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"The Biggest Little Show"
Event Report by Bill Pitts

Hello Race Fans:

I know it happened, because I was there--and so were a ton of other folks. The Escondido Police department counts available parking places left in the area, and came up with a figure that approaches "outdoor concert" numbers for those in attendance.

Approximately 30,000 folks, crammed into the old downtown business district, to view a slice of what drew many of us to drag racing in the first place--the sight, sound, feel, and smell, of a nitromethane burning competition car. And these were no ordinary competition cars.

These were competition cars from drag racing's past. Cars that either ceased to compete, many years ago, or are apparitions of cars that no longer exist. Cars that made up some of "golden age" drag racing's most astounding visions. Cars that were some of the quickest and fastest, for their day.

Tommy Allen "Trick Car" AA/FD Tommy Allen
Tommy Ivo's Barnstormer AA/FD Ron Johnson
Shubert & Herbert AA/FD Ron Johnson
Wynn's Spoiler AA/FD Bobby Hansen
Cook & Bedwell Ray Lake
Mastercar AA/FD John Ewald
Marvin Schwartz "Anaconda" AA/FD Bob Hirsch
ChiZler AA/FD Ron Johnson
Magicar AA/FD Bill Pitts
Woody Tribute Car AA/FD Jay Carpenter
BankAmericar AA/FD Ewald Bros.
Tocco, Harper, Garten AA/FA Mike Tocco
Poison Ivy AA/FD Ken Blackmore
Iron Horse AA/FD Sam Chastain
Cagle/Newhouse AA/MFR Gruzen Racing Family
Swamp Rat II AA/FD Sonny Messner
Anaconda AA/FD Bob Hirsch
Tommy Larkin Tribute Car AA/FD Trevor Larkin
Tocco Harper & Garten AA/FA Bobby Tocco
Poachers AA/FD Paul Schavrien
Climax AA/FA Steve Serot & Rick Bulluni
Dean Eng. AA/FD McCloud Bros.

On Display: The "Snake" & "Mongoose" Hot Wheels Funny Cars and their transporters, Randy Walls NFC, drag boats and many more race cars and street rods of various disciplines.


"Normal" vintage drag racing events usually take days. This was a "It was like a magic act, now you
see it, now you don't". With the streets closing at 4:00 pm on a Friday afternoon, and opening again by 9:00 p.m. or so. Everyone hit the ground running, and before you knew it (5 hours later) you were saying your goodbyes and heading out into the night. That's unload, fuel up, fire up, cool down, refuel, push to staging, fire and push, load up, and go! It was astounding!

And with each car, came a variety of young and old, hero and fan--all with the single purpose of putting on the best show they could. This wasn't a drag strip several miles from civilization. This was a city street and people who never thought they would see it, saw a glimpse of drag racing's past--for free!

Special thanks must be given to Mr. Steve Waldron, head of Escondido's "Cruisin' Grand", for presenting "Nitro Night" at the Grand Finale cruise of their season. And for jumping through all the hoops necessary to get the proper approval for this really unique street event, and acquiring the necessary sponsors to hopefully cover expenses. And to Ron Johnson for coordinating a line up of cackle cars for the event that made such an impression on those in attendance. Also Connie Braun of the Cacklecar Owner's Alliance for handling waivers and wristbands. And to the scores of assistants and volunteers that took up positions of responsibility that were vital to the safe operation of this very special show.

It was hard on everybody...but the end result was achieved--a lasting impression of astonishment and appreciation for "the good old days" of drag racing, that was carried home by all those in attendance.
And that is why we came.

My thanks to all those teams who brought a portion of golden age night time drag racing back to life, for all those present to enjoy.

Sincerely, Bill Pitts




Although the streets would not be blocked off until 4 PM, many cars were on hand much earlier.


Ron Johnson's Shubert & Herbert SBC fueler as it arrived on the scene.


Bill Pitts Magicar waiting to be unloaded.


Sonny Messner brought Swamp Rat 3 in his enclosed trailer behind his motorhome.


Sam Chastain fueling up his Iron Horse AA/FD.


Bob Hirsch preparing his Anaconda.


Jay Carpenter fuels up Ken Blackmore's Poison Ivy.


John Ewald showed up with his new rig featuring a stacker trailer that handles both cars with room to spare.






A scene you won't see on your city streets.

















Ron Johnson surprised "TV Tom" with a duplicate of the helmet he wore during his Barnstormer years.


Don Ewald, Bob Danly, Ron Johnson, Bill Pitts, Richard “Jesus” Vasquez, Dennis Hespeller, Rick McDonald, John Weidler and Kol Johnson.


Steve Serot & Rick Bulluni









Dennis Hespeller, Rick McDonald, Orah Mae and Robyn Millar, Joel Gruzen, Jeep Hampshire and John Weidler .


Cynthina Carpenter and John Ewald


Carol Bell took on the registration responsabilites this year. Here she takes care of Sonny Messner.


Don Ewald, Cynthia Carpenter and Orah Mae Millar.


Tocco Harper & Garten AA/FA gang.



Cat hearder Bill Pitts explains the new format for this year.


Many of the players...


Tommy Allen, Jeep Hampshire, Roland Kleinsorge, Tommy Ivo, Sonny Messner, Drew Mraz and Tom Chastang, a long time friend of "Nitro" Sammy Chastain.


Dave and Joel Gruzen with Richard Heath.



Ron Johnson's Ivo Barnstormer waiting for the warm-up.







Afternoon Warm Ups


After telling everyone this was to be a short warm-up Bill announced the cars as they were fired. This was one of the lessons learned, don't stagger the starts up and down the street. Almost killed some photogs trying to keep up which resulted in a lot of missed photos.


Kol Johnson the Chizler.





Rick McDonald was helping out Sonny Messner in his Swamp Rat III.




Dave Gruzen was in the Newhouse Spec.





Sam Chastain's Iron Horse





Original driver Zane Shubert alias “The Beard” in Ron Johnson's Shubert & Herbert fueler.






Original driver Roger Garten




Ronnie Hampshire was in the Poison Ivy car.




Trevor Larkin in his SBC car.







Sprint car champ Mike Spencer took a liking to nitro.



Original driver Jeep Hampshire in the Magicar.






Tommy Allen in his Trick Car.






John's old friend Dan Crawley was in the Mastercar.







Bill Schilling in the Wynns Spoiler.






Walt Stevens jumped into the Dean Eng. Special





Tom Ivo in the Barnstormer





Dominic Cardoza in the Woody Tribute Car.





Don Ewald in the BankAmericar






Randy Walls led off the night session.



Zane Shubert in Ray Lake's Cook & Bedwell reproduction.



Kol Johnson - Chizler


Sonny Messner


Trevor Larkin




Zane Shubert



Dave Gruzen in the Newhouse Spec.


Ronnie Hampshire



Jeep Hampshire in the Magicar.


Walt Stevens in the Poachers.





Tommy Allen








John Ewald in his Mastercar.





Bill Schilling






Bob Hirsch's Anaconda



Dominic Cardoza







Sam Chastain in his Iron Horse


Don Ewald - BankAmericar






"TV Tommy" Ivo at home in Ron Johnson's Barnstormer.




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