GONE IS THE FRONT ENGINE DRAGSTER, ITS PLAYGROUNDS AND ITS PEOPLE

San Fernando Raceway, 1969
After 15 seasons, the 'Pond' closed
John "The Zookeeper" Mulligan crashes & dies 1969 (FED)
March 1970 Don Garlits' (FED) Swamp Rat 13 explodes; cut in half
Pomona 1971 - 'Sneaky Pete' Robinson crashes and dies (FED),
"The Last Drag Race" Lions Drag Strip - 1972, the 'Beach' closed

That's how it ended. The playgrounds of the young and fast generation in Southern California closed. Our hero's died; the front engine dragster had become a 230 mph death trap; it gave way to newly designed rear engine dragsters and new rules. For me all through the '60s and early '70s it was every weekend at some drag strip, AHRA or NHRA, The Pond, The Beach, Orange County, Riverside or Irwindale. Match ups or just testing new things. We went to see our favorites, "The Snake", "The Mongoose", "T.V.", "Big Daddy", "The Zookeeper", "The Wolverine", "Mr. Ed", "The Greek", "The Loner", "Flamin' Frank", "Ol' Man", "Ridge Route Terror". So many others without the quick handle.

Silly me, but I prefer front engine dragsters (FED), push starts, a full length staging light Christmas Tree, fire burnouts, cheap hotdogs and greasy hamburgers. I like walking the pit area and seeing all the usual guys, Gene Snow, Tony Nancy, Pete Robinson, Jim Nicoll, Sid Waterman, Roland Leong, Steve Carbone, Don Prudhomme, Keith Black, Connie Kalitta, Tim Beebe & John Mulligan, James Warren, Ed Pink, Mike Tingly & Bobby Hightower, Larry Dixon and maybe, just maybe Big Daddy Don Garlits.

It had to change, and change it did, from the beginning the spirit of fun, experimentation and going faster than the next guy was the rule.

These men of 'Nitro burners' pushed it to the edge, and some didn't come back.

MARCH TO OBLIVION

Like any march, there has to be a formal gathering of the troops. In the case of the front engine dragster, this happened way back in the mid-fifties when the drag race participants realized the best way to beat the next guy to the end of the quarter mile was to deviate from the roadster style to a more stripped down and serious rail job look featuring just the bare bones needed to facilitate that. Thus the dragster was born.

"The Bug", this is undisputedly the first dragster, known then as a "rail job" Dick Kraft raced it at Santa Ana in 1950 when the strip first opened. It got its name from the fact that it was a stripped down model A used for spraying Dick's family's orange groves. It was the first car to break 100 mph & eventually went 118 mph. The car now resides in the NHRA museum in Pomona. It is [for the most part] a replica, built by Dick Kraft & Ron Roseberry.

Originally sporting a flathead engine with the driver seated in front of the rear axle, the speeds that were to enable this built-from-the-ground type to displace any other configuration of the day - mainly a full bodied car of a known body style. From this point, ingenuity and creativity exploded and the task of being first at the finish was the only motivation necessary to keep the changes coming as the dragster evolved at a rapid pace.


Calvin Rice was the man to beat in 1955 with the big Chrysler engine and a "radical" look where the driver actually is positioned behind the rear slicks.

Soon the V-8 engine was the norm and the driver's cockpit was moved back behind the rear axle and the car's wheelbase was stretched out. This would be the engineering standard where all who wanted to be competitive started.

Modifications came quickly as the motors became bigger and more powerful necessitating other design modifications: more length to the car to keep those front wheels on the ground at the launch, and pushing the driver back even farther and housed in a cocoon of tubing and metal, and lower. Sitting way up there was no longer comfortable. The entire car's stance became as close to the ground as possible. Now this is a mean looking machine!

Through the rest of the fifties and into the sixties, the overall look of the top fuel dragster didn't change a lot. The "March to Oblivion" hadn't really begun since the cars of the day could handle the increasing speeds without a real problem. Besides, what else would you do, put the engine behind the driver?

What a ridiculous idea.


Mickey Thompson laid it back just a little more and this new style gave birth to the term still used today the "Slingshot".

By now, mid-sixties, the frame of the fast cars was really long, pushing through the 200" mark. It was necessary to build them stronger but, in doing so, it added weight - the enemy of going fast. Coupled with the massive horsepower created by motor minds of the day, the F.E.D. of the day was becoming dangerous and there was no turning back.

This put the theory of the "March" starting sometime in 1967. It was when certain milestones were reached. These true rail jobs, now mostly frame, started to run consistently at the 220 mph mark and getting there in under 7 seconds. The stress and strain to achieve this could not be dyno'd like the motor. The only way to win was to reach even greater speeds and do it quicker. At the end of 1967 the best times recorded for that year came from the Warren, Coburn & Miller car when it posted a top speed of 230 miles per hour. How close were they, and any others, approaching that latest milestone, to courting disaster at top end? The only way anyone could find out was for that breaking point to be reached.

There were crashes and cars coming apart then, but it wasn't seriously linked to engineering or construction missteps. It was looked at as anywhere from driver error to normal parts failure, and why not? Something had to give to put a mechanical monster like this through its paces. But here is an interesting point. If you look at the record of top speeds and the elapsed times achieved by the top guys from late 1967 through 1968, they did not improve much at all!

Why was that? This phenomenon was new to this sport. In the history of drag racing the passion to improve times by any means possible had always been Job 1. Look at 1959 when the Worlds Record times were set seemingly on a monthly basis. Then there are the mid-sixties when these top class teams marched thru 190 then 200 and then 220mph like they were in a hurry to get to 250. And now, for some reason, early 230's was about all they could muster (save one Don Garlits who, in 1968, was the first to 240mph). By this time they were mere skeletons of themselves.

Did the great minds of the day know a limit to the current car setup was around the corner, or worse, on the front porch?

Into 1969 the beat goes on. In January, Drag News listed the top 100 top fuel dragsters, (yes, 100, wasn't that back in the days), with their times. On the list, the best top speed was the team car of Blair & Goldstein at a 236 - not bad, but not any big move from the 1968 racing year. Elapsed time honors went to McEwen & Lindley with an OK 6.64, again no huge move. In June of '69, at the Springnationals, the best was Don Prudhomme's 6.68 and John Wiebe's 229.

A bunch of cars were all right there, too, but no one was separating from the pack here midway through the year. On we go - October and December at Irwindale races winning times were 6.74 at 231 and 6.79 at 222 respectively. The big boys had pretty much leveled off. Had the front mounted motor stalwart with those gigantic power plants and long ass frames reached their potential, or more alarming, their breaking point? As we move into 1970 we start to answer that question.

January 1970 Drag News Championship in Orlando, the title went to Don Garlits in his Swamp Rat 13. He not only won, he had best times of 6.82 and 229. Slippery track, no doubt, but not impressive anyway. (He beat Steve Carbone in the final). We know now what happened just two months later, March 8, 1970, at Long Beach. What we didn't know was the trail of ordinary performances that lead up to Garlits' car coming apart at the seams on the present day top fuel dragster straining to go faster and quicker. This was just an isolated event in the minds of all who raced this class and not considered a turning point by any means.
However, it was a turning point since it put Garlits on the shelf and had him seeing R.E.D.

The balance of 1970 saw more and more "isolated events," even though they were becoming increasingly violent in nature. When these fuel cars crashed or exploded or otherwise failed, it was spectacular. It wasn't recognized at the time, but looking back, these levels of about 230 mph in about mid 6's ET clobbered the engineering concept of the motor in the front type of race car. In spite of this, no move for safety reasons was attempted in any degree by any of the teams fielding the fast class. But with all this going on, all the teams were at least taking a hard look at the driver up front idea. If nothing else, it would eliminate one of the problems generated by this new level of motor strain and that was flying parts and oil bouncing off the driver's goggles.

It was bad enough that these FED's came apart due to the strain created by all that power thrown at the flimsy frame. It was life threatening because the only place an engine could go was in to the drivers face.

Having said that, one on track experience definitely was responsible for even more procrastination by anyone to go from the increasingly unsafe F.E.D. to the safer R.E.D.. Pat Foster's never ending crash at Long Beach in August of 1970 almost cost him his life, and was caused by all the elements contributing to not enough car for way too much speed. However, he was driving a rear engine car! And it was built by Woody Gilmore! What better combination then these two for a successful race car? Obviously they did not have it right.

When this incident made its way through the race shops of the day, there was mass confusion. If someone was ready to pull the trigger on making the switch from front to rear, that effort was shelved for the moment. It didn't look like the rear engine car was the answer after all.

Enter 1971 and all changes. And it happened early - the first week of January to be exact. It was, of course, the unveiling of the Garlits' Shop weird funny looking rear engine dragster. To a man, the competitors knew what they had to do and that was make the switch. To a man, they also knew it was not that simple. Some had brand new F.E.D.'s and were not about to abandon them for a lot of reasons, not the least of them the financial burden. Others believed their present mounts could still outrun this new thing introduced by Garlits. A few, like McEwen, Prudhomme, and Karamesines put in orders for their very own R.E.D.

The handwriting was on the wall - or on draftsman paper, even on scratch pads; wherever the car designers scribbled down their ideas as to what a R.E.D. should look like.


Pete Robinson's 'Tinker Toy' AA/FD coming apart prior to the crash.

This slow conversion would prove to be costly, both in race results and devastating crashes. The one that really rocked the race community was the coming apart of the machine of the very popular and talented "Sneaky" Pete Robinson. It happened at the Winter Nationals, one of the sport's biggest shows, in Pomona, California, on February 6, 1971, during a qualifying run. It was horrific and stunned all who were there. Something underneath the car - part of the down-force setup newly installed - broke apart and set in motion a quick series of front end failures that sent the car to the right and out into the adjoining fence, instantly killing the man who was admired by all.

Less than two weeks later at Bee Line Dragway in Scottsdale, Arizona, Paul Pritchett also lost his life in a front engine car. It was at the top end of the track, also.

This short period of time was the real turning point now for everyone. The flurry to fast-with-safety took on wings. The teams never looked back as they had decided to stop the madness and convert.

One top fuel team was convinced there was no reason to toss the engine to the back of the car, just a strategic redistribution of the weight to the F.E.D. was all that was necessary. And they were right. Car owner Bill Schultz, who campaigned with driver Gerry Glenn the Schultz-Glenn top fueler, in about this same time period of February, 1971, decided all he needed to do was push the motor forward. And he did, no less than 50 inches!

NARROWING THE GAP (for a while) - SUMMER 1971

It was dead serious in the race shops all across the country, here half way through the year 1971, and crowded. Some locations had multiple projects and none topped the efforts of the Mattel Hot Wheels stable of Prudhomme and McEwen. Each would have at their disposal a dragster with the engine up front, a dragster with the engine in the back and a Funny Car. In other garages some serious tweaking was underway on both the chassis and the motors of all who made a living in the sport of top fuel drag racing. Garlits is getting away, but the great minds and hands of SoCal have accepted the challenge and will show what their collective efforts can produce.

It didn't take long. Would you believe two weeks!

Out of nowhere, and on the same weekend of June 25-26, two guys at two different races, both driving front engine cars stunned the Top Fuel world - hell, the entire drag racing world - when they BOTH broke the existing World Record elapsed time including a back up run.

First it was Rick Ramsey driving the Keeling-Clayton and Ramsey top fueler negotiating down the Freemont, CA. strip with a 6.51 and then backed it up with a 6.52. Then at fabled Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, Gerry Glenn became "The fastest fuel driver in history," per Drag News, when he recorded an off the chart 6.41 ET, and, before the clocks could dry, ran another 6.41 to back it up. To really legitimize the record runs they were accomplished in different lanes.

Where did this come from? Six forty one? The pit area housed by the Schultz & Glenn Gang that used to be just those connected to the race car, now was occupied by most of the race teams attending this historic race. As the throng of go fast experts were milling around the car one glaring difference from the standard setup of the normal F.E.D. stood out. The engine did not seem to be in its normal place. Oh no, they didn't throw it back behind the driver - it was still out front - but something was not normal.

They were right. What the Schultz & Glenn Gang did was push the motor forward towards the front wheels a full 50 inches! This modification, executed by California Chassis Engineering, apparently was a genius move. This time of 6.41, twice, out of the blue, now has done something to the playing field. Has it leveled it? But then in order to run that quick don't the other guys have to shove their engine forward too? It was a major moment for the fading F.E.D.'s because maybe all they needed to run with Garlits is to move the motor forward and keep their beloved F.E.D.

It was not that simple, and Carl Olson explains it:

"The truth of the matter is Bill Schultz, the car owner, started building that car some four months before and it was built specifically to accommodate the engine further up. The existing cars could not just move the engine forward because structurally it would be a disaster. One key element would be the angle of the engine. Hypothetically, in a slingshot dragster at the time with the motor nudged up to the driver's compartment, if you started pushing that motor forward the existing angle of the motor would force it into ground. And that would be long before you reached the point to where Schultz had his motor placed in the Schultz & Glenn top fueler. Therefore, the entire cars' frame needed to be planned way ahead of time to arrive at the final placement and angle Schultz ended up with."
Carl added this, "Also, the front ends of those cars were built for the weight of the motor where it was and could not take any big change. Therefore, one could not just move the engine forward and expect faster times. Not to mention incorporating a whole new frame stress situation piled on top of what they had now."

That would put the build sometime in February and most likely the planning of this radical concept in January of 1971.

Hmmmm. One glaring possibility comes to mind. We all know now when Garlits showcased his front driver Swamp Rat 14 at the Long Beach race, the first week of January, and all who ran Top Fuel were concerned about the future of their front mounted ride. As pointed out earlier in this book, all of them went to the drawing board right away. Some put it in motion to make the switch, and now at least one - Schultz, decided to modify the F.E.D. in a big way.

Did the Schultz & Glenn camp try to hide this revamping of the traditional slingshot from other competitors? Did anyone know about this? Did anyone care? All good questions.


MARCH TO OBLIVION TIME TABLE

 

TIME TABLE

 NAME

 TYPE

 DATE

 DESCRIPTION
 Pat Foster  R.E.D  Dec.1969 Major crash at Lions in Woody's first R.E.D
 Larry Dixon, Sr.  F.E.D  Feb. 1970 Last F.E.D to win the NHRA Winternationals
 Don Garlits  F.E.D  Mar. 1970 Horrific accident at Lions that prompted his change to a Rear Engine Dragster
 Dwane Ong  R.E.D  Aug. 1970 First win for a Rear Engine Dragster - NY Nationals
 Don Garlits  R.E.D  Jan. 1971 Successful debut of the Swamp Rat 14 at Lions
 Pete Robinson  F.E.D  Feb. 1971 Killed at Pomona
 Don Garlits  R.E.D  Feb. 1971 First win for the new Swamp Rat 14 at the NHRA Winternationals.
 Don Garlits  R.E.D  Mar. 1971 Wins the Bakersfield March Meet
 Don Garlits  R.E.D  May 1971 Installed wing and went to another level, runs a 6.43
 Gerry Glenn  F.E.D  June 1971 In a modified front engine car he runs an incredible 6.41.
 Don Garlits  R.E.D   Sept 1971 Indy Nationals he qualifies with a 6.21 besting the field by almost two tenths of a second. However in the final he was runner-up to Steve Carbone. It was no matter, it sealed the fate of the F.E.D. forever. Orders for the new R.E.D. chassis poured in to all chassis shops.


Five Steps to the Death of the Slingshot Dragster

Don Garlits looks back at the 14 in retrospect:

"It was basically a slingshot with no cage on the back and the driver cage on the front. That's all there was to it. Connie Swingle said it ain't a rear engine car; it was a front driver car. He said that a hundred times."

1) We had reached the era of semi-smokeless runs. A car with the tires stuck to the pavement was easier to control then one spinning the tires all the time. We finally had good tires. - Garlits

The significance of this is, unlike the slingshot dragsters, the rear engine design was structurally built to handle all what better tires could throw at them. The driver closer to the front of the car provided the weight needed to hold the front end down, and also made a stronger front half of the race car. The slingshots had become weak at the front and were trying to come apart at the speeds they were attaining. The limit was reached by the front engine cars, but not so for the R.E.D.'s. The new weight balance and distribution allowed room for much more power and speeds - just what they were given by the development of better tires. - M. Bryant

2) We had reached the era of the long wheel base where the driver had some car out in front of him where the driver could see what he was doing sitting up front. - Garlits

As the rear engine cars became longer, it's true, the more steering reference was provided. However, that was not the real benefit of a longer car. Garlits had forever been a proponent of stretching the car out. When the Swamp Rat 14 was built, it was the same wheelbase as the slingshots they had built, but now this mark of 220 inches became only a starting point for the R.E.D.. They could load this thing up with elements for going faster and quicker and there would be no strain on it. When it became necessary, they would lengthen the wheelbase with no fear that the car couldn't handle the change. On the other hand, the slingshot had already peaked at that 220 inch mark. - M. Bryant

3) Slowing down the steering, making it more controllable. - Garlits

This discovery just unlocked the potential of the new car. Everything was there to go faster. The driver needed to learn not to over adjust the path of this new concept when reaching the top end. The slowing down of the steering did that. The driver would still jerk at the wheel, but the actual wheels would not move as much as before. Pretty simple actually. - M. Bryant

4) The locked spool, where both axels are locked together. - Garlits

Better traction was a friend to the R.E.D. But it was an enemy to the traditional slingshot with the motor in front, where keeping the front wheels on the ground was now a full-time job. They would load up the front end with as much as 200 lbs. of lead to facilitate this. The distribution of weight accomplished by placing the driver in front, all but eliminated the need to load up the front with power stripping extra pounds. The locked spool effect played right into the R.E.D.'s balanced and lighter overall stance and ushered in the incredible hole shot advantage that would be the signature of the rear engine dragster. - M. Bryant

5) The wing. The wing added down pressure on the tires. - Garlits

The car was dying to go faster and could handle it. Enter the down force ticket that now had the perfect place for it opened up by this new car configuration. It was an addition that could have happened as soon as the car first rolled off the shop floor. It was simply built for a wing from day one. - M. Bryant

The March had an end, but all the troops did not arrive safely. A new dawn showed a promise of safer days at the track and was welcomed with open arms. It would breathe new excitement and potential into the top fuel ranks, and they were woefully behind the man who made this happen; thank you Don Garlits.

The traditional slingshot dragster was gone and almost forgotten. Then this phenomenon called "Nostalgia Drag Racing" blasted upon the scene. Discontent with the cookie cutter look of the present day cars (not to mention missing the good ole days) a new venue to showcase the back in the day cars, as they were, was born. One could build, refurbish or emulate the cars of old and race them at an event especially tailored for these long past their prime machines.

At the same time within this new show was a thing called the "Cacklefest." It was an all at one time display of the real cars firing up and standing side by side for the fans and fellow racers to see. It was so popular that the specially built or rebuilt cars were given their own title: a Cackle Car. Geezers and sons of geezers clamored to come up with one of their favorite cars of yesteryear, probably just like the one they campaigned for a long time ago. One of the rules was that they had to be a front engine car only. They had to be told?

A lot of those folks concentrated on bringing back the top fuel dragsters, either reconstructions of one of the stars of the past or, like the lucky ones who held onto their mounts, the actual car itself!

A few of these were the legends of those days who had hung onto their front motored top fuelers. They included Don Garlits with a host of his old Swamp Rats, Art Chrisman and that beautiful Hustler 1, the famous Chizler of Karamesines, Bill Pitts and his Magicar, Larry Dixon, Sr. in the car he drove to many victories, and now out of oblivion, the Howard Cam Rattler.

Long live the F.E.D.! And now it does.

On about any weekend these days, you can attend a Nostalgia event at a track near you and witness what the fastest cars of their time looked and sounded like. But you had better be satisfied with that driver's cockpit hanging off the back of one of these priceless possessions, because it won't be, and shouldn't be, any other way.


Oh, one last Front Engine Story…

Jim Nicoll - Drag Racing's 'Superman'
By Todd Hutcheson © 2009


If you have seen the opening of the ABC Wide World of Sports, 'The of Thrill Victory... and the Agony of Defeat', then you've seen Top Fuel driver Jim Nicoll. It was 1970 at the Indy Nationals. The final round, Nicoll vs. Prudhomme and an explosion similar to Don Garlits' March, 1970 transmission explosion. Only this time it was the clutch at 225 mph.

Five days the competition was as hot as the Indiana skies. 'TV' Tommy Ivo, Danny Ongais, Gerry Glenn, Pete Robinson, Marshall Love, and Don Garlits were all left behind the remaining two: Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme and Jim 'Superman' Nicoll.

Prudhomme wanted his second Nationals in a row, but Nicoll had beaten the best and was not in the mood to just hand it over. In the fourth round he faced 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits in his re-built #13, a red light kept Nicoll in the fight to face the 'Snake'.

Prudhomme had low ET for the day at 6.43. Nicoll was a Pro's-pro and to him the race is never over until the cash was handed over. There was no fooling around, they just staged and got to it. Maybe because it was so damn hot outside that going 230 mph seemed like a great way of cooling off.

The start had Nicoll in a slight advantage. At the 1000 foot mark it was almost even. At the timing traps Nicoll's clutch let loose and cut the dragster in half, reminiscent of the Garlits Lions incident earlier in March. Only Jim Nicoll was traveling at 225 mph. Nicoll in the driver's cage, bouncing over the guardrail into the soft grass, slowed by the parachute, Jim was lucky he didn't lose his foot. The other half, engine and front half with front wheels, slid around the track in front of Prudhomme's until it hit the sand trap at the very end. Don Prudhomme won with a 6.45 at 230.78 mph.

Don Prudhomme was emotionally upset, and wanted to quit racing. All he could see was half of Jim's dragster without the Jim Nicoll half. They have always been close friends and Don was deeply hurt by the sight of only half a dragster sliding in circles in front of him at 225 mph. The sight stayed with him for years and years.
Jim had landed safely into the grassy area with a swollen right foot and concussion. He was rushed to the hospital.

THE "CROWERGLIDE"

The most copied clutch in racing, the original "Crowerglide" incorporates a completely centrifugal design and is totally adjustable. It was the industries first real slipper clutch, which is why it is so prevalent in racing today.

Jim looks back and explains it all. "I was still in the experimental stage with a Crowerglides (Centrifugal CrowerGlides clutches) and had some bad heat treating in one of the stands to the clutch. It broke and came loose and cut the car in half. There were six bolts that held the pressure plate and the disc in; there were not enough pieces left to examine, but that's what we calculated". Jim remembers just before it let go, "I could feel the clutch slip a little bit, Prudhomme and I were about side by side, so I kept my foot in it, it exploded cutting the car in half. Lucky I had my hand on the parachute handle and it came out. All I had was a swollen right foot and concussion, not like Garlits had."

When TC Lemons saw the accident he remarked "That's why we call him Superman." At about this same time Team Garlits was assembling the parts for the Swamp Rat 14 between racing obligations.

 

Don Prudhomme on Jim Nicoll's Crash

Prudhomme remembers, "Back in those days we were traveling around with Jim Nicoll, the 'Mongoose' and Garlits, the 'Greek' Karamesines - all the guys running a lot of match races all over the country. Going to the U.S. Nationals was the end of our season, ya know. We were all beat and wore out at that point. It was like the last bat at the World Series."

"Jim's car was very fast that day, at one point we were neck and neck. I would move a little ahead of him and he would move a little ahead of me, all of a sudden he was gone. The next thing I saw out of the corner of my eye was this big flash of fire, then his car was spinning out of control in front of me. I popped my chute and decelerated as his car went out in front of me. His car had no chute because it was only the front half with the engine sliding around in front of my car. It touched my car at one point. The bad part was, I thought he was dead because he wasn't with the car. Through all the fire and flash I thought I could see parts of him or his fire suit or something hanging on the back of his car and because of all the sparks and fire, it went through my head that he was dead."

"But he was OK. He went over the guard rail into the grass and flipped around. It was probably scarier from where I was at then for him where he was at because he was just bouncing around and I figured he was killed.

So that kinda' shook me up. We ended up winning it by just a nose. He may have beaten me if he didn't explode, ya just don't know those things, it's hard to say."

"Jim was a rough tough guy, ya know. He was one of those Ed McCulloch kinds of guys. He was a rough tough Texan guy. I wasn't too surprised to find out that he walked away from the crash."

"We had lost a lot of guys along the way up to that point with these cars and the parts coming off and the clutches cutting out of the bell housings, blowing up and cutting the frame in half and that's what happened to Nicoll's car. We had what we call 'Slipper' clutches in the cars and his got so hot that it flew apart and cut the car in half. He had a Crowerglides, I had a Schiefer clutch. He was one of the first guys to be real successful with the Crowerglide. Back in those days, it was all trial and error. You build something, you should put it on the Dyno to test it, but you think naaah, it will be alright and you just ran it. That's the only way you learn things in the early days, if it blowing up or somebody gets hurt, then ya fix it."

Don continues, "Wide World of Sports only covered maybe one or two drag races a year and for the most part drag racing was not covered on TV at all. Keith Jackson the broadcaster of Wide World of Sports added lots of dramatics to the accident. That particular run stayed on Wide World of Sports for 25 years. Their 25th Anniversary of the Wide World of Sports showed that it was one of the pieces of footage that they used as the most spectacular accident in motor racing that someone wasn't killed."

Jim Nicoll built a new front engine dragster that week and raced Prudhomme on the next weekend, but lost again to the 'Snake'.

At the end of the year Jim Nicoll was named Drag News Top Fuel Driver of the year 1970.

Above is the roll cage half of Jim's dragster. It hangs in a non-assuming race shop in Garland, Texas, out there in America's heartland. Of course, Jim is still with us… thank God.

Below is the front half of the Jim Nicoll Top fueler at the end of the Indy track 1970.

If you enjoyed this edited narrative to the story in our book,
Don Garlits R.E.D., please let us know at Don Garlits RED - the books


For the full story on this and others stories, go to the book Don Garlits R.E.D.
at: BackintheDayStore.com

By Mickey Bryant and Todd Hutcheson

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