Incredible Summer and Beyond
By John Worm
We had a spectacular year running the USA-1 tribute funny car at nine events, and up until we went to the Epping, NH HOTROD reunion, really had zero issues. That all changed at the New England track... First was the weather. It rained when we arrived at the track and dropped the trailer Wednesday night, it rained Thursday and it rained Friday. That was the least of the problems though.
Saturday came and we got the car ready for our first round match race against our year long rivals, the Frantic Ford bunch. We fired the car and Bruce did his signature half track burnout and proceeded to back up at the direction of my daughter Audrey. As Rocky Pironne did a dry hop and staged, we were held by the starter while the track guys wiped up a minor fuel leak from our breather. Rocky's crew was not aware of it and motioned him to stage, and as we staged late we were timed out due to the tree timer starting. Green came and the Frantic Ford left with Bruce staring at a red light. Bruce left anyway unaware of being timed out, and then it happened. The car hooked... I mean really hooked with the front wheels climbing to about four feet high. As the car unloaded and came crashing to the ground, it bounced and was caught on camera with all four wheels off the ground. Not a small bounce mind you, but rear wheels were off about a foot with the front wheels over two feet high! Talk about a photo op?
After taking the car back to the pits, I realized that I had made the mistake of not setting the wheelie bar height correctly. My fault. We licked our wounds as this was the first win against us. We set the wheelie bar to the correct height and readied the car for pass number two. After all, what else could go wrong. Plenty... We lined up for run 2 and as our car left the line, it immediately turned to the right. Our thought was there was residue on the track from the jet cars that ran right before us.
We ended up hitting the wall lightly and scraping the quarter panel and right wheel. Our troubles were small in comparison to Rockys. He blew the motor up which in return blew the body off the car. We went back to the pits again and Bruce and I looked over the car. I asked Bruce what he wanted to do, and he answered with the normal answer - let's run again. We put on another pair of rear wheels and tires, and decided to run a solo tribute pass with Bruce repeating history. See, in the 60s, after Bruce won the funny car show at Epping, he drove back the return road with the chute out. We decided to have him make a solo pass and turn around and come back down the track to the starting line. We had two crew guys go to the top end to help with the chute as Bruce turned around and proceeded with the run. Bruce left hard and lifted around 400 ft and pulled the chute. After turning around, he came back down to the starting line and coasted to a stop., unbuckled, and exited out the top of the car. The crowd erupted as Bob Fry came to interview the world champion in yet another very special moment. As the show came to an end, we realized that even with the problems on the first two runs, we still all came out winners for the weekend.
The weeks following the Epping event were a blur as we traveled to South Carolina and Florida in back to back match races. We ended the year at the place it all began... at the Bruce Larson Dragfest where one year earlier we had a bare frame for Bruce to sit in and dream about racing again. This time the finished funny car was there, and the dreams had become reality.
After building the Bruce Larson USA-1 Tribute Funny Car for the 2013 season, we wondered what we should do next. Our game plan came from the thousands of fans that we saw at the shows during the year while running the USA-1 car. It became very clear that what we were doing was exactly what the people in the stands wanted to see - "True Nostalgia" nitro funny cars that LOOK and RUN like real cars did back in the day. Cars that look like Camaros and Mustangs, not morphed Pro Mod looking bodies with extended fronts, big wings, and spill plates. Cars that did half track burnouts, dry hops, wheel high launches, and side by side runs like our match racing heros did years ago. Cars with names and drivers larger than life. Teams that had back up girls to direct the driver back to the line.
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