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.
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.