From The Editor's Desk
by Connell R. Miller
“Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me…”
The above song, sung by Buck Owens and Roy Clark each week during a segment of “Hee Haw,” their long-running TV show, was constantly and irreverently weaving its way through my mind over a few recent days of last month. Well, Lucy, lemme ‘splain…..
The weekend of August 15 through the 17th was a big one at several of my favorite drag strips around the country. My old pal, former digger shoe and present NDW contributor, Paul “the Big Kahuna” Caster, was coming up from Texas for wherever the road trip took us. The choices were juicy: Todd Martin and Keith Haney were unleashing a program of Pro-Mod mayhem at their Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park. The cradle of the H.A.M.B.-nation was relocating from its Austin, Texas base to Asbury, Missouri to take over Carl Blanton's Mo-Kan Dragway and give spectators and racers alike a sense of what side-by-side racing was really like back in the 1950s and 1960s. The third choice we faced was traveling 430 miles up to Eddyville Raceway Park in Iowa for the 9th Annual “World Fuel Altered Nationals” (usually referred to merely as the WFAN).
The WFAN is a racer’s race as well as a real treat for the fans packing the grandstands for the weekend. Eighteen great AA/Fuel Altereds had pre-entered, including the Des Moines-based “Nitro Madness” belonging to Scott and Peggy Gaulter. Scott, the event’s promoter, also is publisher of Nitro Madness Magazine, a twice-yearly print publication. As a regular contributor of a couple articles each issue for the last several years, it’s always nice a couple of times a year for me to visit the couple, their crew, and see one of the baddest cars in the class in action. Paul had gotten to know Scott and Peggy over the years as well and, since he had never been to the race, without hesitation it was Eddyville, here we come…..
After the hassle of a blown tire while trying to get on the road, Paul finally arrived Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, the two of us hit I-49, our section of the future four-laner that will ultimately run from N’awlins up to the land of Mounties and moose, and cruised north.
We arrived at the track late in the p.m., but were able to spend some time with owner Gerald Kramer, finding out about the recent improvements to the newly-rebadged IHRA facility and his future plans. By the time we hit the motel a few miles away in nearby Oskaloosa, however, I was feeling pretty bad - sick bad.
As a person who needs “white noise” to sleep (a fan at home), we had, unfortunately, stumbled upon the world’s quietist motel air conditioner. Deathly silent in the room and feeling terrible equaled not much sleep for me. Friday I was feeling worse, couldn’t eat a bite until late afternoon and didn’t make it out to the track at all. The upside was that not a wheel had turned at Eddyville due to precipitation.
After another rocky night and a half-eaten breakfast Saturday morning, I was beginning to feel like rejoining the human race and was looking forward to smelling some nitro. Pulling up to the Nitro Madness pit, it was good to see Scott and Peggy, who, as always, instantly made me feel welcome and quickly introduced me to their new crew members and Roger “Radar” Lechtenberg, the lucky guy behind the altered’s butterfly wheel.
Wetness continued throughout the day as did the track personnel’s efforts to get rid of it. Scott’s glass-is-half-full attitude was apropos to us all, however: “If you can’t race, it’s just as much fun sitting and visiting with friends and fellow racers…” Sandwiched between his trailer and that of Frank and Debra Ousley’s Crop Duster and protected from the rain by the huge awning overhead, we did just that. Bench racing at its best!
One of my few bright spots of the weekend came when Nostalgia Drag World contributor Paige Teel, along with parents, Gregg and Lori, came to our pit where Paul, Martin Libhart, our associate publisher and photo editor and I were able to finally meet our newest (and youngest) member of the team. Paige has had two recent wonderful interviews in NDW: long-time heavy-hitters “TV” Tommy Ivo and “Animal” Jim Feurer. The family brought a beautiful, framed reproduction of our March cover with Paige’s Ivo article listed on the cover. We were certainly honored when she pulled out a sharpie and asked us to sign it. Mike Sopko Jr. also had an article in the issue and I believe later he stopped by her pit to sign it as well.
For several years Paige has also been a fierce competitor in the Jr. Dragster ranks and was originally destined to compete in St. Louis that weekend, where she is leading in the points. Rain there caused a switch to Eddyville and our ability to meet up with this young journalist and drag racer. Keep an eye out for her byline in coming issues of NDW…you’ll enjoy her writings!
Finally, that evening racing commenced with the bracket cars and Jr. Dragsters, followed by the first qualifying round of the fuel altereds. The Nitro Madness ran low ET with a 4.12, just ahead of the Crop Duster’s 4.14. It was after 9:00 p.m. when Q2 began running and, with Radar on what would’ve been a pass somewhere in the 3.80–3.90 range, the Nitro Madness suddenly pulled up a big chunk or two of asphalt, causing enough of a pedal job to pass low qualifying honors over to the Ousley’s nice 3.95. After a considerable amount of futile work to repair the track, racing was called to a halt for the night.
By then, Paul and I decided to forgo Sunday’s finals and head back towards our respective homes. We pulled out about 10:30 p.m. onto a very foggy highway, determined to eat up a few miles before stopping for the night and giving us a shorter journey the following day. About 25 miles down the road, however, suddenly a HUGE doe dashed across the road in front of us and, with Paul’s old dragster-driving reflexes coming into play, his quick braking kept the big Expedition from becoming one with the four-legged critter.
We stopped at some little motel in the middle of nowhere’sville, about 125 miles from Eddyville. It was cheaper and much nicer than the digs of the previous two nights and…lo and behold…had a nice a/c unit with just the right “noise” to it to help with a good night’s rest!
Just when it looked like our “weekend of woes” was about to be pushed to the past, a vibration caused Paul to think that one of his new front tires was about to lose a belt. We detoured to a Walmart in Carthage, where it turns out the right rear was actually the culprit. The tire gods were smiling on him, however, as they had a special going: sixty bucks each – no warranty – on a pair of big Goodyears his size. Done deal!
A little over an hour later and about 80 miles and I was back home. A vision of loveliness, my wife Judy appeared at the door and was there to nurse me back to health, with a little help in the nuzzling department from our pooch, Louie. My couch, my shower, my bed! It did take a couple more days to get back to normal, however. In all my racing years, I never canceled a race or failed to even go to the track, it was just something where we’d take an aspirin and shake it off. But I guess that, today, with many more years under my belt, at least now it has to be a relief when getting back to normalcy without a trip to the doc or dosages of medication.
In closing, if you haven’t been to Eddyville Raceway Park, mark it on your calendar, hopefully for next year’s World Fuel Altered Nationals. It’s a very nice, very well run facility and one of the great fuel altered races on the planet!
Coda: On Sunday, by the time the clutch disc smoke and nitro fumes cleared the air, Radar and the Nitro Madness had taken the top prize, besting Carthage, Missouri’s Howard Knowles’ Cheaper Than Therapy in the final with a 3.88 at 187.66 m.p.h. Unfortunately for our intrepid reporter/racer, Paige’s weekend ended early with a first-round loss. We know she’ll bounce back and we’ll see her name with that big “W” beside it again real soon!
A week later at Cordova’s “Night of Fire,” Scott, Rader and the crew match raced and, with a less-than-killer tune-up, had a best quarter-mile clocking of 6.21 at 227 m.p.h. After returning to its nest in Des Moines, the engine was checked and, after 54 runs on both 1/8th and ¼-mile tracks, the pistons and rings were still like new – no hurt! Scott credits a lot of this to the Chi-Town Hustler’s Troy Martin with sharing his engine combination and tuning tips with the Nitro Madness team.
For our readers with a passion for nitro fuel altered racing in more southwesterly climes, Scott, Radar and Nitro Madness will be at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park’s Nitro Nationals on Sept. 19-20. On Saturday, Oct. 4, the team will race with the Outlaw Fuel Altered Association at Denton’s North Star Dragway. Nostalgia Drag World will have complete coverage of both events for our readers.
Connell R. Miller
Nostalgia Drag World - by Connell R. Miller, Editor-in-Chief; photo by Paul Caster
<<<PREVIOUS PAGE NEXT PAGE>>>