Monthly Archives: May 2010

Altered State

One of my favorite metal bands was Black Sabbath (one of the originals) and sadly the very talented singer, Ronnie James Dio, died last week.  Another favorite of mine who pops up in the news a lot is the PR marketing king, Steve Jobs (Apple).  What aren’t my favorites are soccer, so no mentioning the upcoming World Cup; nor anything Hollywood so I won’t mention Cannes, Lindsay Lohan or Robin Hood – wait, I just mentioned them.

What are my favorites are Hawaii, college football and motorsports, especially drag racing.  Just about any drag racing will get me going but to be honest, drag racing needs to be heads up.  I understand why we have bracket racing and some great drivers come out of these ranks.  But to take it a step further, drag racing needs nitro or at the very least, side-swapping, ground-pounders like fuel altereds, AA Gas Supercharged and Pro Mods.

When we first got back into drag racing in the early 90’s, Nostalgia drag racing was in it’s infancy. God bless him but Frank Fedak (ANRA) wanted drag racing the way it used to be – without the fans.  Hey, I counted 25 people in the stands, one brutally cold windy day at Palmdale. We had a beautiful Junior Fueler and had fun for some years until rules were broken without enforcement and cost sky-rocketed, but I digress.

Those early years had altereds, mostly running with the Top Fuelers, and to watch a AA Fuel Altered make a pass is well, a site to behold.  They make a straight line like you and I do when we right with our other hand.  Straight?  Not part of altereds repertoire.  The other class I love is the Pro Mods.  Pro Mods are kind of a takeoff from AA Gas Supercharged, and have one heck of a time going in a straight line.  When these classes hook up, it’s beautiful to watch.  I’m really glad to see this new World Championship being put together by Roger Burgess.  This will be a first and should bring quite a bit of excitement and interest to that segment of drag racing.

Everyone has favorites, whether it’s food, music, sports or …  You love to see them, enjoy them and share them – which I have with you.  What is or are your favorites?

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Why do you like drag racing?

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The fan – perception

There are all sorts of popular stories referring to such national items like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, Times Square bombing attempt and even Betty White’s re-found fame.  Also international news such as the Cannes Film Festival and the new conservative PM of Great Britain have made the headlines recently.  Throw in Lady Gaga, Lena Horne’s passing and the latest hot movie Robin Hood, and you pretty much have what every internet news source, blog, Twitter or media outlet had talked about the past week or so.  So what in the heck does that have to do with fans – actually drag racing fans or more exactly Nostalgia drag racing fans.

Well, there’s always been talk that the drag racing fan is not representative of average Americans.  That none of which I cite above is anything drag racing people care about.  They’re out of the loop.  In fact, the perception is the drag racing fans and horror of horrors, “Nostalgia” drag racing fans are a version of an old Joe Sixpack, grease monkey style.  Terrible.  Who wants to be associated with that!  Those news stories I mentioned to start with?  Drag racing fans don’t pay attention to what’s going on; they just wait until the next race and bring out the beer and another round for everyone – Yee Haw! Actually there might be a few greasy beer-drinking Joe Sixpacks in the litter and in fact it brings up a point, the fan base is very broad and you’re apt to find just about anyone at a drag meet.

So where am I going.  Hang with me.  Perception is a tough wall to climb.  So many people in business, media or wherever, believe drag racing is nothing more than a bunch of uneducated, poor unseemly aging louts.  Those perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

Factually, our fans are younger, more educated with more spendable income than just about any other sport!  Drag racing is the most diverse motorsport and think about this.  What sport has every ethnicity AND BOTH SEX’S competing head to head?  There’s only one – drag racing.  When you add Nostalgia drag racing to the fray, you add even more spendable income.  These statistics are even more incredible when you consider Nostalgia drag racing fans are increasing in numbers as the meets last year and this can attest to – inspite of the Recession.

Perceptions can be startling but we, the fans of drag racing already knew this.  Maybe we do, maybe we don’t know that Elena Kagan is the Supreme Court nominee and wonder did she actually advocate for the government banning books … Or if Christina Aguilera really hates Lady Gaga (BTW, Lady Gaga’s got the marketing PR figured out).  Wow, did I just put Elena Kagan and Lady Gaga in the same sentence?  A disturbing thought when you think about it.  But I digress.

The drag racing fan is everyone; they’re families, teenagers, kids, baby boomers, grandparents, immigrants, wealthy, poor, students, urbanites, suburbanites  and small town folks.  So the rest of general public and indeed the media and corporate business needs to put away their perceptions and realize drag racing IS Americana – even if we do like an occasional beer … or two.

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Gene’s Brake Shop

John Bradley - Gene's Brake Shop

Back in the ‘50’s, Gene Long owned Gene’s Brake Shop.  I think it was in Colton, CA but it was out there in what is now called “The Inland Empire”.  Gene sponsored a flathead dragster owned by John Bradley.  John eventually became known as “Mr. Flathead” and rightly so.  When we sold our Fiat Topolino that was supposed to put Jazzy Nelson on the trailer, we put the flathead in our new Ito built (Bender and Hier) dragster mentioned in a previous blog.  The best running flathead dragster at the time of course was Bradley.  We always ran 100% nitro in our car but the Bradley bunch was something else.  We were never sure what they had in the tank but the crew was usually running on a 50/50 mixture of John Barley Corn and Falstaff (Beer); half of the crew was on Jack Daniels and the other half on beer.

We were at Colton one day and John got beat by Emery Cook in the Cook & Bedwell Chrysler.  We won our next round and were faced with Cook for top eliminator.  Cook was ahead of me about a car length at half track when all of a sudden the Chrysler let go and I won the race.  The Bradley team went nuts.  They all climbed into their pickup (about a dozen of them) and sped down the middle of the track yelling obscenities, throwing beer cans all over the place, weaving from side to side screaming “FLATHEADS FOREVER!!”  “All you %$#@ing overhead lovers ^%$#–you and your overhead valves, yaaaaay!  Hier beat the Chrysler!!  I went over to Emery, still sitting in his car, shook his hand and thanked him for the race.  One of the nicest guys I ever met.  Here we were out in the weeds at the end of Colton, I was sitting on the tire of the C/B car talking to Emery when the Bradley bunch came screaming up and surrounded us still throwing beer cans and yelling.  They scared the hell out of Emery but since Hank and I knew them, I wasn’t worried and although it was very embarrassing, nothing happened.

On another occasion at Fontana we were rained out and sitting in our truck waiting for the rain to quit when we heard a car fire up.  It was John lighting off his dragster.  We figured he was just running it up to play with the tune a little bit when all of a sudden pulling up to the starting line was the Gene’s Brake Shop dragster.  Down the strip he went in a driving rain, rooster tails shooting up from the slicks, by the time he got to half track you couldn’t even see him.  We just shook our heads and went home.  One thing about these guys: They were nice guys (as long as you were running a flathead) and had a car that really ran.  Regardless of conditions they would always provide good entertainment even if you couldn’t race.  We enjoyed racing them and it was all part of the “good ol’ days”.

Thanks for visiting and…

See you at the races!
Ronnie Hier

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No Noah’s Ark, But

Flooded home in Kentucky

In the MidSouth, torrential rains, thunderstorms and tornado’s have devastated portions of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.  The devastation throughout the region is gripping but the folks are trying to get back to some level of normalcy.  The people have been working their way back to life but the cost of pulling themselves back on their feet is immense. We here in California think we have weather but really we don’t.

Beech Bend Raceway Park after the storms

There are different ways to help and many Americans have come through to generate aid but for business, they can’t wait and for the people of Western Kentucky, a timely event will help business with a shot in the arm – The 8th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion will still take place at Beech Bend Raceway Park on Father’s Day weekend, June 18-20. It can’t happen soon enough.

With a boost in the local economy of $4million, Nostalgia drag racing, still growing in popularity even during the Recession, will offer a monetary enhancement which will be very welcome to the area.

Yes, the stands are under water

I read some real heart-wrenching stories and incredible pictures but have to admit, these Americans seem prepared for whatever comes along and handle it the best they can.  The community is doing everything they can to get the track and park ready and it’s quite remarkable what they’ve done so far.

The will of the Bowling Green community to the pull together and make certain that their venues are ready is wonderful to see.  Couple it with one of the more popular events of the year for the area and their seems to be a special situation arising out of this Springs damage.  So if you want to see real Americana at a very reasonable cost, watching the most exciting racing anywhere (plus a car show and swap meet), Father’s Day weekend at Beech Bend will fit the bill.

Weather always has the final say especially in drag racing (I’ve had my say on what we could do though) and we haven’t yet figured out how to stop it raining but with an event that grows every year, I’m sure this year won’t be any different at the historic Beech Bend … God willing and the creeks don’t rise.

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Who was the greatest drag racer of all times?

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