:::::: Feature Stories ::::::


stottQuain Stott will attest drag racers are creatures of habit.

On Friday, during the ADRL Dragstock VII event in Rockingham, NC, the Pro Modified champion now racing in the Pro Extreme division learned how hard those old habits are to break.

Stott had a run in with Rockingham Dragway’s right retaining wall and wrecked his LeeBoy-sponsored 1963 Corvette, taking him out of competition for the remainder of the event.

“It was just driver error,” Stott admitted. “I got on the brakes too hard. Still trying to learn how to drive this converter car. For 35 years, I’ve been driving a clutch car. I went through the finish line and the only thing I can figure is out of habit I pushed in what I thought was the clutch and it was the brake. Then it locked up the brakes and put it into the wall.”


This is a story unlike any other you may have read about Ed “The Ace” McCulloch.  It is the last time we’ll ever reference McCulloch’s early days in the sport, when his physicality wrote the headlines, not his exceptional driving skills.  He is so far removed from that younger, wilder McCulloch as to be a completely different individual in 2010 than he was during that long-gone era.  As McCulloch himself says, “When the guys working on the car (the Ron Capps-driven NAPA Auto Parts Dodge) hear those stories about me they don’t believe ‘em.  They say they can’t be true because I’m not like that.”  If they only knew, really knew.  But we’re finished making those references, for this is indeed, a markedly different McCulloch.

As a driver few could match McCulloch’s intensity and desire.  As a crew chief he’s retained those same traits.  It’s just far less openly evident as were his emotions some years ago.  When the race car doesn’t do what he expects it to there’s no head-shaking, no wrench-throwing, no shouting.  There’s only the vision of McCulloch turning to head back to the rig with his head down, determined to figure out what happened and why, and to fix it.

Team owners are under a lot of pressure these days, whether they show it or not.  Obtaining a sponsor is far more difficult in 2010 than it was even in 2005 – and it’s likely to get more difficult in the months ahead.  Knowing this, team owners show far less patience with a recalcitrant race car today than they did yesterday.  They ask more questions and make more demands on their employees than they ever have in the past, sometimes with good cause.  It’s a cold, cruel world out there, and they know it.  And they also know that one of the two conversations they never want to have with their sponsor begins with, “How come the car’s not running better?  We’re getting killed out there by our biggest business rival!”  The second conversation – far worse – begins with something like, “We’re sorry, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction.  We won’t be renewing our deal with you for next year.”


Veteran drag racer Johnny Gray often prefaces his statements with the reminder: "I've been doing this for 38 years or so . . . "
He's right.
He has been racing -- including Comp Eliminator, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster, Funny Car, and now Pro Stock again -- for that long.
He has been in business that long.


DSA_5642What's a 38-year-old drag-racing rookie supposed to feel like?
Shane Gray, who has two Pro Stock runner-up finishes on his resume, has been a bundle of contrasting emotions this season as driver of the Big O Tires Pontiac GXP.
Calling himself both "selfish" and "blessed," Gray has been what he described as "nervous as all get-up," yet calm racing his father and even at the line against reigning champion and early-season dominator Mike Edwards.
With his runner-up finish at Brainerd, Gray improved two spots to the No. 6 position in the Countdown that starts next Thursday at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.


64_Funny_Cars_72Nearly 40 years ago America was going through the first of two major gasoline crises. The country was still trying to extricate itself from Vietnam and drag racing, like other forms of American motorsports was still in the toddler stage.

Drag strips were struggling to keep fans in the stands and something called the “funny car” was still in its infancy. But, it was 64 of those “funny cars” which would rescue tracks like Pacific Raceways.

Bill Doner, after covering a sports car event at Pacific Raceways, took over the management of the floundering facility. Doner, who had been a sports reporter for a Southern California newspaper, relocated to Kent, Washington to take on the daunting task of salvaging the floundering facility.


nesbitt_2It happened in the blink of an eye; at least that’s how Barbara Nesbitt remembers it.  

“I reached up to pull the parachute handle and thought the nitrous bottle exploded,” Nesbitt recalled in an exclusive telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

This was Nesbitt’s first interview, just eleven days after a top-end drivetrain failure nearly took her right arm, broke a finger on her left hand, and bruised her liver and a lung, and at least three ribs while racing her Camaro at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina in the NMCA’s ARP Nostalgia Pro Street class.  The car, which only had ten passes on it since its construction, had already been clocked running in the mid-7’s at over 180 MPH.

Nesbitt still isn’t sure of the exact sequence of events.


The NMCA’s Pro Stock division is a naturally aspirated class designed for 1950 and newer American production cars and trucks that are equipped with IMG_8158stock-type chassis and 10.5-inch wide tires. Entries are permitted small block and big block engines up to and including a maximum of 565 cubic inches (depending on combination).

Pro Stock rules permit a variety of race-proven modifications and performance ¬ enhancements on stock bodied, stock appearing -vehicles. One enhancement not allowed is the use wheelie bars.

Past NMCA champion Butch Kemp and his fellow NMCA Pro Stock racers don't like the “no wheelie bar” rule. Kemp and his peers who faithfully supported the class have decided without wheelie bars the risk is too great for the potential reward. In this case, Kemp says the reward is his just being able to race safely.


morganLarry Morgan admits he’s survived some tough seasons in his storied career but 2010 has been in a league of its own. He’s blown up enough engines and broken enough parts to leave the legendary Henry Ford shaking his head in disbelief.

He knew the year was going to be one of transition with a change of manufacturer and a new engine program. However, Morgan never envisioned the carnage would reach the level where he would be left to wonder if he’d survive financially.

“When you break seven engines and try and survive that, that’s a tough deal,” admitted a puzzled Morgan. “I am lucky to even still be here. I’m not sure how I am still here, but I am. We’re here. We’re struggling along and I’m fine with that. I could be home doing something I don’t want to do.


Ken Prather, 68, of Erie Pa., has a passion for the old school. And, his 1962 Volkswagen bus is easily the apple of any teacher's eye.

Still a work in progress, Prather purchased the German-made van so popular with hippies in the age of the “Flower Child” in 1998 with the intention of just making it into an around the town driver.

Those thoughts morphed into a reality which is to this day still a work in progress; which explains why the chopped top German automobile with a 355 ci Chevrolet V-8 tucked in the back seat area, still spends most of its time on asphalt tooling around the streets of Erie, Pa.


Maybe the only thing better than seeing great Funny Cars of the '70s resurrected by today's drivers is seeing them brought back to life by the original 7_15_2010_puldedrivers themselves, drivers like Roger Garten and Dale Pulde.
Pulde, one of just a handful of fuel racers to have won multiple NHRA national events in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, has driven countless Funny Cars over the past 40 years, but there were just two options when it came time to choose which one to recreate: the "War Eagle" Trans Am that he and partner Mike Hamby match raced from coast to coast in the late '70s and early '80s, or the unforgettable "Miller Warrior" Buick Regal that they campaigned in 1985.
"I might have picked the Regal – a lot of people really liked that car – but it wasn't old enough, and John Powers already had a new Trans Am body for me," Pulde says. "I never would have gotten into this if it wasn't for Powers. He's the one who said, 'I think you need to be out here,' and he's the one who said he'd supply the stuff. His body is the one that caused all the controversy when it came out – it's a little too spaceship-looking for some people, I guess. I we knew when I brought it out that it was overkill. But if you think about it, Powers' cars back in the '70s were pretty zoomy, too."