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A fitting finale to the Cruisin’ Grand summer-long Friday night action series on Grand Avenue in Escondido’s historic downtown, Nitro Night ended the season with a bang, or more like a roar. On September, 30th 20 historic nitro dragsters from the “Golden Years” of top fuel racing were displayed and in a dramatic after dark on-street fire-up illustrated what was so special about the late 60’s Southern California drag racing scene, an amazing spectacle from long ago. Southern California was, in the late 60’s, a hotbed of drag racing. Young men were either into surfing or drag racing or maybe both. Numerous tracks operated on weekend days and nights allowing those who wanted to the opportunity to race on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday at different area tracks. Fans had the choice of many tracks operating within easy driving distance. San Diego/Ramona, Carlsbad, Long Beach, San Gabriel, Fontana, Riverside, San Fernando, Ontario, Irwindale, Colton and Orange County all had tracks for some or all of these years.

It was the heyday of push-started 200 mph nitro fueled dragsters at competing tracks with weekly 8 or 16 car elimination fields, national events with 32 cars and a few special events held with as many as 100 dragsters entered, qualifying for a 64 car field. Increased speeds and technology obsoleted these front-engine nitro cars by early 1970’s. But the memories created among participants and fans alike endured. 20 years ago, nostalgia played a role in bringing ssurvivor cars back to race tracks and car shows.

Today, most of these cars are faithful representations of actual cars from the 60’s, either being restorations of original cars, or recreations of original cars which have disappeared or been destroyed. Some of the current owners and drivers of these cars were actually racing in the 50s and 60’s and others just want to be a part of the representation of those historic days. A few cars have been built simply as a tribute to the era but not representing an actual car from the 60’s.

The cars pictured here were all part of Nitro Night. One more time, owners and drivers had the opportunity to show the fans what was a special time in their lives. Grand Avenue in Escondido became the stage once again for the rolling thunder of one of the most spectacular, awesome, city street events anywhere.

Photos by Pam Conrad and Darrell Conrad

 

Participating Cars and Owners

Larry Huff's "Soapy Sales" AA/FD Tommy Allen
Tommy Ivo's Barnstormer AA/FD Ron Johnson
ChiZler AA/FD Ron Johnson
Southwind III AA/FD Jay Carpenter
Tocco, Harper, Garten AA/FA Mike Tocco
Gruzen-Newhouse AA/FA Joel Gruzen
Smirnoff AA/FD Joe Passelaqua
Dean Eng. Special AA/FD Jake McCloud
Yeakle Plymouth Spec. AA/FD Frank Baney & Paul Rossi
Joe Schubeck AA/FD Joe Schubeck
Beaver Hunter AA/FA Joe Thomas
Wilton & Doss AA/FD Devon Wilton
Anaconda AA/FD Bob Hirsch
Iron Horse AA/FD Sam Chastain
Shubert & Herbert AA/FD Ron Johnson
Schultz & Glenn AA/FD Dan & Crystal Gerber

 

 

Orangeline

 

Sam Harding's Poison Ivy AA/FD

 

 

Yeakle Plymouth Special restored and owned by Frank Baney, Paul Rossi and Chuck Goebel.

 

Southwind III owned by Jay Carpenter

 

Wilton & Doss Chevy powered AA/FD owned By Bubby Wilton.

 

Ron and Kol Johnson with Ron's Tommy Ivo Barnstormer AA/FD

 

 

Ron Johnson with Mike Cook of Bonneville fame in the Chizler.

 

Steve Gibbs was on hand doing what he does best, herd cats.

 

The cars were all parked on the blocked to traffic Main St. so the fans could see them up close and personal.

 

In the late afternoon everyone did their static warm-ups in their parking spots. Here Joel Gruzen is starting Newhouse AA/FA with son, Dave in the seat.

 

 

 

 

Tocco Harper & Garten AA/FA owned by Bobby Tocco.

 

 

 

Troy Glenn oversees the fire-up of the Schultz & Glenn AA?FD

 

 

Ron Johnson priming the big Chrysler hemi in his Chris Karamesines AA/FD

 

 

Ron Johnson and the Ivo Barnstormer

 

 

 

Jake McCloud's Dean Engineering Spec. AA/FD makin big noise.

 

 

 

 

The beautuful Huff & Allen Soapy Sales AA/FD with Tommy Allen in the seat.

 

 

 

Marvin Schwartz - the Anaconda AA/FD owned by Bob Hirsch.

 

 

Sonny Messner was out with his Don Garlits Swamp Rat III.

 

 

The magnificant Smirnoff AA/FD restored and owned by Joe Passelaqua.

 

 

Iron Horse AA/FD restored and owned by Sam Chastain.

 

 

 

Sam Harding's Poison Ivy AA/FD

 

 

"Gentelman Joe" Schubeck was out with his restored 1965 AA/FD.

 

 

Wilton & Doss

 

 

 

 

Jay Carpenter's Southwind III AA/FD

 

 

 

Paul Rossi in the Yeakel Plymouth Spec. AA/FD

 

 

 

Beaver Hunter AA/FA

 

 

Orangeline

 

NITRO NIGHT BEGINS

After a faux push start the cars rolled a city block to the Christmas Tree/Starting Line.

 

Leading off was Dave Gruzen in the Newhouse Spec.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Orangeline

 

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