Betting on Pink, a Royal Flush
By Todd Hutcheson


Charcoal drawing by a young 'Stone Age Man' fan


The old master's engine sang in perfect pitch. It was going to thunder like no other. It was paired with the ultra beautiful 'Stone Age Man' AA/FD. For this one invitational meet at the Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas, the Old Master Ed Pink and Showman George 'Stone Age Man' Hutcheson, joined as one, a Royal Flush.

Ed Pink leaned into the cockpit of the waiting top fuel dragster and warned George, "You'd better pull them straps tight Hutch, it'll be one helluva ride!" He wasn't kidding. Sitting in front of George was an expensive and finely tuned powerhouse 392 Hemi Ed Pink Racing Engine. Ed's own engine, on lone to George, his friend.

It was a dream team that no top fuel driver or crew ever wanted to come together at any drag racing competition. The Titan of Power and the Master of Showmanship with all the publicity ink in the drag racing world were more than the others could bear. But the race in the Nevada desert was on.

The hero of this story was a young boy. He was the reason for these two great masters to come together and race as friends. Bill Pink, young son of Ed and #1 fan of George 'Stone Age Man' Hutcheson. Billy would hang around the racing pits and visit the different dragsters. Nobody wanted this little kid around their car in the pit area. "Don't stand too close kid, and don't touch anything!" was what Billy heard from all the other drag racers. Except the Stone Age Man. George only knew him as Billy, a kid like hundreds of others who wanted to see and sit in his dragster and be his friend. Unknown to George, Billy was his wild card, an ace in the hole.

There were lots of kids, teenagers and race fans that came by to see George at all the different southern California racetracks. Like San Fernando Raceway, Lions, Irwindale, OCIR, Riverside Raceway and Pomona. The fans would always make a point to see George and say, "Good luck Hutch!" and "The car looks great Stone Age Man, we're with you all the way!" Billy too would show up at the track and approach George. "Hi Stone Age Man! What-ya doing? Can I sit in the Stone Age Man?" George was always happy to help out all his fans. As George would work and prepare for the race, Billy Pink would sit in the dragster and pretend to drive. I remember seeing Billy doing this a lot. He was a real nice kid, no problem.

Larry Dixon's son Larry Jr. (both world class drag racing champions, Larry Jr. some years later) would do the same. One time George brought the Stone Age Man over to Larry's home. Larry Jr. would sit in it and pretend to drive the Stone Age Man top fuel dragster. He looked just like his daddy.

At the next race Billy brought his dad along to meet George. Billy had bragged about how nice the 'Stone Age Man' was to him all this time. So Ed came along to meet George, casual like. Holding his dad's hand, Billy and Ed Pink walks up to George.

"Hutch, my son has told me so much about you. Thanks for being so nice to him."

"Ed… Ed Pink! Billy why didn't you tell me your dad was Ed?" George said in shock.

Billy replies, "I-don't-know…" It was his daddy, not 'The Old Master, Ed Pink'.

Old Master. They didn't call him that for fun. He was 'the' master race car engine builder. If you saw him at the track he may have looked aloof or cold. He was all business at the track. His engines were the most feared of all to race up against. After purchasing an Ed Pink Racing Engine, Ed would go out to the track and set the engine for the buyer for the first run. Ed was very protective of his engines and his reputation. He didn't like others to mess with his creation. For this year in 1968, I worked at Ed Pink Racing Engines. He was very businesslike and secretive about his developments and innovations. That's why he was the Old Master.

Ed Pink cured what drivers called the engine 'Black Death'. Every part, spring, tube, everything had Ed's touch to it. Pink was different; I could see it in his eyes, a pro, master of his field. I read the history on his face. Ed Pink had seen his share of losses and victories; long hours of trial and error and discovery. His reputation was earned. The fastest and most well known wanted to share the space around him. But he stood out amongst all the others. In my youth, at 16, I spent my afternoon hours around him, the one, the very best.

At his shop in Van Nuys California, I saw him as warm and friendly. His humor was funny-as-hell and clean, (at least around this 16-year-old). I admired him, and still do. George and Ed had a solid friendship. They saw each other at the track and in the shop. Everybody wanted to be Ed Pink's friend. Ed Pink wanted to be George's friend. One day, Ed surprised George with the very coveted and rare 'Ed Pink Racing Engine' jacket, just like the one Ed wore. And all the other drivers were indignant towards George for it. This is on top of everything else. Finally George was dealt a good hand.
Which brings me back to Billy (now about age 11 or 12). At Irwindale one weekend, Billy sought out to find George. George was walking around the pit area.
He asked, "Hey Stone Age Man, are you going to race at the big meet at Stardust Raceway in a couple weeks?" George replied, "No Billy, I don't have an engine ready. We'll see."

Billy was determined to help George. So without George's knowing, Billy went to his dad for help. He explained to his dad George's problem. Billy asked his dad one favor.
"Dad, I really want to see George race and win at Stardust Raceway, he needs an engine. Can you please help him dad."

Now Ed Pink maybe all business at the track, but he dearly loved his only son Bill. He also enjoyed George's friendship. Maybe he could help George, this once.

The deal was done. At Pink's shop, Ed and George set the engine in the Stone Age Man and did all the prep work. Ed told George that he would go to Nevada and do the engine overseeing and have Doug Fisher help out in the pits. Doug was an expert engine man. But he gave way to Ed and gave him the room and respect that Ed deserved.

On this exciting news, my family, Dad and Mom, brother and sister all packed up and planned the weekend, August 11at the Nevada Stardust Resort and Raceway.

A Roman Centurion with my 'Stone Age Man' crew jacket at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas


The Las Vegas Strip 1968. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Abbott & Costello, Bing Crosby, Carol Channing and Howard Hughes. The heavy weights of entertainment on the famous 4 mile 'Strip'. On the quarter mile strip the other heavy weights gathered. 'The Hawaiian' with Mike Snively, 'Howard Cam Rattler' with Rick Ramsey, 'Der Wienerschnitzel' with Leroy Goldstein, 'Mr. Ed' with Stan Shiroma, 'Fireside Inn' with Larry Dixon, 'Atlas Oil Tool Special' with Gerry Glenn, 'Tony Waters' with Wayne King, 'Beach Boys' with Dwight Salisbury, 'The Addict', 'Outcast' and many others.
Arriving at the Stardust Raceway, George did his usual track inspection. I went with him to the end of the track and beyond to see what was there to stop his dragsters, if something went wrong. Sand trap, nets, wooden fences, each track was different. This sand trap was unkempt, over grown. There was no end. It led into an endless sea of chaparral to the distant hills that appeared like ships on the horizon. After the light trap there wasn't much else, maybe two lights. A couple of horned toad lizards chased each other under a rock by my feet. The air was cool with a mistral wind from the southwest. I could smell the sweet blossoms that dotted the barbarous landscape. It would heat up soon. This is where you might end up if your racer was out of control engulfed in a fireball, or upside down or both. You'd be on your own in the dark until help arrived. It was important for George to know what was down here. I watched him as he ran through all the possibilities. Finally, after a long silence he said, "Well…let's go." He did this routinely. He also stood watched the timing tree and got the cadence of the lights in his mind. George was well known for his lighting fast hole-shots out of the lights. This was his standard race prep.

The pit area was a real reality show. When the other teams saw that George and Ed had partnered up, it sent a shock wave through the pit area. Dismay and some anger followed it. Ed, Billy, George, Doug and I stood around the Stone Age Man dragster. Larry Dixon came by in his usual slapstick humor laughing and making a racket.

Larry slapping his forehead remarked, "Holy shit Hutch, I heard you got Pink's engine. What did you have to do for that?" Just then Ed walks onto the group smiling.
"Holy crap, and ya got Ed too! I might just pack up now and head home!" Pretending to leave, George pulling him back in. Larry and George always brought the laughter to the races to ease the tension. Larry and I both worked at Pink's shop, all of us enjoyed the jokes.

I was proudly wearing my 'Think Pink' T-shirt and my own 'Stone Age Man' crew jacket.
"Todd…you're here too…" Larry puts his arm over my shoulder and adds, "I hope you don't follow your uncle into drag racing, this thing will never end."

But it was Larry Dixon Jr. who would follow his famous dad into the Drag Racing history books with his 1995 rookie season. He earned Rookie of the Year honors; in 1999 he became the first Top Fueler to go under 4.5 seconds. In 2005 Dixon moved ahead of Don Garlits on all-time Top Fuel wins list. The honors piled up for the Jr. Dixon. Maybe one of his kids, Donovan, Alana, or Darien will continue the dynasty.

Ed, like a crafty card player didn't want to reveal all the cards in his hand, told George that he should qualify in the middle of the pack. This was to not run away with the show but make it more interesting for the other teams.

George and his motor man Doug Fisher knew the game very well. Once at a tough race George was up against Leroy Goldstein in 'Der Wienerschnitzel'. Doug told George that before he stages he will pull one of the spark plug wires and make the engine sound sick. When George staged his Stone Age Man AA/FD along side Der Wienerschnitzel AA/FD it sounded really bad. Goldstein's motor man leaned in and said, "Hutch has a bad engine, he'll be easy to beat, so take it easy on our engine. Easy win!"
Just after staging the first light, Doug walked up and plugged in the last of the eight wires giving George full power and easy win over Leroy Goldstein. George smoked him at the lights and all the way to the other end. Unfair? Nah! These kinds of tricks were done all the time by every smart race team.

In 1971 at the US Nationals finals, Don Garlits faced Steve Carbone. Don had him hands down in his new rear engine car. Steve's plan was to fire up last, do a short burnout and let Garlits heat up at the staging light. Garlits waited and waited. Steve with a cooler engine, staged last and stomped all over the leaned out, overheated Wynn's Charger beating Don 'Sure Thing' Garlits.

During qualifying runs Larry Dixon's Fireside Inn dragster had problems and was out of the competition. Larry joined the Pink-Hutcheson team. I remember Larry's infectious laughter and his expert help for our team. Pat and Larry Jr. watch the men play and race.

Elimination's were tough. Some of the best and fastest were out early. The Addict and Outcast, done for the day. Tony Waters and Mr. Ed were next to pack up. Next came Beach Boys, Atlas Oil Tool Special, both finished. All top teams and drivers to be sure.

Der Wienerschnitzel, earlier in July at Denver Colorado, became the first dragster in Colorado state history under 6.76 E.T., out of the race. The Hawaiian with Mike Snively, also earlier in Pittsburgh International, won top eliminator at the Dragster Super Bowl with 7.10 sec. He was also left to watch the final run from the fence line with all the others.

It was great drag racing competition and one of the best shows that I remember. Each team was out to beat George, Ed and his engine. Some races were close, but as they say, 'No cigar'. One race remained, the main event on the short strip. The stakes were high for this one last run.

Howard Cam Rattler with Rick Ramsey was the last man standing to face Ed and George. The Stone Age Man had run fast and consistent all day. Ed was happy with his engines performance. Ed would always watch from the staging area until the victory light showed his engine had done its job. He was very pleased with how George out drove this very difficult field of tough competitors. Ed expected perfection from his engine and George.

George in his own world, deep in the driver's trance. The condition of being lost in solitary thought.


The final showdown. Howard Cam Rattler vs. Stone Age Man. The sun had set on the sandy desert. Blackness covered the event. The only light came from a half moon on the eastern horizon. At the end of the track the lights vanished into a curtain of black nothingness. Night driving concerned George. A fear shared with the other drivers.

It's not an easy job to pilot a top fuel in the noon day sun even at a familiar track. But at night, it's a nightmare.

For a moment, picture yourself sitting in the tight confines of a (1968 circa) Top Fuel Dragster. It's claustrophobic. Up front blocking all your vision is a big 392 Hemi engine. Each side of you is a fat Goodyear tire. Flames shooting up and over the tires with a deifying roar that brings your gut up into your throat. You're wearing a safety helmet, fireproof mask and suit, gloves and goggles. When you instantly launch down the track at 225 mph, the weight transfer raising the engine another 4 inches further blocking any clear view of the track ahead. Your goggles may fog up or a light spray of oil may further limit your vision. It's a race, a competition of the fastest and first to cross the line to victory. Deep down you love the thrill.

Now do this at night. You'll have night blindness do to the flames. There will be nothing to see as light streaks past you in an abstract sense of reality at speeds well over 225 mph. The track seems to narrows to only a few feet apart. Your heart pounds as you desperately look for signs that it's over and you can pop your parachute and slow down to safety. How terrifying it must be to go so quickly into nothingness, not knowing where you are or when to stop. The fear of hitting something solid hidden in the blinding blackness is a nightmare.

At times your dreams share the darkness with nightmares of the deep. One driver put it this way, "Night racing is a bitch!" I would have to agree.

But the thrill, the thrill brings them back every weekend, race after race. It can be additive. As George recently said, "I'm 71 years old, give me a top fueler and I'll take it all the way through the lights one last time, believe me!" I believe he would too.

The fans were electrified for the final big race. The Howard Cam Rattler was one of the best, driven by the one and only Rick Ramsey. Rick had won his share of gold; he was seasoned, tough as old leather. He was here to win and win big time. Ramsey's pit crew had tasted victory many times, and they were ready to dine again. George would have to be tack sharp off the line. Nobody ever caught up and pass The Rattler.

At the far end of the track, George sat ready waiting for the tap and push to start. Ed Pink leaned into the cockpit of the waiting fueler and warned George, "You'd better pull them straps tight Hutch, it'll be one helluva ride!" He smiled. When Ed Pink tells you to 'pull them tight' he means his engine is at full power. The magic has been passed and his engine knew what to do. Fair enough, George waves to push.

Tap, tap and the pusher speeds up. A low rumble and a sharp jolt… Waaaap! Ruuup! Rattt rattt rattt… Right away George could feel a difference. All day George could hear the special sound that an Ed Pink Racing Engine makes. Crisp perfect pitch, superb timing, gorgeous even flames. Ed had spent time with George teaching him the sound and feel of how a Hemi should run. How to read the signs and what to look for. After each run Ed would pull the plugs and study the story of each piston; the heat was the key, color was the code. This was Ed's private laboratory and he had a PhD and a Masters in Power. That is why he didn't like anyone messing with his power plant. Ed did his research and he wrote the book!

Rattt rattt rattt…Waaaap! The Stone Age Man passed by the standing crowds and rolled into the staging area followed by the great serpent Rattler. As I piled out of the push car, I noticed the fence line was packed with fans. Flash photography continuously popped. Everyone was on their feet cheering. I was transfixed on this speculate around me. I was so captivated by the sight and the sounds of the two powerful dragsters rumbling that I missed the burnout. Waaaap! Ruuup! Rattt rattt rattt… The sound shocked me back to reality, the sound of pure maximum power. That smell, the smell of Nitromethane and alcohol filled my lungs and burned my eyes. This was sooo cool!

I heard Billy's voice scream out, "Come on Todd." We ran downs the track to help push the long beautiful full-bodied Stone Age Man back to the staging area. We push and pushed as Doug guided George back into line. I glanced over at Billy, who in his boyish style had his tongue hanging out. I then noticed just how deep red the roses were that Bill Carter had painted on the long nose cover. Waaaap! Rattt rattt rattt… The sudden roar jolted us both back from our spot. The ground shook hard and the gravel danced around my feet. George gave me the 'What me?' with his hands. Some joke. We finished our job and stood back.

This was the great Coliseum of Champions. At last the fire breathing chariots took their lane and the two engine masters approached their champions. I watched Ed Pink closely. Supreme author of horsepower, he took his place next to his magnum opus. Like a general he stood over his command. First he listened with his eyes closed. Then felt the heat from the heads; next he ran his hand over the header flames. Data from the internal parts ran through his hand and he processed the information. Waaaap! Rattt rattt rattt… The ground vibrated. The sound was crisp. The feel was exactly as it should be. He glanced over to George, giving him a quick nod and walked away. Ed Pink gave George all that he needed to out run a hungry Rick Ramsey in the Howard Cam Rattler. Now it was quickness and driver skill that would take home the roses. George, alone, went into his driver trance once more. His timing had to be prefect. Ramsey was quick, very quick. Rick Ramsey had what it took to beat George and his Pink Engine.

Each digger rolled up to the first light to pre-stage. Yellow, yellow. I looked down the track and it was all but gone, swallowed up by the inky black night. There was nothing, nothing down there. Ed stood next to Billy with his hand on his son's shoulder. Billy had his fingers in his ears as he stood on his toes. Larry Dixon stood just behind the Stone Age Man leaning over to see what George might be viewing.

The rhythms of these two top fuelers, the tall flames illuminated the action, the earth shaking under me, the popping camera lights, my breath was cut shallow by this exciting moment and brought tears to my youthful eyes. All through my life I would never forget these felling and the place where I stood, center stage.

Ramsey eagerly staged again and rolled into the light, yellow! George cautiously inch forward just enough to break the light, yellow! And hold fast. George knew that leaving room at the last light gave him the edge. As the amber lights descended, George's instinctive reflexes took over. As the last amber dimmed, 'down 2-3 pop' Green! George leaped out a quarter length ahead of Ramsey. His Racemaster slicks never smoked and Pink Power took over. From my view it was all too close. The power of Ed Pinks finely tuned thoroughbred pushed ahead and brought the Stone Age Man to a half-length lead by mid-track. I saw both dragsters disappear into the black hole beyond the lights. Fear gripped my throat as I lost sight of my Uncle George.

The timing light flashed on: Ramsey - 7.20 222.60, George - 7.14 225.61 Victory!
The entire crowd let out a huge cheer and screamed. They went nuts with excitement. I saw Ed Pink pump his fist and then quickly collect his cool. However his son Billy went crazy and jumped into his dad's arms exchanging hugs. Like a flash we all scrambled to get into the push car before it drove off. It was a fast quick ride with everyone inside on top of each other. It was fun to see Ed enjoying Billy's excitement. He was just another proud dad with his son. It was easy to see young Bill's hero worship for his dad. Ed never went to the end of the track for a victory celebration with other team. Tonight was very different.

It was dark at the other end of the track. As we piled out George and Rick were embracing and shaking hands as two friends. The long contest was over and to the victor goes the spoils and a victory dance or two. Ed Pink walked up grinning, or more of a glowing smile. He was very proud of George. "Nice job Hutch…" His few words were all that was needed to be said. "Thanks my friend, thanks" George replied in humility and a brotherly hug. Billy was jumping with joy. I took my place in line for the congratulation handshake. I got a warm hug and pat on the back. My reward was to be part of the union of these great men and their machines.

"Oh it thundered Ed, all the way it thundered…" George repeated joyously.
He went over and whispered into the Stone Age Man injector, "You see that's how it done, ya listen to Ed and let me drive." He laughed. Billy ran up and also whispered into the injector, "You were great." Larry Dixon spoke up, "Hey maybe I should do that with my car, think it'll listen?" "Noooo no!" Everyone chimed in as one.

In the future when the scrolls of history are unrolled, it will read;
August 11 1968: Invitational meet at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas: Winner George Hutcheson driving the Stone Age Man AA/FD over Rick Ramsey driving the Howard Cam Rattler AA/FD.

It will not mention the thrill of the daylong races and all the great competitors who tried to win the honors. Nor will it have my memories of the moment standing center stage and the over welling feelings I had at the final contest. Not a line of all the professional help from the wonderful crew of Doug Fisher, Larry Dixon and Ed Pink.

But I will know whom this passing historical moment belongs to. A father and son. A brilliant man of technical knowledge who mastered his craft and his young son who asked his father to help a friend. The influence of a young man named Bill Pink.


Drag News Vol. 14 No. 9 - 1968



The End
By Todd Hutcheson, 2009

More Todd Hutchenson "The Time of My Life"

A Gathering of Long Trailers

Working for Pink

Stone Age Man

Taming of the Rat Trap

US Turbine

Email Todd


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