Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Late Great Drag Racing Legend – Grumpy Jenkins

William Tyler “Grumpy” Jenkins was one of drag racings greatest legends and it’s a sad day when we have to speak in the past about such a leading pioneer of the sport.

Yes, Grumpy Jenkins passed away today after having been ill for some time.  He had almost a mythic presence.

Jenkins earned the “Grumpy” moniker through his no-nonsense attitude at races, where his continual search for improved performance left little time for idle chatter with his racing colleagues (source – Motorsports Hall of Fame). Believe it or not, Grumpy was an Ivy League grad, getting an engineering degree from Cornell University in New York.

He started his racing career in the mid-’50s but it was the ’60s when he first became famous for his exploits on the drag strip.  He moved up the ladder with successful winning cars in FX, Stock, Super Stock and then finally Pro Stock.  He was a Chrysler man for many years before moving over to Chevy and perfecting the small block (source – The Chevrolet Racing Engine – written by Bill Jenkins). 

Here’s a little factoid you may never have heard.  Jenkins had a very successful year in 1972, earning more than a quarter of a million dollars – unheard of earnings  for anyone of any sport in the day (source – Time Magazine).

Later in his career, though he hadn’t had a car of his own in three decades, his racing pursuits never dimmed building winning racing engine after winning racing engine from his shop, Jenkins Competition in Malvern, Pennsylvania (just west of Philadelphia).

In 2008 he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and is in many other Hall of Fame’s as well.

And anyone could spot Grumpy at the track with his signature cigar always planted in his mouth.

As one of Top 10 greatest drivers of all-time, the Grump may have not been the biggest man in the world physically but his persona and input to the world of drag racing will certainly view Bill Jenkins as one of the biggest men the sport will ever see.  He will be sorely missed.  RIP

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And The 2012 March Meet Funny Car Winner Is … Chad Head?

We always like to think of our sport as apart from any others including the NHRA, but the truth is, the NHRA operates the Hot Rod Heritage Series through the Museum so in the end, Nostalgia drag racing bosses are the same as all the other regular NHRA race series’.

Upon further inspection after the March Meet was over, it was found that Rick White in Top Fuel and Tim Boychuk in Funny Car were disqualified for illegal fuel pumps (too much fuel flow).  White had a faster speed but was beaten in the final by Jim Young for top eliminator.  But Boychuk won the Funny Car final over Chad Head (Jim Head’s son) but is disqualified which makes Chad Head the winner of the March Meet – notified nearly two weeks after the giant meet had ended.

Chad, who’s normal job is as operations manager for Al Anabi, had never run at the famed March Meet before (in Famoso, California).  In fact his first stab at Nostalgia Funny Car was last year’s California Hot Rod Reunion which he qualified in. Rumors are that Chad is getting into form to eventually replace his father in the drivers seat of Jim’s  NHRA Fuel Funny Car.  It should be noted that Chad received his Super Comp license about ten years ago.

For the record, Chad was #2 qualifier heading into eliminations at the March Meet so he certainly didn’t back into this win.  He beat Dennis LaCharite in the first round with a 5.77 ET which was low for the entire day.  He then defeated Rick Rogers in the second round and Kris Krabill in the semi-final.

The history of the March Meet is legendary so winning the biggest race in Nostalgia drag racing is quite an accomplishment for someone who’s use to working at the exceutive or managerial level such as Chad – before being the operations executive at Al Anabi, Chad was an operations director with the Indy Racing League.  Although he was once involved with the NHRA in track prep, this still offers hope for white-collar guys yet.

Congratulations to Chad Head, winner of the March Meet for Funny Car.

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March Meet – Are you in or out?

It’s not easy being a spectator

I found that just because you bought an “All Access” ticket to the March Meet in Bakersfield this year, that it didn’t exactly get you “in”.  It did let you walk several hundred feet past the ticket booth and across the staging lanes to the entrance to the “Grove” (hot rods, nostalgia race cars, classic cars, food, etc.) but at this point you really weren’t “in”.   No, apparently the admission ticket you just purchased for $30.00 (American), did not allow you complete access … well, not just yet.

Standing on both sides of the entrance to the grove were a couple of 300 lb. sumo wrestlers, very gruffly demanding “LET ME SEE YOUR TICKET!”  With a crowd gathering behind us, because the ticket was now in a pocket somewhere in my pants or jacket, I questioned the request, he responded with the retort “LET ME SEE YOUR TICKET!”  To add to the turmoil this giant of a mental midget along with his twin lackey, was also badgering fans leaving the grove and trying to enter the open portion of the staging area with the now loud and familiar “LET ME SEE YOUR TICKET!”  I expected a stomping of the feet before the next round of demands.

I found my ticket, showed it to this master of fair judgment and proceeded through the gate wondering to myself, what the heck are they doing?  Sending in heavy hitters asking for your ticket two minutes after you purchased it made no sense.   After perusing the grove with its many nostalgia dragsters, classics, street rods and 50 years of memories we decided to enter the pit area to visit our friends who were participants in this huge weekend gala.  There is an opening just south of the old original food stand where you can enter and exit the pits from the grove.  Wait!   Not so fast – another checkpoint to present your papers before entering.  What happened?!  Did the sumo wrestlers radio ahead and tell these clowns we were coming?  What the hell is going on?  These guys were smaller and much younger, kind of like the ‘Brown Shirts’ in Germany back in the day.  Due to their size the Brown Shirts timidly asked for our tickets.  When questioned on the ridiculousness of the whole thing, he shyly responded, “My supervisor told me to do this.”  The kid was told to hassle every one for their ticket and didn’t even know why.  I couldn’t believe what was going on.

When we left the pits and headed for the grandstands, you guessed it … Checkpoint Charlie.  The overly large bozo that hassled us this time got a little surly with us when we told him he needed a black arm band with a swastika on it.  I see the potential for taller fences with barbed wire in the future to separate the paying public from things like … oh … the grove with all it’s nostalgic memories, street rods and classics, the pit area with all its action, firing the engines, the eye watering nitro fumes, old friends, personalities, manufacturers row, food stands, cackle cars, the swap meet and of course the grand stands where you could watch the races if you answer to the sentry’s frowning bark “VEAH IST DAS TIKET!”

I’ve been coming to Bakersfield in March since 1959 when it was the Fuel and Gas Championships – that’s a picture of me here (below, to the right) in our famous crankdrive.  I’ve participated and spectated and it has always been very enjoyable.  I can tell you I’ve never seen anything like this before.  I can’t imagine what would happen if someone lost track of that ticket between the time they left the ticket booth and the time they reach the first demarcation zone.  The only way out would be to argue with the SS troops or buy another ticket.  I never received an explanation – the whole thing is insane and the fans are not happy, but then again who are they?   They just pay the bills.

See ya at the races

Ronnie Hier

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Bye bye Bikes, it was nice while it lasted

I don’t normally talk about Pro Stock Motorcycles because it’s not really a Nostalgia oriented racing event.  But still it’s drag racing and I just couldn’t believe what I saw.  Or more like what I didn’t see. 

The GatorNationals in Gainesville, Florida were just completed after an extended five day meet.  Yes, five days because for one, the GatorNationals are a longer four day event being that they are one of the bigger drag meets that we have historically.  And the fifth day was because of rain, which thank goodness, gave the Pro Bike class a little more coverage than they would otherwise get.

The GatorNationals are the first event of the year for the drag bikes.  No, they don’t get to run at the Winter Nationals at Pomona or the Arizona Nationals in Chandler, Arizona, in the suburbs of Phoenix.  That’s bad enough starting a month after all the other classes.  BUT, their next event isn’t until the middle of spring.

To be exact, the last weekend in April will hold the Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas.  Yep, while every other motorsport is far into probably a third of the season, Pro Bikes will finally be seen for only the second time in 2012!  Who made this schedule up!?

I realize that the bikes have a more abbreviated season that adds up to just 16 meets for the year compared with all the other Pro classes that have 23 nationals events scheduled.  But why in Gods-green-earth are the bikes left with such a slow start?  And it’s bad enough they miss the first two races of the year and have to hold out a month to start their season, but then after that one race, why would you make them stand on the sidelines for six weeks between their first and second event?  That’s right, six weeks!

This is absurd and although the bike guys already feel like second class citizens, they really are being treated with disregard.  A schedule that keeps you out of racing, except for one race, until almost May, isn’t doing anybody any good.  How can a fan base be excited if there’s little or no racing for the first third of the year?

I hope you had your fix of Pro Stock Motorcycles because that’s it for awhile.  I don’t normally go off on motorcycles as it’s not my favorite class but somebody had to stand up for the ridiculous scheduling … if you can even call it that.

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