When it comes to picking my personal all-time favorite NHRA national event, that race is tied for first place with the 1972 Winternationals, where Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins debuted his small-block Vega by defeating five Chrysler Hemis to triumph over a 32-car Pro Stock field.
SPEAKING OF SPEED with John Jodauga Looking Forward to More 50th Anniversary Races I n the last six Winternationals Legends breakfast at the SEMA Just minutes after concluding our conversation years, I have Show, and the ND editorial staff soon started with Garlits, we had the opportunity to hear the had the pleasure working on several projects related to the event, background stories of several other Winternationals of attending the including the special History of the NHRA stars of the past, including Shirley Shahan, whose 50th annual Winternationals book, and as the countdown Super Stock victory in 1966 was the first major U.S. Nationals in continued towards the first day of qualifying in eliminator win by a female driver; Shirley 2004 and this Pomona, we were deeply enthralled in nostalgia Muldowney; Joe Amato; Carl Olson; Larry Reyes; season’s golden with the extensive preparation that was involved and Jenkins. We also visited with the likes of Funny anniversary of the with the special Top 10 issue of National Car pioneers Bruce Larson and Doug Thorley, who Winternationals. Of DRAGSTER. I was proud to see that many of the ran their entries at the 1966 Winternationals in all the sites of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag selections for those features came from regular NHRA classes before the then-new breed of Racing Series, Pomona and Indy are my favorites memorable Winternationals and U.S. Nationals machines had been given their own eliminator by far for a number of reasons. moments, including Garlits’ 1967 Indy victory. category. Growing up in Pomona, I became aware of the Elaine and Michael have been attending the drag racing phenomenon while attending Pomona Pomona national events with me since the early “ High School during the early 1960s and heard my It seemed like I was traveling 1990s, but I could tell that this particular race, with classmates rave about this amazing form of back and forth in time its emphasis on the history of the Winternationals, competition and entertainment. The first drag was very special for them, as well as for many of race I attended was the 1964 Winternationals, and between two distinct eras of the other thousands of fans, because it created an ” it had such an impact on me that I ended up enlightening perspective on just how much the making a career out of the quarter-mile sport. drag racing. sport has advanced over the years. My first Indy experience was in 1967; I I am not talking in just the obvious terms of witnessed Don Garlits’ amazing comeback, As work continued for the Winternationals performance but also how the cars have changed in which was capped by him shaving his beard on celebration preparation, there were concerns appearance. When fans looked at some of the the starting line after he recorded his first six- about the weather during the event because original Funny Cars that were on display at the second run to win the Top Fuel final. When it Southern California experienced a lot of rain in Golden 50 Corral, they couldn’t help but notice the comes to picking my personal all-time favorite January and early February. But fortunately, there difference between the extra-wide roll cages that NHRA national event, that race is tied for first were four days of sunshine, setting the stage for a were popular in the mid-1960s to the narrower and place with the 1972 Winternationals, where Bill spectacular combination of the past and present. much more protective versions utilized today. And “Grumpy” Jenkins debuted his small-block Vega When the race began, I spent my time between while Don Garlits’ first rear-engine dragster, the by defeating five Chrysler Hemis to triumph over watching the current cars in their qualifying ,
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