SCENE AT THE 2018 MELTDOWN DRAGS
After we flew five hours from Los Angeles to Chicago, news of a weather front moving through the Great Lakes Region wasn’t what we wanted to hear. Pressing forward up I-90 in afternoon traffic towards Byron, Illinois, to attend the Ninth Annual Meltdown Drags, our thoughts were with past Meltdown events and how much fun we’d had covering them. In today’s structured world of motorsports, the Meltdown Drags are something of a rarity. No eliminators, no record runs or qualifying brackets, no huge cash payouts or trophies. And above all, no whining. The basic premise is just go out there, be safe, and have fun!
Sanctioned by Vintage Drag Racing 101 and manned by such dedicated Midwestern gasser enthusiasts as Eric and Jeff Koopmeiners, Paul Zielsdorf, Art Zangerle, Tom Bucek, Steve Liberto, and “Smokey Moe” Petersen, the Meltdown Drags also features a car show, a swap meet, and Gasser Alley, where you may run across a vintage gasser or altered on display from the bygone era. Heck, there is even a pinup-girl contest, won this year by Cassandra Hicks.
The event also attracts its share of luminaries from back in the day, including featured Lakes Gassers, Brew City Gassers, Nostalgia Gasser Racing Association, Southern Outlaw Gassers, Northern Indiana Gassers, Geezer Gassers, Southeast Gassers, Southern Gassers, Mid American Willys Club, Straight Axle Mafia, Twisted Pistons, Tin Butchers, Nostalgia Super Stocks, Border Bandits, Gopher State Timing Association, No Car Club, and others. Talk about a slice of vintage drag racing Americana!
Strip promoter and track owner B.J. Vangsness and his crew had to fight 3 inches of rain on Friday repeatedly prepping the track a whopping 12 times, but they were not to be deterred. As for the racing itself, it became necessary to shorten the measured distance from a quarter to an eighth of a mile on both Friday and Saturday for safety reasons (racing late into both nights). But none of the 10,374 spectators (which included visitors from Sweden, Australia, and Great Britain) seemed to mind, as the actual show itself was on the starting line. Then with a dry track surface, quarter-mile racing resumed on Sunday.
Meltdown 2018 was a rousing success in spite of Old Man Weather. If you like what you see here, start making plans to attend the 10th anniversary edition of the Meltdown Drags July 19-21, 2019.
ON THE BACK BUMPER
ON THE BACK BUMPER: The unofficial wheelstander award went to Don Moyer and his 401 Amc–powered, (that’s right) Rebel Reaper fiberglass B/gas 1941 Willys coupe. He pulled bumper-dragging wheelies on every run.
(NOT) THE PITS: Come hell or (almost literally) high water, the Meltdown Drags pits were bustling with activity throughout the weekend. More than 390 competitors participated in front of a record attendance of 10,374 spectators.