Drag Racing Is Back!

It seems every winter I end up talking about the lack of racing and how I can’t wait for the new season to start.  This time, I stopped myself from another silly article about how boring it is without motorsports – unless of course this counts.

Joe Namath

Drag racing could sure use someone cool like Joe Namath

Being a football fan doesn’t help what with the Super Bowl and thus the season over for another seven months.  Hey, didn’t Joe Willy look cool – brings back great memories.

Regardless, the NHRA drag racing season is upon us and all I can say is: Thank God!

A shot of ground-pounding nitro-burning behemoths burning rubber is just what the doctor ordered.  The Winternationals from Pomona, California, start this Thursday and whether we agree with what the NHRA does and doesn’t do to screw up drag racing, it’s still nice to sit back and enjoy one of life’s pleasures.

Not having to be concerned about the news delving into another silly story such as toilet fishing at the Olympics – it appears Russians are troubled about just this problem (go here for the lunacy) – helps with the insanity.

Being inundated with what is the best Super Bowl commercial – by the way, they’re all lame, yes even the puppy ones – does nothing for my psyche unless I can entertain you while you watch my grey matter explode.  These brain farts called commercials are not going to make me buy Budweiser, Coke or a Maserati Ghibli, whatever the heck that is.  Advertising is truly dead.

Racing brings a bit of normalcy back to those of us who are motorsports folks.  Miley Cyrus and Puppy Bowls don’t do it for me.  Other than our new business, which excites the you-know-what out of me, drag racing does do it for me and now it’s time to light em’ up!

Winternationals

Daryle W. Hier

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64 Funny Cars!

Although my father (Ron Hier) was one of the early drag racers during the ’50s and into the first part of the ’60s, that was really before my time.  I grew up as a teenager in the ’70s during the the hey-day of Funny Cars and again, although dad was a Junior and Top Fueler, my love was the Funny Cars.

OCIR

Orange County International Raceway was famous for its manufacturer championship with ’64 Funny Cars’.

While I did see drag races at places like Lions and Bakersfield when I was quite small, my memories are seeing Funny Car after Funny Car run at places like Irwindale, Ontario and of course Orange County (OCIR).  The scenes are still vivid at OCIR when it seemed every piece of asphalt was filled with floppers.  The Hawaiian, Chi-Town Hustler, Jungle Jim and of course the Snake and Mongoose.  There are so many more but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my personal all-time favorite, Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max.  It was a magical time and listening to the radio advertisements of 64 Funny Cars and ‘Sunday, Sunday, Sunday’ still resonates in my mind today.

And that is what had me thinking, with the mass of Nostalgia Funny Cars around now or being built, a good promoter or somebody with some public relation moxie should be able to put a big dollar and fan exhibition together.  A majority of the cars are on the West Coast but because more and more new Nostalgia Funny Cars are popping up in the eastern half of the United States, maybe a neutral site that has the facilities to hold a lot of cars and fans, should be the base for this.

Sure, Bakersfield is one of the venerable drag strips of all times, but the facilities are limited so if you had a successful promotion and people came out to watch the event, there will be several thousands fighting  each other for an available seat.  Add to that the fact it’s in California and it makes it that much harder to make arrangements to travel there from the rest of the country.

Raymond Beadle's Blue Max

The Blue Max made many appearances during the hey-day of Funny Cars.

The purse should be high although what’s high in Nostalgia isn’t all that much.  However, to entice folks to come from all around including our friends to the north (Canada), there should be a healthy reward for whoever wins and even teams who went more than a round or two should be compensated for putting on such a huge show.  Sponsorship will obviously be needed to foot the bill for the purse but if enough promotion is done, the place should be packed no matter where it is.

An event like this may be newsworthy enough that even some of the major media organizations will at least briefly mention it.  So there you go Mr. Promoter.  Nostalgia drag racing continues to be very popular and Nostalgia Funny Cars are probably at record numbers right now.  Now’s the time.

64 Funny Cars … Be there!

Daryle W. Hier

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U.S. Route 66 and Burma Shave

Route 66

To some baby boomers and most of the younger set of Americans with their I-pads, I-phones, Palms, Droids and X-boxes – Route 66 and Burma Shave are File:US 66.svgforeign, like another language.  What are they and how do they relate to each other?  Well, in a sense, it might be a different language to them since it’s called history and nostalgia.  Nostalgia, because Route 66 was built in November, 1926 (FHWA.gov).  The “father” of the highway was a fellow by the name of Cyrus Steven Avery from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The road stretched 2,448 miles (Historic66.com) from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, (Santa Monica) and earned the title of “The Mother Road” from John Steinbeck’s book “The Grapes of Wrath” and is colloquially known as the “Main Street of America”.

Burma Shave

In 1925, Burma Shave was invented by a fellow named Clinton Odell.  Mr. Odell’s father was a lawyer and a tinkerer and owned a company called Burma Vita, whose product was a liniment with ingredients from the Malay Peninsula and Burma (Myanmar).  Clinton had built an insurance business but was told by his doctor, that he needed to do something less stressful.  Since sales were not very exciting with his father’s liniment business, he decided to add something to the product line that would stimulate sales.  With the help of a chemist friend, he used the liniment to develop a brushless shaving cream that he would call Burma Shave, but sales and marketing of the product became a dilemma.BurmaShaveboxandtube

Brilliant Advertising

With the advent of the new Route 66, what better place to advertize your wares than signs on the brand new highway that would become the “Most famous road in America” and  stretched across most of the U.S.  Odell’s two sons decided that working with farmers and land owners, they would put up sequential signs that would be seen by thousands of motorists traveling to and from Chicago and Los Angeles and cities in between.  Sales skyrocketed and Burma Shave became the second highest selling shaving cream in the U.S.

The Signs

With the thought of entertaining motorists and their families while at the same time advertising the product, signs such as this appeared in sequential order:

PITY ALL – THE MIGHTY CAESARS – THEY PULLED – THEIR WHISKERS – OUT WITH TWEEZERS … BURMA SHAVE.

Route66 Burma Shave - White Cap

This cap might be yours

Of course, these signs were seen on just about every highway in almost every state from the 1920s to the 1960s.  As traffic increased on the new roads, the brothers thought they should do their part for driver safety so signs such as this began to appear:

DON’T TAKE – A CURVE – AT 60 PER – WE HATE TO LOSE – A CUSTOMER … BURMA  SHAVE.

I hope the youth of today with their high speed, high-tech, state-of- the art, technologically advanced, information highway will take time to look back at one of the most important events in U.S. history: The marriage of U.S. Route 66 and Burma Shave.

See ya’ at the races.

Ronnie Hier

Additional source: The Verse By The Side Of The Road

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California Needs Drag Strips: The Answer? Central Coast

In a state where drag racing was born due in part to dry lakes racing and the regions fervent support and love of the automobile, there seemed to be a quarter-mile drag strip in every corner of California.  Starting with the innocuous Goleta, there may have been nearly 100 drag strip facilities dotted throughout the state from Fremont to Fontana and Saugus to Santa Ana (pictured).Santa-Ana-drags

Population up, drag racing down

However, with the onslaught of population and the crush of urban development – along with noise activists – tracks disappeared.  Everywhere you looked, there were abandoned strips that sometimes sat vacant for decades afterwards.  Famed tracks like Orange County eventually became a plot of commercial highrises while Irwindale turned into a brewery and Lions, well, sadly it’s just a storage yard.

In a century of growth, the greater Los Angeles area in Southern California went from roughly 200,000 to 20 million (source US Census).  At the advent of the Roaring 20s, the state as a whole grew from about 4 million to almost 40 million.  Yet today, we have literally a handful of quarter-mile drag strips to pursue the thrill of drag racing.  That’s dangerous for our streets where especially the young head out to street race illegally.

Centrally located

What’s needed is to build in an area where urban sprawl doesn’t have an effect on a potential racing facility.  Also, would it be nice if it was centrally located so both the southern and northern folks can meet without having to drive half a day.  That can happen right here on the Central Coast.

National forests like Los Padres take up much of the land from Santa Barbara to Monterey plus with vineyards helping to insulate itself from population growth, much of the towns of the Central Coast will likely never see any population explosions.  Such are these reasons and more that many of us live near or on the coast of Central California.

Santa_Ynez_Valley_Farm

Regions like the Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara are perfect for drag racing.

The Santa Ynez Valley in inland Santa Barbara County is one of many excellent locations with idyllic small towns geared towards visitors for the vineyards that could also entertain racers and their fans.  Just north is Santa Maria with farms and wide open spaces, yet has many hotels due to being the biggest city on the Central Coast.  In San Luis Obispo County, there are several locations though don’t expect anything in the city of San Luis Obispo – it’s loaded with small-minded no-growth activists who would squash any idea of a race track.  However, in what is called the open rolling hills of ‘North County’, from Atascadero to Paso Robles, there are many potential locations for drag strips.

Positives

The idea of bringing safety to the Central Coast by keeping illegal street racers off our back roads should be met with open arms.  Additionally, the income from having one of the only quarter-mile strips in California would be welcomed during this continuing elongated recessional period we’ve had the last several years.

Among the beauty that this region is known for, the centrally located towns of the Central Coast, sitting between two giant metropolitan areas, would be ideal for a quarter-mile drag racing facility.  I got the ball rolling, now who’s ready to step up and make it happen?

Daryle W. Hier 

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Stuart Hilborn Passes Away

Stuart Hilborn - Facebook

Stuart Hilborn – Dry Lakes
Courtesy of Facebook

Sad news … I just heard that Stu Hilborn passed away at 96.  Back in the day we had one of the early Hilborn fuel injectors on a Ford Flathead for our dragster.  Later on, Stuart and Jack Engle were the “engineers” that put together the Potvin crank drive for the Lee’s Speed Shop dragster.  We used his dino behind Engle’s shop and Stu’s expertise to tune and fit the injector to the blower.  It worked so well and looked so good that Eric Rickman came out from Hot Rod magazine and it wound up on the cover of the Magazine.  He was one of my friends in racing and I, and the racing world will truly miss him.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family….May Stuart Hilborn rest in peace.

Ronnie Hier

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My father Ron (who posted above), knew Stuart Hilborn going back to the early years of drag racing.  He talks often about those days back in the ’50s.

Hilborn was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, moved to the United States and Southern California as a child, eventually becoming a college educated automotive engineer.  His life in racing goes back to the dry lakes and Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base) prior to WW II.  He served in the Air Force as a gunnery instructor and then proceeded to make a life in motorsports.

Hilborn essentially invented the fuel injection system long before there was any electronic fuel injection.  He did so well racing his fuel injector that combined with an injury, Stu had to make the decision to build a business.  His products ended up in every level of racing and at one time, dominated the Indianapolis 500.  Stuart Hilborn’s company continues to this day.

These icons of racing pass away every day so make sure you say hi to one you know and talk about the those old days.  Their history is immense, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.

By the way, I’m a longtime advocate for Alzheimer’s and things like this always remind me that we have to preserve the history of racing because not only do we lose people everyday, but with Alzheimer’s as the fastest growing cause of death, it’s taking away the minds of our fellow racers.  Learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia here.

Daryle W. Hier 

Sources: Dry Lakes and Drag Strips, Autoweek, SEMA Hall of Fame, Hilborn Fuel Injection

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Pro Mod Velocity Move A Test?

The NHRA announced that the Pro Mod Drag Racing Series schedule will be 10 races in 2014 and again will be backed by the race team owners called Real Pro Mod Association or RPM for short.  There will be a new track added to the series – Atlanta Dragway – with one of the two Charlotte events taken off the race calendar.  However, that’s not the big news.

Movinghttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/31/Velocitylogo.jpg

It was also announced that the series will move their television coverage from ESPN to Velocity.  The production of the half hour shows for each race will be operated by Masters Entertainment Group.  Furthermore, the shows will be taped and broadcast during a ten consecutive week period next fall.  Velocity is the old Discovery Theater channel owned by Discovery Communications and is available to a little less than half of all households in the United States.

For most folks, the idea of having drag races taken off ESPN is good news but considering the old adage, ‘careful what you wish for’, having the races shown near the end of the year, isn’t ideal.  Plus, when you consider Velocity is available in about half of the household that ESPN is, means some fans won’t be able to watch NHRA Pro Mod events at all.

The idea of having drag races on any channel other than ESPN is good news as far as this fan is concerned.  And that is what I’m wondering.  Is this move an experiment of sorts to see if a dedicated fan base – Velocity’s viewers are mainly car enthusiasts and male – is better for the sport than a broader sports channel like ESPN?

Hands offProMod-RealProModRPM

Whether this is a test or not, it will be interesting to examine how this works and whether it hurts or helps RPM or the Pro Mod group as a whole.  The class is certainly popular among those in drag racing circles but to the casual fan such as those who view ESPN, I’m not sure it matters.  The NHRA has treated the class as anything but a professional division and this move appears to be another way to sidestep getting rid of Pro Mod by having almost a hands off policy – not unlike its relationship with Nostalgia drag racing.

My bet is NHRA only keeps these others groups of racers in the fold so that another racing entity can’t come along and run with the popularity of classes like Pro Mod and Nostalgia drag racing.  Either way, the move to Velocity by the NHRA Pro Mod series may be something the Nostalgia folks can look into as well.

Here’s hoping this break from ESPN is a good one.  We’ll be watching … okay, some of us will be watching.

Contributing source: NHRA

Daryle W. Hier

Home Of Motorsports Marketing

Related articles:

Drag Racing 1959 – Detroit Dragway

Morgan Lucas Leaving His Top Fuel Seat

Rickie Smith Retires With Championship?

NHRA’s Expanded Lack Of Coverage

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Drag Racing 1959 – Detroit Dragway

This is a video from 1959 regarding the ‘Nationals’ at Detroit Dragway.  It’s old but done in color and the quality isn’t bad.  Take a look – you’ll get a kick out of it.

Daryle W. Hier

Home Of Motorsports Marketing

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Related articles:

Morgan Lucas Leaving His Top Fuel Seat

Can Erica Make History And Win It All?

Rickie Smith Retires With Championship?

NHRA’s Expanded Lack Of Coverage

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