Monthly Archives: April 2010

Need cover or Put a lid on it

With the Major League Baseball season upon us – and oh, won’t that be for awhile – the old venerable stadiums and the way the game used to be played, is somewhat where my mind is right now, sort of.  The grounds were sometimes uneven and accommodations were iffy at best.  Then came the nice neat (& sterile) and dimensional, domed stadiums.  They’re loud, bright (the players look like mice in a controlled box) and the most important thing, dry.  No rain, snow, hail, heat or cold would keep the game from being called.  Now Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have you ever the seen the rain; coming down on a sunny day” makes a little more sense.

Back in the earlier days of baseball, rainouts added up to crazy scheduling as the season wound down.  Just as we do in motorsports – specifically drag racing.

It’s a pain for everyone.  The teams either have to hang around for an extra day or two or come back at another date or some sort of rescheduling that isn’t in the budget.  Fans get a rain check or make time out of the work day or miss it altogether – it just doesn’t work out well most of the time.  OK, so you see where I’m headed – well maybe, maybe not.  I’m not particularly sure putting a dome over a 1/4mile race track is sensible or practical.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it happen – what a sight to behold!  The sound might blast your eardrums and how you ventilate a monstrosity like this might not be possible.  Now indoor drag racing isn’t new as we discussed by a little bit ago. If anyone would build an indoor stadium, it most likely would be Bruton Smith, who built the beautiful 4-wide zMax strip in Concord, NC.  I just think the cost and difficulty may be prohibitive.

Not every city has great weather so how else can you reduce the delays that rain brings to drag racing?  Baseball does have a second invention that might help in this regard.  Outdoor covers or more precisely infield covers – field tarps.  Why couldn’t you have a tarp that sat just outside one of the walls and when the rains came, you pulled it across.  The jet-dryers wouldn’t have to be used or at the most only shortly.  And how about this.  Why not have under ground drainage like they do at football stadiums.  Someone told me some the tracks do have drainage but I’m talking about a more comprehensive system.  Also another idea would be to build a housing over the racetrack but opened and sealed off from the outside.  You may or may not cover the fans but the result would still be placing a top over the strip to keep it dry.

The most economical way to keep drag strips dry is the tarp and it wouldn’t be that costly and would be fairly simple to accomplish.  I’d like to think the sport could raise itself to the level of other major league sports and build a stadium maybe with covers that will facilitate racing and not make media, teams or fans suffer because in the end, we all pay when it rains.

I mean really, I want to know how many of us have rain checks we never used.  Yea, that’s what I was thinking.

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Up On Two Wheels

Although my life has consistently revolved around 4-wheel racing, jalopies, midgets, sprints and drag cars of many shapes and sizes, I have always been fascinated with motorcycles.  Just out of high school in 1950, a friend of mine, Joe Larson, asked me if I would take care of his bike while he and some friends took a sail boat for a cruise to the Bahamas.  I was working at the old Culver City Airport at the time and was more than happy to accommodate him.  It was a hopped up Triumph Trophy TR6 on a Tiger frame, small tank, slight kick-out front fork, a bigger and narrower front wheel and tire, bobbed fenders and racing style short handlebars.  It was metallic blue with lots of chrome; one beautiful bike.  It was so beautiful, I didn’t ride it much but when I did, it was fast and a lot of fun.  Eventually Joe came back and I had to give it back, but what an experience.

I owned my first bike back when I was on the LAFD.  I had a Triumph Thunderbird and when weather permitted, I road it to work and back.  I was never really happy with that bike, for one thing it had a Lucas ignition and electrical system and at night the headlight was brown at best.  I constantly had a sore ankle from kick starting that thing and at times I would stand on one side and use both feet on the kick-starter so I could start the darn thing.  I finally sold it and about 1970 bought a brand new black Harley Sportster and that was a real bike.  I had it for about 4 years and finally sold it for more than I paid for it but kicked myself later for getting rid of it.

Clem Johnson - Barn Job

When my drag racing days began I was always fascinated with the drag bikes.  When the early strips were in operation, the bikes usually had the fastest times and won a lot of meets.  Of course the guys and gals that go back as far as I do remember that the two wheelers were always bad news.  One king of the jungle was the “Beast”, the 90 inch fuel Harley of Chet Herbert, (Doug’s Dad).  The Beast got a lot of write-ups, won a lot of races and was spectacular to watch.  Another impressive application to two wheels was Clem Johnson’s Twin Vincent, the cleverly engineered “Barn Job”, a nitro burning 96-inch monster built and ridden by Clem Johnson.  I believe it ran near 150 mph.  Very often the cars would go faster but the bikes were quicker.  When the tire companies finally caught up with the horsepower the cars were putting out, the 4 wheelers finally overcame and the picture began to change rapidly.  It was a good mix of mechanical engineering against brute horsepower.  It’s fun to watch the bikes now but innovation is gone.  I still like the two wheelers but the powers-that-be have the bikers hands tied and although the speeds are faster, it’s just not the same.  That’s the way I see it.

See ya’ at the races

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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Blowers by the numbers

BLOWERS AND THE NUMBERING SYSTEM.

Most of our website fans and followers are familiar with the term “Blower” (supercharger) on an engine.   But have you ever questioned where the numbering system came from?  4-71, 6-71, 8-71, 12-71, 14-71, 18-71?  This blower thing goes way back to 1885 when Gottlieb Daimler got a patent on the thing and it probably goes back even further but he’s the one who finally received the original patent and then it goes from there.  Several different types and styles have come along since and constant improvements are being made even today.

There are centrifugal blowers (from the word centrifuge) which are somewhat of a bowl shaped aluminum housing usually sitting above the engine (but not necessarily) with a grooved circular plate revolving around a center shaft.  It is generally gear driven off of the cam gear, crank shaft or other means of a positive drive.  Air is usually ducted into the intake manifold or directly into the carburetor or fuel injector.

Then there is the “turbo” charger (from the word, turbine).  Similar in appearance to the centrifugal, the turbo charger is driven off of exhaust pressure and has no mechanical connection to the engine.  As exhaust gas exits the engine it first travels through the vanes of the turbo charger and creates “boost” in the incoming air to the carburetor or fuel injector, sometimes referred to as “free air”, “free boost” or “free horsepower”.

The numbering system mentioned earlier is strictly for the “roots” type blowers used on most supercharged racing engines.  It is the big aluminum “thing” sitting on top of a racing engine with either carburetors or fuel injection bolted to the top of it.  On street rods it’s usually polished or chrome plated.  Briefly, it is belt driven off of the crankshaft and has two counter-rotating helical shaped rotors (or “screws”) inside that increase the volume of air to the engine.  Thus, you are able to add more fuel.  More air, more fuel, more horsepower.   If you ask an owner or read about an engine having a 6-71 or 8-71 blower and wonder, “what in the world are they talking about?”, here it is:

The Roots type blower numbering system of today originated from the 2 cycle, GM series diesel engines.  The engine design requires the blower to blow fresh air in as the piston is coming up and blow it out as it goes down.  A series of oblong holes towards the bottom of the cylinder lets the blower blow the exhaust gas out as the piston passes these slots and blow a fresh charge of air in as it comes up and is ready to fire again, every stroke is a power stroke, thus the 2 cycle, only a different concept.

6-71 Blower

A 4-71 GM Diesel has 4 cylinders and 71 cubic inches per cylinder, thus the size of the engine is 4 x 71 or 284 cu in.  The blower would be a 4-71 blower.  6, 8, and 12 cylinder GM 2 cycle diesels are 6-71, 8-71 and 12-71.  The aftermarket has seen fit to continue the numbering on up to 18-71 but there are no 18-71 GM Diesels.

Some enterprising racer of the day took the blower off of a GM 2 cycle and strapped it on an engine and wa-lah! – a blown racing engine and the beginning of an era for sure.  As a note, back in ’58, the Bender and Hier Lee’s Speed Shop small block Chevy dragster had one of the first Potvin “crank-drive” blowers (mounted in front and driven off of the crankshaft) and set two Chevy “firsts”, both an elapsed time and speed record at the old Lions drag strip in Long Beach, CA.

Thanks for visiting and…

See you at the races!

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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Little Leagues

There’s a certain cuteness to Little Leaguers.  The innocents, the fun, the endearing aspects of a childlike naivety to it all.

Know how you enjoy a certain level of sophistication but not all leading up to it.  For instance, football fans love the NFL (it’s the most popular sport) and will eat up almost anything regarding professional football … that has to with the best of the best.  The CFL (Canadian Football League) has exciting games on those very huge fields.  Does it get much notice?  No and in fact struggles to stay afloat, so then how about the other professional football leagues?  Yea, what leagues?  And does the press follow diligently these 2nd level competitions?

When considering drag racing, the NHRA and IHRA get top billing over other series’.  When talking about Nostalgia Drag Racing, believe it or not, we have big leagues and little leagues.  The Hot Rod Heritage Series through the NHRA Museum and to a lesser extent the Goodguys Vintage Drag Racing are the big leagues.  And by adding the Goodguys, therein lies the answers to what makes you bigger in drag racing.  Nitro and head-to-head racing.  Nitromethane to be exact (CH3NO2), is the organic compound which is the key to any popular series in heads up drag racing and their ability to offer fans, fire-breathing, ground-thumping, ear-splitting and nose-running nitro-burning behemoths of the quarter-mile.  Consider when promoters need to get fans attracted to a meet but they don’t have nitro-classes … they bring in (& advertise) a handful of nitro-powered machines for either exhibition runs or match-races – all heads up.

So where does this lead me?  Well, I love nitro and heads up racing, that’s for sure, but more important than I are the rest of the drag racing public – they like nitro and heads up racing too.  Which then brings me to the other Nostalgia drag races.  A few have asked in the past why I don’t talk about or help promote races like ANRA.  Nothing against ANRA as we ran it for years – when they had the nitro classes and were “heads up”.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for indexed bracket racing.  And you can run alcohol or gas to have fun and be successful.  But in ANRA’s case, they don’t have either popular style; no nitro or heads up racing.  And because of this, not a lot of people go to the races to watch these slower classes where nobody knows who won until they check the rules.

Until crowds (& press) start coming out to watch the band and not the football team, I’ll stick with the big leagues.  If something really interesting comes up, that’s one thing but pending these unusual occurrences, we’ll stay with what we like most: heads up and nitro contests.

You can watch cute, but I enjoy heads up racing and the king is nitro – as they say; “Gasoline is for cleaning.  Alcohol is for drinking.  Nitro is for racing”.

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Everyone relates to music in one way or the other so what decade best illustrates Nostalgia Drag Racing?

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Four x 2

Nothing like a little controversy to keep drag racing in the news.  We had the big Four-Wide meet a few weeks ago in Concord and generally speaking, most don’t like it.  The drivers gave a resounding no, although some have recanted or backed away from the – absolutely no way no how – that we heard right after the race.  Fans weren’t all that for it because well, 4 cars are twice as hard to watch as two.  And to be honest, the races are so fast and over with so quickly, adding another variable just makes it that much harder to view.  Traditional ways are hard to break especially in drag racing.

It was just announced, they’ll be another Four-Wide next year at Charlotte so we’ll try it again and see if there’s an improvement in racing and viewing.  I’m glad to see it as Bruton Smith has done more for drag racing than even the NHRA and should be given every chance to use his beautiful facility.

BUT, how about this.  I might have mentioned this before but what about racing two at a time as is now traditionally done.  When a lane needs cleaned up, switch over to the other two lanes and continue racing.  The flow of racing for fans would be greatly improved.  It can be agreed the oil-downs are a bummer when watching the Floppers and Top Fuelers.  Here’s what may be the bigger gain; television.  Television has their problems and I’ve lost my mind on this subject more than I care to remember.  With a more even and consistent flow of racing, television has what gives the impetus to have live programming and move NHRA into the big leagues of sports.  This could in itself, solve a multitude of problems for drag racing.  Prominent marketers have said once drag racing figures out how to have live events, the skies the limit.

We’ll see another four-wide next year but I hope we see more four-wide “tracks”.  Then the sport might be able to move from it’s perch as the most popular sport most have never watched.  We have numbers, we just need the media to go with it.

And ooohh, wouldn’t it be cool to see four Nostalgia Top Fuelers going down the track at Bruton’s palace.  Try getting the old stuck in the mud group of Nostalgia guys to OK that!  Although with enough incentive $$$ …

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Indoor Drag Racing?

Of course we know that for the most part organized drag racing started on the West Coast but not to be denied, the other states caught on quickly.  When the guys back east decided to go

Perfect weather indoors - 1962

drag racing, they really got serious.  Unlike the West Coast where there was good weather almost year round, when it closed in on them, they did what any rabid racer who suffers the dreaded “Nitro Methane In The Blood Disease” would do, they built an INDOOR drag strip.  Yep, that’s right, an indoor drag strip.


Nice lighting

In 1962 those crazy guys from Chicago built the “Chicago Area Raceway” – INDOORS.  It was located in the old International Amphitheater at 42nd and Halstead in Chicago Il.  It was built in ’34 as a livestock showplace and in ’68 housed the Democratic Convention and at least one Beetles concert.  Advertised as the world’s only indoor drag strip, it was open about 2yrs. and featured a 440 ft. strip with a 660 ft. shut off and included a pit area.  The United States Auto Club (USAC) sponsored it.  Don’t ask me what they did for ventilation but that’s the way we did it back in the good ole’ days.

I won; Now what?

‘See ya’ at the races (Outdoors).

Ronnie Hier


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NHRA - The 1st 50 years - DVD

NHRA - The 1st 50 years - DVD


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