It is funny how life pans out. I thought I was all done driving race cars, but not so. There is some irony -- and I would call it Karma -- as to why I will be back in a driver seat, at least for one event.
The 88 Thunderbird I will drive at Jeffers July 20th. Owned by owner and president of AHRA, Dallas Brown.
A year ago Dallas Brown who now owns AHRA and is doing a great job with the AHRA resurrection asked me to drive his wheels up ‘88 Clevor powered Thunderbird. I had to refuse as I was ill with some bullshit health problems. Yesterday, Dallas asked me again. Would I drive his car at the AHRA GT Class Showcase at Jeffers Dragway near Sikeston, Mo. When I looked at the date --- July 20th. I knew then it was meant to be. July 20th. 1969 is when I took my Big Animal ‘57 Mercury to Oswego, Dragway for the first time and began a career in drag racing by winning in 1D Hot Rod class while Armstrong stepped on the moon.
Event I will be racing Dallas Brown's Thunderbird.
What better way to celebrate our 50 year racing anniversary. To drive a Ford Thunderbird in the new AHRA. I will do it if they have to strap me in like El Cid! (See the movie - 1961 Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren.)
The AHRA was an important part of my drag racing career. I know to some, it was perhaps not as prestigious as NHRA, but don't kid yourself, I ran many NHRA heavy hitters at AHRA National events. Like the late Lee Sheppard, many times. Dyno Don, Warren Johnson, Jerry Haas, plus many of the AHRA regulars, like Chuck Aronson, Tom Chelbanna, Gary Duckworth, Leroy Roeder, Bill Kuhlmann, the late Ted Borowski, Shelby Jester, The late Rich Thomas, the late Dave Shafer, and many morewas no easy deal.
(L) Me and Rich Thomas at AHRA Winter Nats. 1978
(R) Gateway AHRA Nationals Number 1 qualifier.
(L) Number 1 Qualifier and Won AHRA PS Gateway Nats. 1982. Put us in National AHRA points lead.
(R) AHRA Grand American Plaque for 1982 PS Gateway Win
Many ask why I did not pursue NHRA and did AHRA, UDRA and some IHRA, match races etc. Well --- early in my Pro Stock efforts I tried racing NHRA several times and found that sanction hard for me to deal with. They jacked me around with stupid mandates every time I tried to run their events. And I know I am hard to control, especially over what I considered minor BS.
In fact, when I was on the top of the world racing the new Pro Modifieds in the early 90s, a prospective major sponsor remarked, when I was into the final interview with the big man, "Jim you have a lot going for you. You are super popular. The promoters, fans, media, even your peers love you. And you get lot of ink. But ---- I understand you are hard to control?"
(L) Me at AHRA Gateway N.ats 1981 with new sponsor - NOS.
(R) 1984 BB Ford 672.
Silly me answered, "Well thank you, and thanks to whoever you got that info from."
I thought the man was complimenting me. LOL! Needless to say that deal fell through.
Back to my NHRA problems. In ‘81 the NHRA was still factoring pounds per cubic inch to regulate minimum weights for PS. Although I was running AHRA with unlimited CI rules and nitrous allowed for small blocks with unlimited CI. at a set weight, I had built this special 339 Cleveland for my desire to run the NHRA Indy Nationals that year. It is too long of a long story to go into it all now. Just thinking about it just caused me to pop a couple Tums!
Here is the condensed version. The NHRA abused me, Animal Jim, an AHRA star player, so bad over that deal, I told them to shove the NHRA and would never run one of their events again. That I will race where I was welcome. And I never did race NHRA or try to again. And I still managed to make a name in drag racing for myself without NHRA.
I had plenty of dates during my racing years. Starting with the National Association of Motorsports, AHRA, UDRA, PRO, IHRA, Mid America Pro Stock Circuit, Match races, countless Fun Ford events booked me, and later by 1989 our legendary USSC circuit, that helped inspire IHRA to have a class called Pro Modified. Also included are a few Outlaw track Drag Races.
AJ in NHRA 66 tech clothes thumbs up.
Ironic as life is, today and for 15 years I have been a NHRA/SFI certified tech official for the NHRA sanctioned Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. Things change, and my problems I had with NHRA officials back in the day were long ago and gone with those who delegated them.
As I think back, often I wonder if I had bit the NHRA bullet in ‘81, and stuck with them how things may have been. But hey! I made the choice and stood by my word. And I am still not easy to control.
I also have to consider; if I would have pursued NHRA, I probably would not have been a major player with evolution of Pro Modified and be referred to as one of its fathers. (Hey! Hot Rod Magazine in ‘91 named me as one of the fathers, not me. I consider there is only one father and that is my good friend Bill Kuhlmann. He kicked that door open in March of ‘87 at Darlington , recording two 200mph runs in a door slammer. It was Bill that inspired me to be part of that outlaw power adder group for 3 years, ‘87,’88 and ’89, that became the first Pro Mods in 1990. They are still the most exciting drag cars existing.
I am looking forward to driving Dallas Brown's Thunderbird and physically be part of the AHRA again. I wish I was 20 year younger so I could do more to be part of building the AHRA to be better than ever. But since I am old and fading into history. You younger racers come in for the win and support Dallas. Honor my memory and the new AHRA.
1983 AHRA All Star Award Helmet - First ever given.
Many times since the AHRA demise in 1984, someone had rang the AHRA bell talking resurrecting it. But just like the frequent Gary Indiana US 30 dragstrip rumors and desires of resurrection it never blossomed.
This time however, The AHRA Resurrection perused by Dallas Brown is for real! Dallas definitely is finally the REAL DEAL!
Animal Jim Feurer
PS - Thanks for reading and be careful out there.
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - Words and photos courtesy of Animal Jim Feurer