Brian Mans liked working on Alcohol Dragsters so much that he had to have one of his own.
The highlight of his career came late last year when he won the rain-delayed Columbus divisional race, which was run in conjunction with the Bowling Green divisional. From the No. 7 spot, he reeled off consistent 5.50s, including a 5.57 in the final to upset five-time world champion Bill Reichert, who went up in smoke.
"I never saw him and was pretty sure the win-light was on in my lane, but I didn't want to get too excited – just in case," Mans says. "Then everybody came down to get me, and the way they piled out of the truck, I knew. But we still had to get the car serviced and ready to race the Bowling Green event the following morning, and we had motors apart and parts all over the place. We might not have made it for first round if Reichert hadn't sent over some guys to help."
It was the biggest win to date in a career that began with a nitrous-assisted '67 Chevelle. Mans raced Super Comp before he ran Top Alcohol Dragster, and, believe it or not, while he was racing Top Alcohol Dragster. "When I was crewing for Marty Thacker, I wanted something else to do, so I started bringing my Super Comp car to the track with me," he says. "I'd work on his car and drive mine. Then when I got my alcohol car, I started running both of them at the same race. It actually wasn't that big of a distraction, but there wasn't enough time to get everything done on the alcohol car, so I quit bringing it. I still have the car. I could probably run it this weekend if I wanted to."
The only problem was that once he'd gone 260 mph, 160 wasn't fun anymore. "All I had to do between rounds with the Super Comp car was fuel that puppy up and it was ready to go, but driving it just wasn't that exciting," says Mans, 46, a manager for Matrix, a company that builds and repairs oil refineries. "The first time I ran the Super Comp car after I started racing in Alcohol Dragster, it felt like I could wave to the crowd and order a burger on the way down the track."
As a Super Comp racer, Mans didn't exactly go with a traditional setup. Instead of running a mega-inch big-block, throttle stop, and full-blown electronics package like everyone else, he went with a 427-cubic-inch small-block. To make the car faster, he'd remove ballast. Making it a tiny bit faster meant taking a grinder to lead weights. "I always hated that shut-off/turn-back-on crap," he says. "I want to just step on the gas and that's it."
Now he can. "I love driving this alcohol car," says Mans, who lives about a half-hour north of St. Louis in Godfrey, Ill. "Driving is an adrenaline rush. It's the reason I do it. Stepping up to this thing was a major shock – I figured that out in one run. I went from 1.02 60-foot-times in the Super Comp car to .920s in this. It leaves a lot harder, and it keeps right on pulling through the middle of the track."
Of course, with the increased performances comes more equipment, more expense, and a whole lot more maintenance. "Driving a car is a lot better than working on one," says Mans, whose crew is led by Mike Randazzo, who used to work with Division 3 Top Alcohol Dragster champ Russ Lindert. "I still it, but it's a ton of work."
Mans, who was the second driver in the country to join the Pro Sportsman Association, an organization dedicated to promoting Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car racing, made the best run of his career last summer at the Lucas Oil Series event in Chicago. It couldn't have come at a better time: His 5.37 at 265 mph took out his old teammate, two-time U.S. Nationals winner Marty Thacker, in the first round.
"I really get jacked up for Marty," Mans says. "It's great to be able to beat somebody like him after working on these things for so long." Had he been able to parlay that round-win into another event title, he'd have been within striking distance of a spot on the Jegs Allstars team. "That would have been the ultimate. Getting in the Allstars is one of my goals this year and every year."
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