WAR STORIES SHOWDOWN - DAY FOUR
Here are the rules –
The field was seeded by reader vote. The participants are paired on the standard NHRA professional eliminations ladder. Each story represents an elimination run for the participant. The readers will judge each war story on the merits of (A) believability and (B) entertainment value. Please do not vote based on popularity. You are the judge and jury and vote accordingly.
Voting lasts for three days per elimination match. Once a driver advances to the next round, they must submit a new war story.
This is an event based on fun and entertainment value, so with that said we’re hoping that we don’t get letters of legal action and a black Crown Victoria in our office parking lot, the latter being directed at Pat Musi and Roy Hill.
This is drag racing with no red-lights, disqualifications and plenty of oil downs minus the clean-ups. Please enjoy as each of our competitors tell their own stories.
December 20, 2007
#3 Qualifier – Tom "Mongoose" McEwen
WAR STORIES CLAIM TO FAME – Once Made Ivo Reportedly Start Crying
I think the more you talk with the drag racing veterans, the more you will find that we all had a tendency to pull off some pretty good pranks. Some of them were ingenious and others were downright blatant.
Pranking someone was just like drag racing, if they got you one time, then you had to get them back even better.
My story goes back to the early 1970s when I went to Hawaii for the opening of a new drag strip over there. We had a lively group of characters with us. There was myself, Dave Brock, Tommy Ivo and Chris Karamesines. We were stayed at this high rise hotel.
To know Tommy Ivo was to get pranked by him. Ivo was a real prankster in those days.
What a lot of people don’t know also is that Ivo was like a vampire too. He’d sleep all day and stay up all night. He was peculiar about some things because he would carry fans with him on trips and blankets to make sure that no light came into his room. It had to be pitch dark.
That was just scratching the surface because he also carried his own cereal, special pajamas and all kinds of stuff he used to go through a ritual in sleeping. I know this because we were in the room next to him.
Every night when we’d come back to the hotel all tired and we’d go to bed. He always tried to stay one step ahead of us and on a couple of occasions he’d gotten there before us and somehow gained access into our room.
Ivo, the prankster, somehow or another mounted the clock radio in the ceiling. He knew exactly what he was doing because he methodically set the clock timer for 3 AM. He thought that was real funny.
It wasn’t any more funny the first time than it was the fourth or fifth. I’ve always said that payback is a mother.
Ivo got held up one day and was late getting back to his room and we seized on the opportunity. We were going to teach him a lesson.
The details escape me, but one way or another we got into his room. We took everything he had – cereal, special pajamas, clothes, blankets and everything – even got his bed sheets and put them in the tub and turned the water on.
When he got back to the room, everything he had was under water. They were soaked.
You know what? The funny thing is that our clock radio didn’t come on that night.
#14 Qualifier – Don "The Shoe" Schumacher
WAR STORIES CLAIM TO FAME –
There may have been a hotbed of racing action on the west coast, but let me tell you – we had our own little shindig of activity happening on the east coast, especially in New York.
The location escapes me at this time, but we went back to the hotel and parked the transporter and car in the parking lot. We got up the next morning and it was gone – stolen. It had disappeared.
It was a tough loss, but not the end of the world. I had a complete operation back home, so we went back there and got it. About three weeks later, I was out on the East Coast match racing with Jungle Jim. One of his crew guys told me that he saw my rig over at Freddie DeName’s place.
Freddie DeName was a car thief out of Brooklyn, and he ran a car back then, and he was connected with the syndicate. He was connected with a group that thought nothing of killing people. I went ahead and got a hold of the police and put them on it.
Freddie ended up turning on the syndicate and got into the witness protection program and moved down to Texas. Five years later, they found him hung from a bedpost. They actually killed Freddie’s brother and that’s why he turned on them. He was a crazy, crazy individual and did not know how to read or write. He thought nothing of killing people.
There’s a book out called Murder Machine and you can find a picture of “Broadway Freddie” in it - that was his nickname and it ended up on the side of the car he stole from me. The sport got fairly involved with those kinds of people and they often used the sport to launder money.
There was one guy from South Chicago who ran a chop shop operation and got involved in the sport, and they killed him right in front of his chop shop.
The sport got really questionable in the Seventies and that’s one of the reasons I got out back then. I was the kind of guy that tried to be nice with everyone and I saw myself getting in trouble if I stayed involved. We had the energy crisis and sponsorships were hard to find.
Anyway, getting back to the situation, I was racing out on Long Island a couple of week’s later after notifying the police and Freddie DeNane came out to the race track and visited me with a Thompson sub-machine gun.
He was a serious individual, so I said, “No problem, keep whatever you have…I don’t need to know anything further.”
In a situation like that, you learn quickly to forget that you had a car. I sure did.
#6 Qualifier – Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney
WAR STORIES CLAIM TO FAME – Once Reportedly Super Glued Dishes To The Table In A Diner
I’ve watched some of the stories that have been shared by my fellow competitors in this competition, and when it comes to my first rounder, it was a doozie. If you’ve ever had a tough time between rounds, I’ll let you compare notes with my 1980 Fallnationals event in Seattle, WA.
Let’s set the stage here. There are four of us Top Fuel drivers, neck and neck, battling it out for the world championship. Three had a very good chance and the fourth a mathematical. The three of us were myself, Gary Beck and Marvin Graham. Frank Bradley had the mathematical chance.
We went into Seattle with this scenario staring us down. Qualifying went okay. First round went okay. But in the second round, everything went haywire after we won.
If you’re familiar with Seattle, after you run, you exit to the right. So we’re coming down the return road and through the pits when some guy made a crude remark to us as we passed by. I can’t remember where we qualified and who we beat that round – but I do remember what he said to me. That I do remember but I’ll keep that to myself.
It was blatant. Just as that guy said it, Rahn Tobler slammed on the brakes in the tow truck. My son John, who was sitting on the tailgate of the duallie, jumped off of the truck made a beeline for the jerk and decked him. There just happened to be two cops standing there. They saw the whole thing.
Instead of getting the guy who started it all, they started wrestling with John and started to arrest him. That’s when Tobler came over and got in the middle of it too. He inadvertently shoved the cop and the cop put the handcuffs on him too. The Cop put them both in the back of the police car. Meanwhile, I’m standing there with the tow truck, the car and a race to run in the semis.
We’re pleading with the cops and it’s falling on deaf ears. They didn’t seem to care.
They did their best good ole boy impersonation talking back and forth.
“What are we going to do here?” One asked the other. “You want to take them somewhere and then you and I go get lunch. What do you want to do?”
I guess they made their decision and were getting ready to take John and Rahn out of the race track but not before a guy named Steve Woomer entered the picture.
Woomer had a lot of pull back in those days and he was best known as a sponsor for Jerry Ruth. I would equate Woomer to Evan Knoll. He was a respected man that helped a lot of people.
Even Woomer couldn’t reason with the cops and the moment he did, he almost paid the price for it. He had walked over to the police car window and leaned in to talk to them. That’s about the same time they decided to drive off with him leaning in there. It almost took off his head.
That didn’t set well with Woomer and he was determined not to let their actions be the end-all to this situation.
Once they got John and Rahn out of the track, they really took their time in deciding their fate. They knew we were in a battle for the championship because they had been paying attention to the race. It was their intent to teach us a lesson.
Meanwhile the jerk that started it all was free to go and do whatever he pleased. I don’t know who was in shock more, me or those who witnessed it. Then it hit me, I had better make something happen or my race and this championship would be over.
Here I am, standing there – waiting for the semis and there’s no one to work on my car. All of a sudden a large group of people make their way over to my pits and jump in. It was like the cavalry coming to my rescue.
Bob Devour spearheaded the whole rescue effort. He was a blessing and every person who jumped in to help me.
They got the car ready, and we did it, I’ll never know how – but we made the semis. Not only that, we won that round. It was an entertaining run, too. The car went out and did a monster wheelstand like you wouldn’t believe. I was able to set it down. We found out later that one of the crew guys had put the clutch discs in backwards. It really didn’t matter in the big picture.
In the end, it all worked out. No harm, no foul. I just had to drive the car for a change.
Meanwhile, Woomer was still stewing over the incident and while they were getting my car to the line, he called in his connections to the police chief. The police chief just happened to be on the grounds.
Well the Chief gets on the phone and calls the officers and demands they bring back the prisoners immediately.
The officers try to reason and he says, “I’m not going to repeat myself.” He told them to get John and Rahn back here now!
Those cops were really ticked. I got John and Rahn back in time for the finals.
We went on to beat Marvin Graham in the finals.
You know I see when all of these teams come together to help one another when there’s been a fire or an accident and I can’t help but think of that day when our makeshift crew made it happen. The championship went down to the final run in Ontario the next month. If I hadn’t won that race, I wouldn’t have been the champion that year.
I think two lessons were learned that day; (A) You couldn’t mess with the late Steve Woomer and (b) never count Shirley Muldowney out.
#11 Qualifier - Roy "Hillbilly" Hill
WAR STORIES CLAIM TO FAME – Pro Stock Racer Who Never Met A Nitrous Bottle That He Didn't Like
How can you live in the south and not have a connection to NASCAR. My connection was solid to the Petty Family.
Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins was quite the man in drag racing, but in NASCAR – well, he was just that guy named Bill Jenkins.
This was in 1973 and Jenkins had built a motor and put it in Donnie Allison’s race car. Jenkins made fun of all the NASCAR boys and told them that all Maurice Petty could do was build an old tractor motor.
That motor Jenkins built lasted about six laps and I think Petty won the race.
Petty came home and asked me where I’d be racing that Jenkins guy. As it turned out, I had a match race against Jenkins coming up in Cecil County, Md. The Pettys gave me the order to whip him bad because he made fun of them. I became their drag racing hit man.
They cut a block down and put a Keith Black crank in it. It made the engine 484 inches and put a good set of heads on it. The told me to put whatever I could on there – nitrous or whatever.
I called Dave Braswell and had him build me a nitrous unit that would fit under the manifold.
I remember we got to Cecil County on time at 11 am and warmed the car. About 2:50, Jenkins rolled in. He unloaded his car and it was Larry Lombardo driving at the time.
Jenkins raced the motor and does all of that. He was showing off pretty good.
I did my burnout and where most people would purge outside of the window, my purge was inside the engine compartment. I did my burnout and had come to a stop. I back up and at the time, an 8.60 at 157 mph was the fastest anyone had run.
I had went up to Jenkins earlier and asked, “Grump, how fast are you going to run today?”
He stuck his head up and smelled the air and said, “Oh, I’m gonna run about an 8.62 or 8.63 at about 159 miles per hour.”
I looked at him and said, “Damn, that’s faster than anyone else has ever been.”
After he had told me that, I got in my car and at the launch, he was about a car length on me. I pulled second, flipped my switch and I came around him. I ran an 8.53 at 160-something miles per hour. I came back and parked it.
Jenkins got back to his pit, raised the hood and raced that motor so high that I though he was going to blow it up. He came over to my pit and walked around the car.
Jenkins made that sound, Hrrrummmmmpppphhhhh and looked at me and asked, “What you got in there?”
I looked at him in the eye and said, “I got one of those tractor motors that Maurice and Richard Petty built for me to run against you.”
Jenkins stuck his head in the air and stomped off.
The next run we ran an 8.50 and the last run, it ran an 8.49, faster than anyone had gone before. I hadn’t taken the hood off yet.
The moral of this story is to never make fun of the Pettys and Jenkins found that out the hard way.
VOTING COMPLETED - (W) Hill (366) def. Muldowney (360)
SECOND ROUND: December 27