Much was made earlier this month about Funny Car’s John Force turning the page on his 60s. But NASCAR pioneer Donnie Allison told Competition Plus while preparing for this year’s 25th anniversary of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride for the Victory Junction Camp, “That ain’t nothin’. You know how old I’ll be in September? 80.”  Someone remarked, “That’s young!” Allison said, “I know it! I’m riding a motorcycle across the United States of America.” And he wasn’t the oldest person on his sixth annual bike adventure. Hershel McGriff, who raced last season in a NASCAR K&N West Series race at Tucson Speedway, will be 92 years old this December.

Force, whose next victory will put his career total at 150, said before this race began, “Bottom line, we keep putting ourselves in a position to win. I’m getting more confident every week. I’m using every trick I’ve got to run with these kids, but it’s gonna happen.”

It might have happened already, had it not been for the scorching performance this first third of the season from Force’s teammate, three-time winner Robert Hight, who has stopped Force in the semifinals three times already in 2019. (at Pomona, Gainesville, and Houston).  

Force’s most recent victory (his third in six final rounds) at Route 66 Raceway came in 2006.

Allison said, “John Force is a cooooool dude. We’re buddies.”

But inevitably – yes, predictably – when drag racing’s biggest weekend program rolls into Route 66 Raceway, it’s always a fun exercise to celebrate the vitality of two Men of A Certain Age in the Top Fuel class – Chicago residents Chris Karamesines and Luigi Novelli.

Unless he has bribed someone to knock a few years off his official birthdate, Karamesines will be 88 in November, and Novelli will be 77 the next month. So even in this sport that pays no attention to gender, race, or age, Karamesines and Novelli have traded good-natured barbs about the other’s degree of crotchetiness.

Take, for instance, their shtick at the U.S. Nationals in 2016:

Karamesines: We’re just going to try and do our best here and see what happens. As long as we can beat Novelli, we don’t care.”

Competition Plus: Do you really have a rivalry going with Novelli?

Karamesines: Nah. Just his age. He’s just too old to be driving a race car.

Novelli :  [With mock annoyance] “I got news for him – he’s ancient. He should have quit 20 years ago. Don’t forget – he started probably [19]58, ’59. I started by ’61. We go back, you know, a long, long time. But, you know, he’s a little bit older and he’s a little bit, supposedly wiser. I doubt it.

Novelli, owner-driver of the National Machine Repair Dragster, said the two of them poke fun at each other “all the time” and that their silly sniping has been going on for “30 years, maybe 40.” He said,

Is he wiser than Karamesines? Novelli – who described the state of his team as “same old stuff, same old cars, same old Luigi the old guy, same old working, same old everything” – disparaged both of them. He said, “If we were wise, we wouldn’t be doing this and spending all our money.”