By: George Klass
Probe Industires


Did you know that the guy that invented drag racing was the same guy that invented "heads-up" drag racing? I bet that some of you hadn't realized that fact.

Through a friend of a friend of a friend, I was able to arrange a meeting with this great man. He's quite old now, walks with a cane, is a little hard of hearing and still lives in the same house he's lived in for the last 50 years.

After I introduced myself and told him a little about my background (went to my first drag race in 1953 at San Fernando, CA) and discussed "old times", I got up the nerve to ask him about the beginnings of drag racing. Like, how did he come to invent it in the first place?

After some contemplation, he told me that after he and his buddies came back from the war (WW II) they nothing to do on the weekends. "Disneyland hadn't opened yet, there was no sports on TV, the dry lakes weren't open every weekend, so what else was there to do?" He continued, "We were guys and we had cars, so I invented drag racing." Wow.

He told me that he hadn't been following drag racing for a while and we talked a little about some of the changes. I told him that I was involved with creating "rules" for one of the heads-up organizations that had a drag race series. He seemed confused about the term "heads-up" ("Is there any other kind?", he asked), but told me that he had also created a rulebook many years ago. He slowly walked (hobbled) over to an old bookcase and after rummaging around for a while, produced a pamphlet entitled Drag Racing Rules. This was unbelievable. I was looking at one of the first (perhaps the actual first) Rule Book. I eagerly opened it up and read the rules.

The first paragraph was titled FORMAT. It said, and I quote; "Two vehicles will line up side by side at the beginning of a quarter mile strip. When the starter raises his flag, both cars will be permitted to accelerate to the end of the quarter mile strip. The first to cross the finish line is declared the winner. The winning vehicle will be eligible to repeat this process until there are only two vehicles remaining in competition. The last vehicle to cross the finish line first will be declared the Top Eliminator."

The next paragraph was called AWARDS. It said; "The Top Eliminator will receive a trophy and have his picture taken with the Trophy Girl. Please keep your hands off the Trophy Girl."

That's it. There was no mention of payouts, round money, runner-up money, semi-money, contingency money, money for getting through tech, money for showing up at the starting line, tow money, nothing about money at all.

And the final paragraph was simply titled SAFETY. This I studied carefully, as I'm an official SFI Certified Technical Inspector. It said, and I kid you not; "Race at your own risk."

I told him that his rule book was a little "thin" and he hadn't addressed different drag racing classes. He agreed and said that if he had it to do over again, he would have created classes. He went on to say that he would have had a class for vehicles "with fenders and a class without fenders."

I told him that today's racers required approximately 8 to 10 classes, each with a variety of weight breaks to compensate for different displacements, suspension systems, tire sizes, power adders, transmission types, etc., etc., etc. He seemed shocked at this and in fact was surprised that drag strips even had scales to weigh the cars ("What for?" he asked.) I explained that some racers used parts that were less competitive than parts that some other racers used, and demanded that they be awarded a weight break, so that they would be happy (which they never seemed to be, anyway). He told me that that problem had come up years ago, also. He recalled that there was "this guy" who wanted "some other guy" penalized because he had three Stromberg 48s, and his car only had two. I asked him how he handled this problem. "Simple", he replied. "I told the first guy to add another carb."

I wondered how racers today would accept this response. If, for instance, racer "A" expected a 200 pound weight break because he was running an automatic trans and racer "B" was using a clutchless 5-speed, could I just tell racer "A" to "get a stick" and get away with it? Probably not.

He asked me why a racer could purposely choose to use parts that provided less performance and then expect to get a "weight advantage" over a guy who used higher performance parts? I didn't have a ready answer for that one other than to mumble something about "keeping competition even". He asked why that was important, "shouldn't the fastest guy win?" and I didn't have a ready answer for that one, either.

I told him that sometimes it seemed that some of today's heads-up racers seemed more concerned with penalizing the quicker combinations and what the money payouts were going to be, than in actually racing.

"Money?" he responded. "What ever happened to the Trophy Girl?"


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