Time Machine Nationals
Words by Mike Sopko Jr.
It’s Labor Day weekend and you’re a drag racing addict, where are you heading? For most people, including myself it would typically be the US Nationals in Indy. In fact, for me, it is still the greatest race, the one that I still dream about competing in and winning. I have gone most every year except for a few years where the weeks prior to the US Nationals were spent at the World Fuel Altered Nationals and the World Series of Drag Racing. To go to Indy would have meant three weekends in a row and the possibility that my family might not be there when I finally did get home…Just kidding, they would still be there, I think. But to be on the safe side I make sure to take our son with me to each race, which also gets me twice as many pictures.
So as Labor Day weekend was approaching, I had kind of taken it for granted that we would be going to the Big Go again this year. Then I caught wind of the Time Machine Nationals, up at Union Grove, Wisconsin. I had known about this event, but never closely followed it because I was usually at Indy or still working on pictures from Eddyville and Cordova. As the weekend grew nearer, I could see a little bit of the buzz that was being generated and it started turning the camshaft in my head.
Now with this being such a strange year and events being cancelled and tracks being closed, Indy had been able to host several national events. We were able to attend two of them and had even been able to see some of our favorite classes including Pro Mod, the Top Alcohol classes, and of course the Big Show fuel cars. I know the US Nationals are still different and this time it was going to be run in conjunction with the Jeg’s All Stars, but you know what the one thing we hadn’t seen this year was?…Nostalgia drag racing.
So, as I said my internal camshaft was spinning about which event we should go to. Here is kind of how the thought process works when you are a drag racing addict, a nostalgia nut, and a photo journalist: Due to our location it takes nearly as long to get to the Grove as it does to get to Lucas Oil Raceway Park, so distance really doesn’t factor into the equation. We didn’t get to go to Bowling Green for the Hot Rod Reunion which was ultimately cancelled and is probably our favorite event of the year. What makes events like the Bowling Green, National Hot Rod Reunion so great is the sheer number of “cool cars” it has. When I say “cool cars” I don’t just mean they are cool because they are nostalgia cars. No, I mean the number of cool nostalgia cars in one place is unbelievable. As a photographer along the wall you almost never get a break. You have to force yourself away from the track to get some shade and something to drink so you don’t die of heat stroke. That is what we had been missing, not just shooting along the wall, but that feeling of you can’t afford to leave the track because you don’t want to miss what’s next.
As we were finalizing our decision, we began to look at the lineup for The Time Machine Nationals and made a mental checklist of what we wanted to see:
The Brew City Gassers-
Hadn’t seen any gassers this year and one look at their social media site shows that they have some very cool cars-Check
Nostalgia Super Stock Inc.-
Vintage drag racing super stocks with wheels up launches-Sure, Check
Pro E85 Racing-
If you are not from this area you might not be too familiar with this series. As the name implies, they do run on E85 Ethanol. They are a combination of Outlaw Super Stock running on a Super Comp 8.90 index. So, think about your favorite muscle cars putting it on the bumper and running in the high 8’s. Yes, please-Check
America’s Legends of the 1320-
A run what you brung group of altereds, coupes, front engine diggers, with carbs, stacks, or blowers. If you can think of it they’ve got it and run it.-Check
Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association-
Vintage Pro Stockers with smokey burnouts, hood scoops, and wheelies-Check
Chicago Wise Guys-
Here is another group you may not be familiar with. This a local Pro Mod style group that has a mix of old and new, nitrous and blowers, and even a rotary powered entry. They are a lot of fun and put on a great show!-Check
Alky Nostalgia Funny Cars-
No description needed, definitely-Check
Extreme Top Fuel (8 car field of Nitro Slingshots)-
Sold-We’ll be there!
The event flier said the show begins at 5:00. We arrived around 1:00 we do a quick walk through pits and notice we already have some cool cars heading to the lanes. I put my son, Michael in a section of the stands down track and then Dad and I make our way to the wall. It was non-stop action gassers, super stocks, slingshots, altered, pro stocks, pro mods. It was finally about time to start the show, when we had to take a 15-minute lunch break since we hadn’t eaten anything in about 12 hours. Then we made our way back through the lanes and along the wall for the rest of the evening.
As dusk turned to night, the nitro came out with the Extreme Top Fuel group. The group brough eight front engine fuelers. Jim Young, the leader of the group, made the best pass with a flame-throwing 5.95 at 229 mph.
As far as the nostalgia alcohol funnies, Steve Timoszyk and Dana Kleinhoffer made the best side by side pass of the evening with Timoszyk in his “Detroit Tiger” taking the win with a 6.63 at 155 mph to Kleinhoffer’s 6.88 at 179 mph in the “Tremor” Firebird.
This was our first trip to the Time Machine Nationals, but it will probably go down as my favorite event of this strange and unusual year. As I shared, I measure events by how hard it is to leave the track because of the unreal action occurring. The Time Machine Nationals lived up to that and boasted a great group of cars. Anyone of the groups could be the headliner at a track and Great Lakes Dragway brought them all together for one event. If you are in the area next year, and don’t plan to head to Indy, make the trek to Great Lakes for the Time Machine Nationals. You won’t be disappointed.