It's hard to believe that just
6 weeks out, the entire Beech Bend Raceway Park was under water
better suited for drag boats than any kind of car. Incredibly,
and to the credit of many, the facility was more than ready to
host the 8th annual National Hot Rod Reunion. There was virtually
no signs of the massive flood that swept through the area and
in spite of very hot and humid - in a word oppressive - weather
the track was in great shape. Kudos to all the staff and volunteers
who made this happen.
Fast forward to June 17th. Before
the pits were half full, the first event was "Media Day"
on Thursday where the press got a full dose of nitro from 3 cacklecars.
Ron Johnson and Morgan
Watson, a local TV reporter from WNKY in the ChiZler V. .
Public Relations Manager Marissa
Butler of the Bowling Green Visitors Bureau & Convention
Center was one of the lucky participants to get a cackle inside
one of the Reunions Honorees dragsters, the Loukas &
Jim Rodarmel was in the
seat of the Cupit & Cunningham car.
On Friday evening an annual Hot
Rod Reunion tradition was held at the Holiday Inn University
Plaza & Sloan Convention Center, the Reunion host hotel.The
Reception featured a colorful and comical bunch of old racers
and race teams. One participant said that the Reception shouldve
been called Friday Night Live because of all the laughs and wit
that filled the room. Even the cool and poised Master of Ceremonies
Dave McClelland, the voice of NHRA, was at a loss of words when
funny man Honoree Joe Jacono as well as Honoree T.C. Lemons took
over the microphone and stole the stage.
MC Dave McClelland
This years Honorees were Joe
Jacono, J.E. Kristek, Leffler Brothers & Loukas, T.C. Lemons
and Larry Reyes. Grand Marshal Chris The Greek Karamesines.
Like many racers of the 50s,
Joe Jacono began his career with a hot rod roadster followed
by a street raced Cad-powered 40 Ford coupe in his tough
South Philly neighborhood. At the first Winter Nationals in Florida
in 1960 he was event runner-up with his home-built Buick powered
modified roadster. His Lynwood-chassied AA/G dragster dominated
the early 60s at Atco Dragway reportedly losing only two
rounds in two seasons. After several successful seasons on gas,
Joe began driving Biddy Winwards Brief Encounter fuel dragster.
In 1968, he won the NHRA Division One Fuel Dragster title driving
the Barbin and Hayden "Hi Roller". In the early 70s
Joe switched to Funny Cars racing Winwards former Big
John Mazmanian candy-apple Cuda. He joined the Northeast
Funny Car circuit racing guys like Kosty Ivanoff and Jungle
Jim Liberman with his own Rolling Stoned Barracuda. The
then Charles Manson-look-alike ran a best of 6.18 227 before
calling it quits in 1976. Joe came out of retirement in 2002
when Bob Rosetty restored his old Funny Car. Jacono was so taken
by the restoration that he went through a drag racing school
refresher course and began making exhibition runs at the age
Steve Gibbs got the honor
of passing out the Wally's.
Bobby Rex accepted the award
for J.E. Cristek. J.E.'s wife was sick and he could not be there.
Bobby & J.E. are both from San Antonio.
Called by Big Daddy
Don Garlits one of fuel racings true unsung heroes,
San Antonios J.E. Kristek was a pioneer tuner of Top Fuel
dragsters and Funny Cars. In the early 60s the CKC team
of Carl Callier, J.E. Kristek, and Buddy Cortines earned the
reputation of giant killers in NHRA Division Four
Top Fuel ranks with their small-block Chevy-powered orange
car. In 1965 Carls son Fritz joined the team and
they built what was then known as a Factory Experimental Stocker.
Using a rare fiberglass Chevy II fastback built by Bill Thomas,
they installed a Z-11 427 and four-speed and went drag racing.
Eventually with an injected nitro-burning 396/427 they ran low
9s at 150-mph. In November of 67 a blown big-block
powered Don Hardy Camaro replaced the Chevy II and they were
runner-up to Gene Snow at the 69 AHRA Spring Nationals.
Cortines went dragster racing and Callier and Kristek (the second
C then stood for Chevy) continued Funny Car racing
until 1974. J.E. came out of retirement to tune Jody Smarts
Top Fueler to strong showings on the NHRA tour in the early 1980s.
In 2005 Gordon Chisenhall restored the CKC Vega and Kristek rebuilt
the Ramchargers Hemi for the project and tunes it for Cacklefest
Brothers and Loukas
After a street driven Olds-powered
Model A, Parma, Ohios John Loukas decided to build a drag
coupe in 1957 with his neighbors Neil and Lyn Leffler. An aluminum
channel frame barely supported the Bantam body and the Olds out
of the roadster. A switch to a carberated Chrysler resulted in
ten second, 130 mph times. In 1959 a new longer tube chassis
and a supercharger dropped times into the nines at nearly 160
mph. Within months they won the World Series at Cordova. Near
the end of the year the duo relocated to Southern California
where Loukas went to work for Weiand and Neil Leffler for Chassis
Research. After a runner-up finish to Top Eliminator Ted Cyr
at the 60 March Meet, at the 62 event their Worlds
Fastest Coupe defeated the legendary Speed Sport Worlds
Fastest Roadster and set a 1320 record of 9.03 at 173.96
mph. That summer Loukas returned to Ohio while Leffler drove
a wide variety of California dragsters and funny cars into the
1970s. Loukas and Bob Priesing raced the coupe out of Chris Karamesines
Engine Specialists until it was retired in 1971. After 25 years
on display in the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, Loukas took
the car home to Minnesota in 2000 where it was put in running
condition to participate in the popular Cacklefest events driven
by such luminaries as Leffler, Karamesines and T.V. Tommy Ivo.
If you haven't spent time
with T.C. Lemons, you're drag racing culturally deprived,
said Museum Boardmember Steve Gibbs. Over the years, Tom T.C.
Lemons has been Big Daddy Don Garlits most celebrated
crew member and the only guy Garlits has fired in each
of five consecutive decades. He went to his first drag
race in Tulsa in 1954 and raced his own Chrysler-powered 32
Ford at the 57 NHRA Nationals in Oklahoma City. He raced
with the best in the 60s including Southwest terrors Bob
Creitz, Jimmy Nix and Bennie Osborn. In 1968 he and Connie Swingle
went to Tampa with the intention of helping to build cars and
trade labor for a chassis. Except for brief periods, they never
went home to Oklahoma. T.C. became Garlits crew chief and of
those simpler times he says, I was the whole crew.
Its been said that Lemons had as much talent outside the
car as Garlits had in it. He was instrumental in perfecting Swamp
Rat 14, the rear engine dragster that revolutionized the sport
in 1971. He was involved in the construction of 19 different
Swamp Rats and restored many of the race cars in the Garlits
An early Funny Car Superstar,
Larry Reyes drove such legendary entries as The Kingfish,
the first Hawaiian, the Candies & Hughes entry
and The Super Cuda. Often thought of as a southerner,
Larry Reyes actually grew up in Southern California and made
his first pass at the pioneer Santa Ana drags. He joined Tom
Sturm in touring his factory-backed A/FX 427 Comet. Racing at
Lakeland Drag Strip in Memphis, Reyes caught the attention of
Larry Coleman and Bill Taylor who asked him to drive their Kingfish
Barracuda Funny Car. Reyes moved to Memphis and next drove the
candy red and gold Super Cuda which defeated the biggest names
in 1968 Funny Car racing with a win at the Super Stock Nationals.
Roland Leongs first Hawaiian Funny Car followed. At the
69 Winternationals the new Dodge flew spectacularly through
the Pomona traps. Reyes was unhurt and they toured the rebuilt
Hawaiian on the match race circuit and made a triumphant
return to Pomona with a win at the 70 Winternationals.
Brief stints in the Super Duster, Candies and Hughes 69
Cuda and Big John Mazmanians candy red
beauty preceded a new Super Cuda. In June 1971 at Norwalk, Ohio
a front tire failure resulted in a devastating crash and a crippling
spinal cord injury. In the early 90s Larry returned to
drag racing in a Super Gas Vega and recently to the seat of a
restored Hawaiian for Cacklefest fire-ups.
Chris The Greek Karamesines
Call him the Crazy Greek,
the Golden Greek, or simply the Greek,
Chicagos Chris Karamesines has been one of the most colorful
and popular characters in drag racing for over fifty years. He
is a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and
the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. He's still driving his
7,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragster at age 81.
Following the reception a mini-cacklefest
was started up in the hotel parking lot giving the crowd a taste
of whats in store for Saturdays spectacular Cacklefest.
This year the two cars with the honors were the Jim & Alison
Lee "Great Expectations" owned by Brain Beattie and
The Greeks "ChiZler V" owned by Ron Johnson.
Kol and Ron Johnson, Jerry and
Pat Baltes and Steve Gibbs appear to be searching the crowd for
the always fashionably late Greek.
Art Marshall in the Lee
car fired up first.
"Okay, just remember the
clutch is on the left and the gas pedal is on the right"!
One of the trademark effects
of the weedburner headers is the way the gallery clears the areas
in the direct blast of the headers once the engine is running.
It is literally a "no mans land" as the noise, concussion
and overpowering nitro smell are simply too much to bear.
In the pits the Belle of this
Ball was the debut of the perfectly restored World Champion car
of Bennie "The Wizard" Osborn. The car is now owned
by John Neas, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Neas also owns the Tony Nancy
"Loner" TF car. He bought the Osborn car at the big
auction of Ralph Whitworth's "Winnemucca Museum" car
collection. I think Whitworth completed the restoration that
was started by previous owner, Larry Smith.
The cowl art work is
The newly restored Howard Cams
Twin Bear made the trip east with the NHRA Museum team.
An NHRR regular has been
the Barnes and Gladstone "Michigander" AA/FD.
The very unique 1950ish
"Little Puffer" owned and restored by the Stevens
Another Hilton Family
entry was the Hombre AA/FA.
And the third Hilton
family car was the "Little Honker".
Boogie Scott, Bennie
Osborn and Glenn Cupit with the Cupit & Cunninham car.
Honorees Leffler Bros.
& Loukas AA/FMC
Another Cacklefest regular is
the Croshier-Baltes-Lavato AA/FD owned by Jerry Baltes.
The Wale and Candies
resto made the trip up from Louisiana.
Speking of Paul Candies,
here's "Tugboat" and Garlits beating the heat.
Green Monster 5
Bobby Langley's Scorpion
Brian Perrenot's "Gizzle
Al Bergler's camp
Fox & Hulls AA/FD
out of Chicago.
This beauty belongs to John Kaiser
of St. John, MI. It's a Mark Williams chassis with Al Bergler
body. Engine was used in Swamp Fox at previous events. Was not
fired up at this event.
Jim & Alison Lee
"Great Expectations" owned by Brain Beattie.
It's hard to miss the
Tommy Ivo Barnstormer owned by Ron Johnson.
Johnson's other NHRR
entry was the ChiZler V of Chris Karamesines.
Over the weekend there
were several static starts in the pits.
Norbe Locke was in attendance
with his "Grandpas' Toy" from Illinois. Norbe is the
undisputed King of Midwest Cacklecar activities, taking his car
to Car Shows and other events all Summer.
John Rowley, long time drag racer
in a variety of classes, restored the Arfons Mill "Green
Monster" a year or so ago. John is in the seat for a fire-up.
He is continuing with the restoration to complete the drive train
so the car can move under it's own power".
Bill Klein (Manassas,VA), crew
chief and transportation co-ordinator in the car, owner, driver
Bob Bilbow (Wilkes-Barre,PA) on the right. Lyndwood Welding Special
is a '61 Lyndwood chassis. Built by the late Pat Bilbow (Bob's
Dad). '58 392 engine.
Nitro Jim in the C&C
WDIFL.com photog, Paul
Bennie Osborn suited up for the
first time in over 40 years to do a test push start in his old
Like riding a bicycle...
Preston Davis made sure
Ray Godman's flopper could still do a burnout.
BOWLING GREEN. Ky. (June 30,
2010) New dates have been announced for the three-day
Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion. Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports
Museum Board members and Reunion Managers believe it is in the
best interest of fans, participants, and sponsors to modify the
Fathers Day weekend dates in order to ensure full-event
participation and to present the best possible show.
The confirmed new 2011 dates
are Thursday, June 16; Friday, June 17; and Saturday, June 18.
The venues and activities
will remain the same. Tickets will go on sale starting December
16, 2010. A full event schedule will be available closer to the
The 9th annual Holley NHRA National
Hot Rod Reunion, June 16-18 at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green,
Ky., is a three-day festival of speed, hot rods and American
automotive enthusiasm. Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports
Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California
and located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is part of the museums
living history philosophy, which works to bring to
life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early
days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of
American car culture.
Unique among motorsports events,
the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from
the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street
rods and customs of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.
Information, including a full
activities schedule, entry forms and tickets, will soon be available
through the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at http://museum.nhra.com
or by calling 1-800-884-NHRA (6472).