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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.

Participating Cars and Owners

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
ChiZler AA/FD Ron Johnson
Magicar AA/FD Bill Pitts
Woody Tribute Car AA/FD Jay Carpenter
Tocco, Harper, Garten AA/FA Mike Tocco
Poison Ivy AA/FD Ken Blackmore
Iron Horse AA/FD Sam Chastain
Swamp Rat II AA/FD Sonny Messner
Goundshaker Jr. AA/FA Glenn Way
Climax AA/FA Steve Serot & Rick Bulluni
Smirnoff AA/FD Joe Passalaqua
Thunder Chief AA/FD Terry Mastrejuan
Wilton & Doss AA/FD Bubby Wilton


"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 2:00 pm on a Friday afternoon, and opening again by 10:00 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. Also Steve Gibbs and 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 2 PM, many cars were on hand much earlier.


The Wilton & Doss big block Chevy fueler. Reproduced by Bubby Wilton, one of the original owners.




One of the many repeat performers was the Tocco-Harper-Garten AA/FA.



A welcome and popular addition to this years field was the beautiful Smirnoff AA/FD restored and owned by Joe Passalaqua.





Steve Serot & Rick Bulluni had the Climax AA/FA back for its third year.




The car that started it all - Bill Pitts "Magicar".




Terry Mastrejuan's Thunder Chief AA/FD made its first appearance in Escondido.



Sonny Messner's Swamp Rat III AA/FD has become a staple of the event.



Another regular the The ChiZler, one of three cars out of the Ron Johnson stable.




Another Johnson car is the Tommy Ivo Barnstormer AA/FD.




Johnson's third car is the Chevy powered Shubert & Herbert AA/FD.



Drew Mraz and Ron Johnson. Mraz uses his truck and tows a trailer for Ron when he needs help.


Tommy Allen brought out his Woody Trick car for its forth appearance.


The Iron Horse AA/FD owned by Sam Chastain.



Bobby Hansen's Wynn's Spoiler AA/FD was back for more.




One of the local cars and repeat performer, Ken Blackmore's Poison Ivy AA/FD.




Glenn Way's Groundshakers Jr AA/FA made its Nitro Night debut.





Cacklefest co-founder Steve Gibbs was brought in to run the show.









There were several other race cars on display including Randy Walls funny car.







Afternoon Warm Ups


Looking up the "drag strip" before the streets were packed with spectators.






Drag racing vet Jimmy Scott was in Poison Ivy.



Deyon Young got the seat in the Wilson & Doss car.





Your hero and mine....


Bill Schilling was in the Wynns Spoiler for the afternoon fire-up, and Bobby Hansen was in for the night rolling start.





Original driver Roger Garten





Glenn Way





Original owner/driver Daryl Greenamyer in the Smirnoff car for the first time in 45 years.






Iron Horse had John Koppinger in the seat.





Rick MacDonald was in the Climax altered for the night time fire up.




Tommy Allen in the seat of his Trick Car.





Original driver Jeep Hampshire back home in the Magicar.




Drew Mraz in Shoobie




Terry Mastrejuan in his Thunder Chief.







The ChiZler found Kol Johnson in the seat.





Sonny Messner





"TV Tom" Ivo





Ray Lake, Kol Johnson, Ron Johnson and Ivo




Light up the Night


















































Ivo and Sonny Messner were the last cars, both cars ran for an extended period of time, neither driver wanting to shut off first. Finally, Sonny felt his engine was getting hot and he shut it off. The Barnstormer ran for about 30 seconds more and then Ivo shut it down. The roar from the crowd was just amazing. All those people pressed into the small area and they really
let the participant know how they felt about the show. Smiles all around.




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