A YEAR OF PERSONAL MISFORTUNE ERASED WITH ONE BILLY GLIDDEN RUN
A year ago, Billy Glidden found himself battered, bruised, and a bit stunned after making his first test hit of the 2017 season.
The small-tire icon turned Pro Modified racer left the starting line at Orlando Speed World hard when his "tired" Mustang abruptly turned right and impacted the retaining wall before crossing the track where it struck the left retaining wall. Glidden was knocked unconscious, but came to as medical personnel extracted him from the car. He suffered five broken ribs and bruised lungs,
One day short of the one year anniversary of the first in a number of personal hits, Glidden climbed behind the wheel of his 1968 Camaro sponsored by the Skillman Auto Group and made his first run of the 2018 season.
The memories of a 2017 season which was by all accounts a personal and professional disaster fell by the wayside as Glidden left the Speedworld starting line with all the intensity of a rocket leaving nearby Cap Canaveral.
Glidden only ran it to just shy of the eighth-mile, a 3.847 elapsed time at 191.05. miles per hour. For Glidden, the 3.847 was a statement run, as it was his quickest elapsed time to the eighth-mile in legal NHRA trim.
Glidden needed the 3.84 if only to establish a better baseline than 2017.
"We’re happy with what we just did," Glidden said after the run. "We’re just continuing with what we were doing with the new system with Haltech. We did some reconfiguring. Actually, we stopped and dealt with Victor from Haltech, and then Patrick Barnhill’s helped us a little bit, and Steve Summers, and then the folks in Australia, the Haltech folks. Everybody’s had their eyes on what we’re doing here, and they’re all trying to remedy the issues that we have, and we’ve made a positive step."
Glidden was beset with misfortunes following last year's incident starting with an overnight hospital stay. He was finally cleared to return to drive in April, and while he had no car at the time, a reasonable deal on a used chassis appeared to put him on a reasonable track to return. However, a chassis builder who agreed to prepare the car for Glidden delivered a car he said he couldn't use. Then he lost his primary sponsor.
Glidden had all but thrown in the towel with racing when successful automobile dealership owner, drag racer and fellow Hoosier Ray Skillman became involved and secured a 1968 Camaro formerly raced by Jim Halsey.
With just weeks to go before the NHRA U.S. Nationals, Glidden and wife Shannon labored tirelessly, often drawing on assistance from chassis builder Jerry Bickel to get the car to Indy. It would be the last time he got to race with his dad, the legendary Bob Glidden
Bob Glidden, 73, and a ten-time NHRA Pro Stock champion, and one-time IHRA series champion passed away on December 17, 2017, following a brief illness.
Glidden said one of his father's last wishes that he never gave up on his quest to race on the big show of the NHRA; and he hasn't. It was a major impetus on his decision to test this week at the Real Pro Mod [RPM] official test session.
"With Dad being gone, and it left us with a big hole in our hearts," Glidden said. "It was important to us that we went out and made a good run out of the box."
As much as Glidden tries to compartmentalize the misfortunes, losing a man who was larger than life in his eyes and doing the best job he can, keeping the mind focused can be a challenge.
"I don’t know that any of us ever get really good at that," Glidden said. "You just try to endure what you’re given for changes every day and make the best of it. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ve been struggling but we’re trying.'
Glidden's 2018 plan includes continued sponsorship from the Skillman Group, and he's gunning to race as many events as he can stretch the budget into.
"That’s the tentative goal but we just have to take it, with just [Shannon] and I and the amount that we have coming, we just have to take it a day at a time."
One of the more valuable lessons Glidden learned from his famous father was the necessity of resourcefullness. If your car breaks, you fix it. If it cannot be fixed, you find a way to fix it. That's the Glidden way.
Even once, Glidden admits, when he couldn't master dribbling a basketball with his left hand, his father taped his right arm to his side and made him bounce the ball exclusively with his left hand for days. A week's worth of the exercise actually made Glidden better with the left, than his natural hand.
In Glidden's eyes, this was not abuse but an important lesson reaffirming the value of problem-solving.
Glidden watched his father remedy a complex tow truck issue during their heyday in their dominating days of Pro Stock. The vision remains ingrained in his mind decades later.
"Had a piston come apart, back in the early 70’s maybe, and so Dad took the oil pan off of the tow rig on the side of the road, took the rod off the crank, and hit the road and just kept pulling over and putting weights on some of the rotating assembly somewhere to get it to balance so we could keep going," Glidden explained.
Some years later Glidden had a moment of his own. The eldest of the Glidden boys was given instruction by Bob to go pick up a new Willie Rells-built Ford Probe a long way from their Whiteland, Indiana shop.
"You’ve got to be there in two days. Period. The end," Glidden recalled from the conversation. "And that’s San Diego. So I get in and I drive almost to Amarillo. And I was east of Amarillo and I told the other guys, ‘You’ve got to drive for a while."
"He gets in and we just pass the state line and I feel the truck quit running and he pulled off to the side."
The flickering lights convinced Glidden their issue was an alternator.
"I didn’t call home," Glidden recalled. "I just started the generator and ran an extension, taped an extension cord down the side of the trailer, taped it on, left it some slack and strapped the battery charger on the back of the truck and then ran the cables down to the battery with vice grips. The trailer generator and the battery charger were our alternator the rest of the way to San Diego."
The trip to Orlando this week presented it own set of issues.
"We did have an issue with our engine at the Florida Turnpike service area and and it wasn't long before we had the whole top side of our engine off so we could change a hard line nozzle from the injector pump to the cylinder head," Glidden explained.
With help from longtime friend Jimmy Keen, the team's hauler was back on the road.
With the memories of last year's struggles buried in the back of his mind, and the challenges of racing with a much smaller budget than the competition, Glidden needed a good day of testing to get things right in his universe.
And with a 3.84 run to the eighth-mile, Glidden's well on his way to lining up the moons and the stars.