I got to see it again. Al and Ellen Hanna had two of their jet dragsters there as well, the Queen of Diamonds and the Beast From the East. They closed the show all three days.
F/C pilots George Johnson & Al Hanna talk about the good old days
Jill Canuso-Fazekas in the Hanna Motorsports Queen of Diamonds II Jet Dragster closed the show all three days
Beast From The East jet dragster helps close the show
I think I need to address something here. I mentioned Nostalgia Funny Cars in competition when in reality there was no competition. Why, you ask? Well, quite simply there is no N/FC class. None listed. It’s exhibition only. So, if there’s no competition per se, then how does one win? The ‘winner’ is decided by low ET of the event in that category. Uh, NHRA! New England Dragway, in its vast history, is well known for its great funny car shows. New England is funny car country with a lot of nitro and alky cars in the region. You need to go after them and get them to come here. It will be a great improvement
Last year there was an A/FX altered wheelbase group consisting of 8 cars that put on quite a show. This year there’s 2. Last year there was a supercharged gasser group, not this year though. That’s not to say that gassers were not represented, as the East Coast Gassers as well as NETO cars were out in full force.
Beautiful Willys gasser
Actually the pits were full of trailers as far as the eye could see. My impression again is how will this event survive with such low car counts in the premier classes? There is a 7.0 index that has two alky N/FCs, one front engine dragster and a few rear engine dragsters as well as a TA/FC 02 Camaro. Sorry folks, but rear engine dragsters with big show motors as well as the occasional TA/FC are out of place here. The New England Pro Comp Association was here as well with two nostalgia alky F/Cs and again some rear engine dragsters. As I said before, those cars (not the funnies) are out of place here. Just a thought, but why not combine the two and eliminate the rear engine dragsters and TA/FCs? No death threats please, it’s a nostalgia event.
Top Sportsman was contested this year. So here’s a class with nitrous oxide late model Pro Mods, one kind of a nostalgic looking Willys and an ex Pro Stock Truck. . . really?
Saturday August 29
“Well, well, well,” as Muddy Waters would say after a rousing, “I’m a Man”. Saturday dawns, bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. I see long lines of spectators waiting to get in. That’s a good sign for a change. There are trailers still coming in overflowing the pits. Two, count ‘em, two more N/FCs arrive (the Poverty Stricken Monza and Steve Nichol’s Camaro), plus another N/TF arrives, the Nitro Hemi driven by Dusty Green. Not that great but they all ran well without incidents. The fuel altered(s) put on a good show as the Rat Trap sashayed down the track while Pure Hell struggled with the tune up.
Rat Trap AA/FA en route to a smoky burnout - Pure Hell had troubles all weekend
The stands were pretty full all day, as were the pits, with lots of cars and personalities to see. Some cars of note, Bruce Larson’s TMI Corvette, Whipple and Mr. Ed Satellite, Country Girl Duster, Jim and Allison Lee’s restored Great Expectations AA/FD, Bobby Langly’s Scorpion and the Grizzle Hopper fueler all the way from Texas. More of note, Tommy Ivo’s last front motored car, the Freedom Machine AA/FD, Dailey and Johnson AA/FD, Spirit AA/FD, Comanche AA/FD and a host of others.
Personalities I spotted while perusing the pits included Al Segrini, Tom ‘the Mongoose’ McEwen, George Johnson and Jim Wemmit, Tom Prock, Bill Dunlap (all the way from California), Al Hanna, Jim and Allison Lee, Bobby Hilton, Jungle Pam, Bruce Larson and others I’m sure I left out.
Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen was on hand to sign autographs - Jungle Pam Hardy always with a smile
There was the 2015 Honorees Event also at 2:00 pm in the big white tent. This year’s class included Walt Markert, Jr, Nick Marshall and Dave Vermilya, Jack Merkel, Charlie Seabrook, and Walt Weney. The Grand Marshall of the event, Al Segrini, and a special award was given to Jack Doyle. Photographer Keith Hudak made a special presentation photo collage of Al Segrini’s cars to Al during the inductions. It was great to see fellow Queens, New York, resident, Jack Merkel, get honored for his legendary gassers, engine building and racing career.
Photog Keith Hudak presents his photo collage to Al Segrini - Greg Sharp and Jack Merkel
Honoree Jack Merkel’s 39 Willys B/GS
There were two qualifying sessions for N/TF and N/FC exhibition runs. Needless to say, all of the N/TF cars qualified. All classes ran flawlessly as well as the jets as they closed out Saturday’s racing. Then at 7:30 pm came the Cacklefest. Static started cars were on the pit side and push start cars were on the spectator side. There were just under 20 cars but when they were all fired up it sounded like a lot more. I was running around like a lunatic shooting the flaming monsters in front of me. I got some good shots but hope to get better ones next year. Nitro was in the air and in my eyes and I forgot my ear plugs, but real men don’t need earplugs, right? The cacklefest was a rousing success.
Sunday August 30
Sunday dawned bright and as sunny as the previous two days but was somewhat anti-climactic because, although the racing was great, the previous night’s cacklefest overshadowed everything else for me. There was supposed to be an encore cacklefest in the afternoon but that was cancelled. Tony Bartone took the win in N/TF for the third year in a row with a 5.60 pass over a red lighting Dusty Green in the Nitro Hemi. The Hard Guys Mustang took the Exhibition F/C win by virtue of their low ET during the event.
T-Bone makes it 3 in a row in N/TF
The Hard Guys N/FC Mustang - Nitro Hemi with Dusty Green driving red lit in the final in N/TF
Overall, the event went smoothly, had a great crowd, a lot of race cars on hand and no negative comments that I heard. I did hear that the NHRA Museum staff may be contemplating having it again next year but as a two day event, sounds good to me.
In closing, I would like to thank the staff of New England Dragway and the NHRA Museum crew for their help making us comfortable and helping us with any questions that came up. Thanks to Steve Gibbs for running a flawless show and Chris Lawyer in the media room for all your help.