From Dirt Oval to Dot Com
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.