PAPER TRAILS, PART 14
/ HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SECOND HALF OF 1965
Highlights From the Second Half of 1965
IF YOU WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ALIVE IN ’65 AND PAYING ATTENTION, YOU MAY WELL HAVE EXPERIENCED THE GOLDENEST SINGLE SEASON OF DRAG RACING’S GOLDEN AGE. It was also among the deadliest ever, particularly for dragster drivers: among the fatalities reported in the weekly drag rags were Denny Miliani, Lou Cangelose, Tex Randall, “Q-Ball” Wale, Charles Minor, Leon
Hamel, Dave Dangerfield and Gary Taylor. Unknown numbers of lesser-knowns also perished at the many obscure tracks operating under the media’s radar. (See Dragstripdeaths.com for examples.)
Not coincidentally, quartermile performance improved at a rate never seen before, and rarely since. Stocker fans amazed in January by altered wheel base, carbureted Dodges and Plymouths smashing the 10-second barrier saw elapsed times plunge to 8.63 by November when Gary Dyer and “Mr. Norm” Kraus stormed Lions Drag Strip with the former Color Me Gone factory car, now sporting a blower and nitro.
This type of vehicle was still so fresh and transformative that the sport had not yet settled on a common name; in print, the new term “funny car” was still expressed in lower case and inside quotation marks. At the NHRA Nationals, some sponsored Factory Experimentals disrupted traditional sportsman racing by intentionally moving into altered and dragster classes.
Also this November, Top
Fuel fans who’d cheered the first believable double-century speeds only last summer watched the clocks climb all the way up to Paul Sutherland's 219.50—a full 10% increase that Drag World’s Terry Cook attributed to a combination of Crower port nozzles, “sticky Goodyears” and B&M’s Torkmaster replacing the clutch in some of the fastest fuelers. Drag Sport Illustrated’s year-end review further credited the “Flexy-Flyer” chassis from Woody Gilmore’s Race Car Engineering.
However, the world's winningest wire-wheeled car was Roland Leong’s Hawaiian, a near-duplicate of Kent Fuller’s feared Greer, Black & Prudhomme rail. The reunited combination of chassis-builder Fuller, engine-builder Keith Black and pilot Don Prudhomme prevailed at both of NHRA’s biggest, oldest national events, the Winternationals and Nationals. In between Pomona and Indy, the Hawaiian also won more than its share of open events and was practically unbeatable in nationwide match races. The final Drag World of 1965 broke the shocking news that the Snake would quit Roland to take over the B&M shop car from Kenny Safford, retaining Dave Zeuschel as tuner and tutor.
The United Drag Racers Association, the most effective drivers’ union in history, grew to 1,200 dues-paying members, but suffered from class warfare and irreparable damage from a failed wildcat strike called by individual members Frank Cannon and Woody Gilmore at Lions. At issue was manager C.J. Hart’s lowering of the usual $500 winner’s purse to $300 on Dec. 4, a night when Chris Karamesines and Tom McEwen were each guaranteed $1,000 to match race. (After all but a few of his Top Fuel competitors decided to race, boycott leader Cannon called them “finks” to reporters.)
Additional highlights and lowlights are illustrated by the clippings on these pages. Of the three national weeklies, Drag World is getting the lion’s share of space for delivering consistently excellent reporting throughout 1965, and because the controversial tabloid would all too soon be sold and become AHRA’s house organ, as we’ll see in future episodes.
Moreover, while this installment of “Paper Trails” was taking shape, founding Drag World Associate Editor Terry Cook coughed up cherry copies of 53-year-old issues suitable for scanning and sharing with Drag Racer readers.