Monthly Archives: March 2010

Four the future?

Ever do something for the first time?  There’s apprehension, some hesitancy but general excitement.  You’re not sure what to expect but are hoping for the best.  Hey – clean minds here!

The just concluded Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord N.C. was at the very least, interesting if not a wild experience.  Opinions are plenty and there was much talk even among the regular news sources not usually associated with the sport.  That’s PR the sport of Drag Racing needs.  And congratulations to Bruton Smith for again being the ultimate promoter and visionary in motorsports.

So where do we go from here?  Was this just a one-off experiment, not to be done again?  Here’s a simple view from someone who by definition is obviously a purist.  Because most of us don’t like much change as it takes us out of our comfort zone, when offered a new way of seeing our sport, we tend to look askance at a new opportunity – And that’s what this is, an opportunity.

The sport of Drag Racing is the sporting worlds biggest kept secret.  I’d like to think someday, we will be treated and exposed like the major league sport we are.  Heck, only the NFL and Nascar have bigger fan bases.  The speed at which the cars (& bikes) went through eliminations was an eye-opener.  Much needs to done including how to put on a more efficient meet and maybe I’ll post my thoughts in the future.  But what if the Four-Wide Nationals was the secret weapon for breaking out of drag racing’s minor league status?  What if we had several four-wide meets throughout the year intermingled with the standard two-wide?  Could this be what creates fresh attention to our sport and stimulates new inspired interest, while giving these new faces the satisfaction and excitement to come back and watch or visit drag racing meets across this country?  I can tell you, a marketer would say a resounding, YES!

There are other rumored tracks looking at four-wide (including Vegas).  Many effects in drag racing need to change or be fixed but PR can make up for a lot deficiencies.  I say keep your mind open and even a Nostalgia drag racing fan like me sees the advantages and potential rewards this four-wide racing can deliver and so far, the fans seem to like it.  In the end, fans are really what matter.

Hey, I didn’t see any four lane oil downs. Whew!  Now about the rain delay and TV times …

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Incentive To Win

I’ve written in the past about fan appreciation and how things were back in “the good ol days” of drag racing.  Unless you’re as old as I am, it’s hard to understand just how things were back then.  The sport was just getting started, so it was really something new to most people.  5,000 people were considered a “giant” crowd of spectators.  Anyway Hank and I had our share of fans, but our fans wanted us to WIN!!  It was great; we would sign an autograph or two, even back then.

Bender and Hier's Crankdrive Small-block Chevy - On The Trailer

One thing that really sticks with me from back then was the difference between winning and losing as far as the fans went.  When we would win a meet, the fans went nuts, mainly because the small block Chevy was very popular among race fans back then and our little dragster (about 1,200 lbs. loaded) was very fast and quick.  Here’s how it went: When we would win there was always a crowd around the pit area both friends and strangers waiting for me to be pushed back into the pits, and all would congratulate us on the win.  When it was time to put the car on the trailer, yes, that’s ON the trailer, no enclosed “Haulers” here, the fans would help wipe the car down (oil), grab the loading ramps, hook them up to the trailer, push the car up onto the trailer, grab the tie-downs, tie the car down, put all the tools and equipment back into Hank’s pickup, pick up any debris we might have left laying around on the ground, hang around for a little, bench racing if we wanted to stay, and then send us off.

Sometimes Hank would drop me off at the tower on the way back from the run (somebody else would steer the car back), to pick up either a trophy or my 25-dollar bond ($18.75), and all this loading help would be done before I got back to the car.  Boy!  That was nice … however … when we lost … wow!  Tommy, Jimmy and maybe Hank’s sister Babe, our volunteer pit crew would be leaning on the fence, or sitting on the tool box and not a soul around.  No win, no fans.  No help loading the car and usually it was dark by then so this whole deal was quite an incentive to WIN!

That’s the way it was back in the “good ol days” … what a deal … see ya’ at the races.

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Original Four-Wide

Everybody knows.  That’s a saying that probably is used a bit too much these days.  In this era of misinformation from the highest level, who is to say what everybody knows?  I’ve certainly learned, while researching drag racing, the amount of information everybody knows is different than what everybody else knows.  This is so true in drag racing because the early years going back to the 50’s, the information was and is sketchy.  Why?  News wasn’t saved back then electronically.  Sometimes it wasn’t saved at all.  Yea, can you believe they didn’t always have high-tech abilities to watch an event and send it thousands of miles away to be seen by the rest of the world … instantly?!  Neanderthal’s they were!  Probably had to rub two sticks together for fire in their caves.

The flagman in the middle - he gets a medal

Alright, onto today’s events.  Almost anything done now has been done before, in some sort of way.  For instance, the Four-Wide Nationals this weekend.  A lot of hullabaloo has been made and I’m all for it.  The more ink drag racing can get, the better.  In fact, I have some thoughts and will address this on another post.  But let’s keep the facts and history straight.  As much as it’s touted as a first this or that, they did the four wide drag race many times, for many years, long before Charlotte ever thought about racing.  It can be argued who did it first but as far as firsts are concerned, the meet this weekend isn’t the first in anything.  They had four wide at Lions in the 50’s and so many other tracks, I can’t even begin to count.  These were regular meets as well as exhibitions from the 50’s into the 70’s.

Everybody may not know the facts but there’s enough history saved up on old newspapers, which now are digitally with us forever.  And talk to any old-timer and almost all of them will tell a story of four-wide drag races.  So the next time you hear the reporters in Charlotte or any other city, remember the facts.

Alright, now let’s watch this exciting NHRA experience and see what happens when four Fuelers oil down, all at once.   😀

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Startling numbers you can believe

It’s been discussed over and over as to who is the bigger, badder, best sport around.  Obviously more people watch football whether its the NFL (who’s #1 overall) or college football.  Nascar has a claim as #2 overall although some of the stick and ball folks don’t agree.  Baseball is the national past-time.  Yea yea yea, everyone’s the best.  But as far as real facts done by independent research, drag racing ranks right up there as the 2nd most popular motorsport and just a notch under Nascar as the 3rd largest sport in America.  It’s calculated a couple different ways but drag racing has somewhere between 35 and 75 million fans – Yes, quite a variation but it depends on what is is, so to speak.  All sports vary when calculating what a fan is.  Here’s some interesting info you may not know about the demographics of a drag racing fan:

  • Drag racing is the #1, yes NUMBER ONE sport offering good value for the money
  • More than 9 out of 10 visit fast food restaurants every month (more than average Americans), yet nearly the same amount also visit sit-down restaurants (also more than average Americans)
  • Drag racing fans are a third more likely to drink beer – some may say no surprise BUT, by almost the same %, more are apt to drink regular beverages (soda pop) – just consume more, period
  • NHRA fans are some of the most diverse when compared with Nascar; drag racing has 14% more Black-American’s and 26% more Latino’s
  • 98%, essentially everyone, feel positively about the the sponsors
  • There are more participants in drag racing than any other sport – NHRA is the largest professional sports organization in the world

The wild and spectacularly exciting activities of drag racing are amazing to view (especially in person) but some of the underlying numbers to the sport support what really is one of the most astounding solid and genuinely authentic American sports.  Whereas many sports are shrinking in popularity, drag racing continues to grow.  There are many more unique and incredible stats about drag racing but you have to admit, it is one very popular sport.  And you might have not have known that.  It’s the best kept secret in sports.  Perception has a lot to do with it and I may opine on the subject but that’s for another day.  So the next time you go to the races or watch them or any sport for that matter, consider the facts behind them and remember, drag racing fans are the most brand loyal in all of advertising and marketing – there’s a reason.

Now our attention spans are only a few seconds long at a quarter mile … but nothing is as fast.

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The First Low Profile Blower or …

Real Men Crank Drive

I thought it both interesting and informative.

Our first “Sponsor” for our early days of racing was Lee’s Speed and Muffler Shop in Santa Monica, CA.  Lee had a friend named Chuck Potvin, a cam-grinder and speed innovator.  The GMC diesel blower was actually an integral part of the 53 and 71 series, 2 cycle diesel truck engines and was not a supercharger.  Most racers felt the blower could be used as a supercharger for a race engine but didn’t know exactly how to do it so Potvin reinvented the “Crank Drive”.

It was one of the first uses of the GMC blower as a supercharger.  Potvin’s beautifully machined aluminum castings bolted to the front of the engine and the blower was gear driven off the crankshaft.  Two aluminum tubes brought the air from the outlet side of the blower through a specially machined intake manifold on top of the engine.  A specially designed fuel injection system by Stu Hilborn (Hilborn Fuel Injection Systems) provided the fuel delivery system and was usually used with this new set-up.  To our knowledge, our Lee’s Speed Shop dragster was one of the first to use this new technology.

The car was fast, quick and won many races.   It set both speed and ET records for Chevrolet and was featured on the cover of the November 1958 edition of Hot Rod Magazine.  Word traveled fast and soon everyone was coming by Lee’s shop wanting to see the “Crank Drive”.  “Oh, so you’re the guy that drives the ‘Crank Drive'” was a common greeting upon my introduction.   It was an exciting and really fun time.

See ya at the races

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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Street Racing

No funny quips here and this is going to be short and sweet.  Drag Racing is between two contestants racing from a standing start side by side on a DRAG STRIP – that’s why they call it DRAG RACING!  They have helmets, special suits, roll cage, officials for safety etc.  Only idiots sadly, race on the STREET – which is why they call it STREET RACING!  GET IT RIGHT!  We in drag racing work very hard to keep people off the streets but poor reporting from the media, along with uninformed attorneys who routinely ambulance chase the terrible street racing crashes, have an adverse affect and harm on our work to reduce this awful criminal instances of street racing.  75 million fans of drag racing enjoy a terrific and extremely safe sport compared to the hideous and appalling crime of street racing.

For the rest of us, be vigilant and keep people informed and remember, the best deterrent and prevention to illegal street races are drag strips.  Hideous Street Race CrashFamily based clean drag racing

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“Dooner”

Through many years of racing, every now and then you meet up with someone special.  Dooner was that kind of guy.  His real name was Don Alderson (aka Muldoon).  Born in Hawaii, he was 6ft. 5in. and weighed about 300lbs.  Don had a machine shop in the San Fernando Valley which eventually became “Milodon Engineering”.  I don’t remember exactly where he picked up the nickname but I think it was from the Dead End Kids  (Spider Razon, Joe Anahory & Red Lang) from New York, when they came out to Ca.  All they had was a ‘57 Chrysler limo with six 392 Hemi’s and parts, stored in the back, a little bit of money and some clothes.  Dooner had his machine shop right down the street from my business in the valley and offered them a place to stay at his home and they could work out of his shop for free.  He eventually hired them and they would sell and trade Hemi parts and engines to build their Dead End Kids Top Fuel dragster.  A fireman friend of mine had an Ed Weddle Chassis and one of the new Cal Automotive Fiat Topolino bodies and wanted to go drag racing, so I introduced him to Dooner.  Together they built the McElvain and Alderson AA Fuel Altered, with one of Dooner’s engines and became good friends and partners.

Dooner liked airplanes.  He had an A-36 Beach Bonanza and a T33 Trainer at the same time.  At one time he and some partners owned the pieces of a P-51-A, one of the 1st Mustangs that looked like a Messerschmitt.  They never put it together.  His last house was built on the Rosamond Ca. airport with a taxiway and double hangar in back.  When he sold Milodon to B&M (before Steve Morrison bought it) he maintained a machine shop in his hangar.  When the “Pyramid meetings” (actually ponzi schemes) were going around back in the 70’s, Dooner collected enough money to pay cash for a riverfront house in Laughlin Nev.  On our trips to the March Meet in Bakersfield Ca., we would always hit the KC Steak House and Dooner would tell everyone that couldn’t finish their steak to send it down to him.  Boy could he eat.  He made an all aluminum 4 barrel engine, adapted his big Milodon V8 for crop duster airplanes, ran Blown Buick V6’s at Indy, ran roadsters and streamliners at Bonneville and El Mirage, ran dragsters and altereds and just before he passed away he finished his beautiful black ‘48 Ford business coupe.  These are the kind of guys that made drag racing great “back in the good ole days”.  He was a good friend and we all still miss him.

See ya at the races

Ronnie Hier

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