Fast Times with a Quarter-Mile High -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 06:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
The summer was almost over and the waves of Lake Huron gently curled and rolled onto the white sand beaches of East Tawas, Michigan. It was August 31, 1964, and we were planning our next cruise before heading home. Was it going to be the pier or Main Street? We sat there on the shore listening to “The House of the Rising Sun” on our Philco transistor radio talking about girls and cars, swapping lies about our conquests, always trying to outdo the other guy.

Suddenly the music was interrupted by a news flash that said Don Garlits had set a quarter mile record of 200 mph at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, N.J. The announcer seemed out of breath, hardly able to contain himself. We looked at one another and wondered how such a feat was possible. Garlits had gone where no man had ever gone before and it was the stuff of legends as far as we were concerned. It warranted a special news report that was tailor made for a motley group of Detroit 16 year-olds who thrived on a need for speed at a time when the automobile was more than just a means of conveyance from Point A to Point B.

From Ted’s Drive-In at the northern end of Woodward to the Totem Pole in Royal Oak, the story seemed to become larger than life as it was told and retold from Eight Mile to Square Lake Road. For street racers it was an event that rivaled the first man in space. The “quarter-milers” had a hero, someone to look up to, someone to emulate. He was one of us.

It’s difficult to imagine any radio station interrupting their playlist to announce such an event today, the significance to the populace being way down on the list of daily newsworthy happenings to all but a few gearheads who still maintain the lifestyle that has fallen from favor in the “green” world which surrounds us.

The primal excitement of top fuel drag racing continues to this day at strips throughout the country and it was once again evident at the recent FRAM Nationals that fast times and quarter-mile highs are available for the price of a ticket, an E-ticket of sorts that rekindled memories of that day 45 years ago when a simple guy from Tampa Florida accomplished something that others continue to strive for today. It all seemed so important in 1964 and for three days in July 2009 it became important once again.

Photos by J. R. Andres, Nate Jacobsen, Deborah Hepper

496 comments ( 13895 views )   |  permalink   |  print article   |   ( 3 / 1692 )
Is Mayfield the Victim? -- by J. R. Andres 
Friday, July 3, 2009, 12:12 AM
Posted by Administrator
The ongoing saga of Mayfield vs. NASCAR took another turn when U.S. District Court Judge, Graham Mullen, signed a temporary injunction allowing Jeremy Mayfield to compete in this weekend’s NASCAR race at Daytona after being suspended two months ago for a failed drug test. Funny thing ... Mayfield didn’t enter the race. Sources close to the situation said it had to do with sponsorships but maybe there were other factors that no one’s talking about that made him sit this one out.

The circus atmosphere that has surrounded this matter from the start has polarized a number of factions within the racing community and brought to light some important issues that will surely be addressed when this whole thing is finally in everyone’s rear view mirror. At the heart of the matter is NASCAR, a family owned organization that sets the rules and the policies that everyone has to play by. For sixty years the France’s have guided the sport from humble beginnings to a place of prominence and like it or not, their decisions are final, or so they thought.

Jeremy Mayfield decided to contest his suspension after testing positive for a “recreational” drug and like Don Quixote has committed himself to clearing his name but there are many windmills yet to conquer before he, Rocinante and Sancho can rest easy once again, secure in knowing they fought the good fight for truth, justice and righteousness.

Many believe that Mayfield’s career is effectively over at this point, regardless of the final outcome and several drivers, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Robby Gordon, recently submitted affidavits stating they are not “willing to put my life at risk driving a race car on a NASCAR track with drivers testing positive for drugs that diminish their capacity to drive a race car.” No one can blame them. Others think that Mayfield is the victim of NASCAR demagogues who arbitrarily make decisions without offering any recourse for the accused to pursue the matter any further. These individuals are convinced that Mayfield effectively got the short end of the stick and the decision to keep him off the track was one more example of NASCAR’s excessive iron-handed style of doing things.

At this point, NASCAR has not indicated what its next move will be and the facts remain sketchy as to whether Mayfield did, in fact, have an illegal substance in his system. It’s clear that both sides are committed to seeing it through to the end and have the matter decided in court. When that time comes, one can only hope that something is learned by both sides in order to avoid the possibility of more windmills being built in the future.

339 comments ( 18136 views )   |  permalink   |  print article   |   ( 3 / 2138 )
You Meet the Nicest People in a Hyundai -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 12:04 AM
Posted by Administrator
This song line (with a few changes) from the mid 1960’s motorcycle commercial was a portent of things to come when Honda and several other Japanese manufacturers began to promote their two-wheeled products in the U.S. The English were already here at that time with Norton, BSA and Triumph and of course, there was Harley Davidson, a time honored American company that eventually saw their once secure market share slip away with each passing year. It took a while but the populace in North America became accustomed to names like Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha, and that was just the beginning.

Over in the four-wheeled world, VW, Simca and Renault led a similar invasion but their numbers were small and the radar screens of the Big Three hardly even noticed the blips. There was a lot of denial then about the long term impact these brands would eventually have upon the automotive industry in this country and most of the car buying public continued to remain true blue to the Dodges, Fords and Chevys that were made in the good old USA in spite of it all. No harm/no foul or so they thought.

In light of the subsequent inundation of off shore products, it wasn’t surprising that in 2006 Toyota became involved in NASCAR, a racing fraternity of cars and individuals who cut their teeth on name brands manufactured domestically. After all, Toyotas are made here now so why shouldn’t they be allowed to race alongside Impalas, Chargers and Fusions? Don’t you know that they’re built by Americans and they pay taxes and they help the economy?

There are a couple of ways to look at this issue since Toyota is already a part of the scene and the hue and cry against their inclusion in NASCAR has already waned but a larger issue remains that no one seems to notice on their radar screens. Once again, it appears that another door has been opened by NASCAR to the likes of VW, Mercedes, Honda, BMW and Hyundai. Will Daewoo be next? What about Opel and Fiat and Lexus?

Sure, GM and Chrysler need to cut back their sponsorships because it’s hard to justify that kind of expenditure when you’re laying off people and dealerships are rapidly closing, but are the powers that be in NASCAR so misguided that they are willing to (once again) dilute a staple of the American landscape even further with brands so far removed from what this sport is all about? If you do, you might as well align yourself with Formula One, a series without a people and a country to call its own.

410 comments ( 7944 views )   |  permalink   |  print article   |   ( 3 / 1709 )
He Thinks it's Cool -- by J. R. Andres 
Sunday, June 14, 2009, 09:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
This story has been hashed and rehashed over and over again by the media since the recent meltdown in Nashville but it’s something that just won’t go away, sort of like a trick birthday candle that refuses to be blown out. And why is that? It’s because a person of prominence in the NASCAR world continues to demonstrate an inability to recognize that the course of behavior he’s chosen doesn’t make him the hip “happening” leading edge bon vivant he considers himself to be. His boorish and tiresome behavior doesn’t seem to bother Gibb’s Racing, his Mars Candy sponsor or Toyota, either. If they’ve said something, it doesn’t seem to matter. After all, why squeeze a winner? They couldn’t bear the thought of him jumping ship. Think of all the money involved. Think of the lost revenue.

So the ship continues to sail along, undaunted and never wavering with “K the Younger’ at the helm, completely oblivious and unaware of the fact that he won’t be able to steer clear of each and every iceberg that looms before him. Convinced that he’s unstoppable and unable to sink why slow down, who cares about the warnings of the navigator? Full speed ahead!!

495 comments ( 12841 views )   |  permalink   |  print article   |   ( 2.9 / 1701 )
Setting Records with Only 358.17 Cubic Inches -- by Ira Ostenheimer 
Thursday, June 4, 2009, 07:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
Records were set this past Tuesday in Charlotte but they weren’t the ones Carl Long has been trying to set for many years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Circuit. Long, part-time driver and independent car owner, was tagged with a 12 race suspension and a 200 points penalty along with a $200,000.00 fine levied against his crew chief, Charles Swing, who was recently admitted to a hospital with heart problems on or about the time of the ruling by the National Stock Car Racing Commission.

The saga began on May 15th at Charlotte during practice for the All Star Race when the engine let go, prompting an inspection by NASCAR, who found it to be 0.17 over the maximum of 358 cubic inches. It’s interesting to note that Long, at that point, could have packed things up and left instead of allowing the officials to spec out the engine.

Rules are rules but one has to wonder if Long is a scapegoat, unlucky or merely a person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. NASCAR is very clear about powerplant size (350 cubic inches with 8 cubic inch leeway to allow for variances) and for the first time in 18 years an engine was found to be over the limit. It’s also the first time a driver was sanctioned in such a way even though some feel he was thrown a bone by the Commission allowing him to still compete in the Nationwide and Camping World Series.

Traditionally, rules are instituted to insure compliance and when necessary, provide guidelines for corrective action. In the view of this writer they are not intended to sentence someone to life imprisonment for a simple assault. Sure he should have checked the engine himself even though long time builder Ernie Elliot certified that it was correct but by no measure of fairness and reality should a ruling, any ruling, be so stiff as to threaten the very existence of a team that had already been struggling just to make ends meet week in, week out.

All of this raises an interesting question. Does anyone really believe the Commission would have enacted the same ruling if the driver had been Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

472 comments ( 9899 views )   |  permalink   |  print article   |   ( 3 / 1694 )

<<First <Back | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Next> Last>>