From Dirt Oval to Dot Com

Hot Rod - - Contents - HHOTROD. COM/ Dou­glas-Glad

I’ll ad­mit it, I watch YouTube dra­grac­ing videos. In the garage, on the iPhone, at the den­tist, and last year the kid’s Christ­mas pageant. The big an­ten­nae that are likely ir­ra­di­at­ing my neigh­bor­hood also brings me hours of this stuff, then cool kids like Kyle Loftis at 1320 Video does us all a solid by fly­ing to Swe­den to cover the Stock­holm open so I can watch it at home. When­ever the of­fice is lame all week, the Fri­day night crack is a Smart TV away.

With mil­lions of in­ter­net views and sub­scribers for the tak­ing, I’ve no­ticed there are now car guys pop­ping up ev­ery­where. They are try­ing hard, but they of­ten reek of new­ness. Rather than turn this ob­ser­va­tion into hate, I can’t help but flash­back to the days of drink­ing beer and rac­ing dirt cars on warm Fri­day and Satur­day nights at the lo­cal bull­ring in Phoenix when I was a new­bie car guy.

Back then, it was al­co­hol-burn­ing, iron-headed small-blocks on Ca­maro front sub­frames fea­tured at lo­ca­tions like Man­zanita and Canyon race­ways. Manzy’s back straight was lined up against a wreck­ing yard, and if you got air­borne and cleared the wall, your car dis­ap­peared in an ex­plo­sion of metal de­bris. Com­plete Ca­maros were $200, so you ran them hard and rubbed your way to the front.

The daily worry list in­cluded beer, tires, and whether the track was drys­lick or sticky enough to clog just about ev­ery­thing on car and driver with gooey clay roost. The driver was Dave Kraft, an East Coast trans­plant with vi­sions of NASCAR and some se­ri­ous driv­ing skills, a bul­let­proof work ethic, and plenty of willpower. The crew con­sisted of an as­sort­ment of char­ac­ters that in­cluded my­self and J.T. Bat­ter­son, a high-school gear­head friend who joined the ad­ven­ture as we moved from our home­town to Phoenix to go to school and do some rac­ing.

Manzy is long gone, and so are the cars, but we had laid the ground­work to be­come sea­soned car guys, even­tu­ally lead­ing me to HOT ROD, away, then back again, hav­ing launched its .com in 2000 then off to Car Craft for 10 fun years.

To­day, even the bold­est of young wrenches and in­ter­net trolls are a lit­tle ner­vous to dis­re­spect HOT ROD and the le­git car guys who started and run it. And while the new kids try to fig­ure out what the swoops on the sides of a 1960 Corvette are called, I get to en­joy the en­ergy and watch the world turn to LS Volvo swaps and For­mula Drift. HOT ROD will al­ways be call­ing; maybe some­day one of th­ese new­bies will be up to the task.

[ Fourth from left af­ter the race. Le­git.

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