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

PINT-SIZED PRO STOCK PALS PROVE DRAG RACING IS A FAMILY SPORT

the_boysBecause they sometimes are separated by ten-thousandths of a second on the racetrack and as few as one or two points in the standings, Pro Stock drivers guard their proprietary information carefully. They frown on anyone trying to photograph their engines. They often cover up their handiwork with a blanket. They're always on guard for technology spies.
 
But they break out in smiles when they see their on-track rivals' children and grandchildren dash among their pits. They aren't the least bit wary of elementary-school espionage.
 
"They're just a bunch of kids out there having a good time," Grandpa Johnny Gray said before improving Saturday morning from fifth to second in the Pro Stock order during qualifying for the NHRA's Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

NIVER REMEMBERED AS RACER AND FRIEND

7_15_2010_niverThe National Hot Rod Ass'n. has confirmed that Top Alcohol Dragster racer Mark Niver, 60, of Scottsdale, Ariz., died from a top-end accident Sunday during the semifinal round of eliminations at the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.
 
The King County Sheriff's Department, ruling the facility a crime scene, suspended all racing activities for about an hour and a half, pending an investigation. However, it permitted racing to finish and extended the 5:30 p.m. noise curfew to 7 p.m.
 
The NHRA canceled winners circle activities, save for photos that fulfilled business and contractual obligations and said its officials are investigating the accident.
 
A prepared statement also stated, “NHRA and Pacific Raceways officials extend their deepest sympathies to the entire Niver family.”
 
Niver was married and had two daughters.

CRASH CREATES TEST OPPORTUNITY FOR GLIDDEN

7-9-10billygliddencrashNot one to waste time, Billy Glidden is taking the opportunity to improve his program following a crash during qualifying for last weekend’s ADRL event at Heartland Park Topeka.

It marked only the second time in his career that the 2008 ADRL Extreme 10.5 champ found the wall with significant force.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate, but the first time was (about 1997) in my very first car that me and a couple of buddies built in a garage in Seymour,” he recalled. “It wasn’t built to do what we were doing with it. I had slapper bars on it—I wasn’t using them in the conventional method—but it pulled one in two and when the car got down on the rear tire it cut it and then it was pretty much the same thing, it went from the left lane over to the right and it pretty well slapped the whole right side of the car.”

A MAN AND HIS COLLECTIBLES: MIKE GOYDA’S STORY

garageWhat began as a guy trying to decorate a wall in his garage evolved into the drag racing collectibles industry.

"I kept hounding this movie-poster dealer for one from Drag Strip Girl," says Mike Goyda, who, in the 18 years since, has become the preeminent purveyor of drag racing memorabilia in the world. "That poster cost me so little, it was amazing – I'm talking $10 or $20. Guys would come by to see the cars in my garage and end up asking me if I could find them a poster, and it just took off from there. I started getting calls from people all over the country. When I got started in all this, there was no real established market; nobody was really dealing in this kind of memorabilia."

Today, Goyda's inventory consists of between 75,000 and 100,000 items. If you can imagine it, he probably has it.

DRIVERS HIT CAMPAIGN TRAIL FOR K&N HP CHALLENGE BERTH

06_07_2010_politickinNeither Rickie Jones or Johnny Gray claim to have any type of political background.

Yet, both Pro Stock drivers are actively on the campaign trail trying to drum up fan support as a result of the new format for the K&N Horsepower Challenge, which is a bonus event for the Pro Stock class. The eighth and final competitor for the race will be chosen by an online fan vote.

“I have a couple of my friends who have been teasing me a little bit and it kind of feels like you’re out there rallying for votes,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to put the word out. If people want to vote for me, that’s great, but if they vote for Warren Johnson or somebody else it doesn’t matter. I just think it’s important to get everyone involved.”

Gray concurred with Jones.

FENN WATCHES WITH PRIDE AS NHRA UNLEASHED BECOMES REALITY

During the 30th annual NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway last month, Danny Lowry made a 4.36-second exhibition pass in his turbocharged 06_07_2010_fennOutlaw 10.5 Ford Mustang. It was no record setter, but as Johnny Fenn watched from the starting line, he couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by a sense of pride and accomplishment.

“It was the first time an Outlaw 10.5 car had ever performed at an NHRA national event and the crowd just loved it,” the Outlaw Racing Street Car Association (ORSCA) president recalled. “Six, eight years ago there’s no way that could have happened. Our cars, our drivers, just weren’t ready, but to see an ORSCA driver out there at an NHRA event, it was very satisfying.”

SHAKE-UP LEADS TO RESURGENCE FOR BERNSTEIN

In reality, some Top Fuel teams are hoping for excellence.
05_21_10_bernstein
Kenny Bernstein, a six-time NHRA world champion, expects it.

That’s why Bernstein, team owner of the dragster driven by his son Brandon, shook things up when his Copart/Lucas Oil machine began 2010 sluggishly.

Following the third race of the season at Gainesville, Fla., crew chief Rob Flynn was dismissed and assistant crew chief Todd Smith was promoted to wrench boss. Donnie Bender also came aboard as an assistant crew chief. Bender most-recently served as the crew chief for Don Prudhomme's Snake Racing from 2006-2009.

HECTOR ARANA: DREAMS COME TRUE

05_21_10_aranaThrough the years, Hector Arana II, never wavered in his belief that if you worked hard enough, and never questioned your beliefs, your goal, whatever it might be, was attainable.

Even when his children, who used to come running to him when he returned from a weekend of racing, yelling, “daddy, daddy did you win” suddenly stopped asking, Arana persevered.

“I remember we stopped asking,” said Hector Arana, III. “I don't remember why we stopped asking. He kept saying no, so I guess we stopped asking because we didn't want to bring up the point and make him feel bad.”

MIKE GREEN HAS FACED THE CHALLENGES AND SUCCEEDED

green_5On the surface it all looks the same. A championship-caliber driver. A top of the line sponsor. A seasoned crew chief and several wins to their credit. Under the hood, so to speak, the U.S. Army dragster piloted by Tony Schumacher and tuned by Mike Green is nothing like the team, driver, tuner and car which won the 2008 NHRA Top Fuel championship.

The driver is the same. The sponsor is the same. The crew chief, Mike Green is in his second year and the new DSR chassis, fully tested by Cory McClenathan in 2009, is still a new animal to the team.

It was late 2008, the season already completed, when team owner Don Schumacher told Mike Green, at the time crew chief for Cory McClenathan, he would be the new crew for the Army dragster driven by Tony Schumacher.

BRUCE ALLEN: LIFE AFTER DRAG RACING

After winning 16 NHRA titles – more than legends Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, Butch Leal, or Ronnie Sox – and contending for the Pro Stock championship year after year, Bruce Allen had a horrific crash with Kenny Koretsky at the 2005 Dallas event and walked away from the sport. He hasn't raced since. He's hasn't even been to a track to watch.

"That last run's not what I want to be remembered for, but the truth is that in some people's minds, it probably will be," Allen said. "If it is, that's fine. I was going to have to quit one day – that was probably as good a time as any. It was a perfect way, actually. All it really did is make us quit a couple of weeks earlier than we were already going to because we definitely weren't planning on racing the next year anyway. As much as we kept saying, 'This is it, we're done,' we somehow kept hanging on for a few more races – until then. Maybe that was God's way of saying it was time."

That 2005 season wasn't Allen's best with the legendary Reher-Morrison team of David Reher and the late Buddy Morrison, but it had been just a little over a year since he'd last appeared in a final and just three years since he'd last won. He didn't have to quit then. He just did. It wasn't like he was afraid to drive after he crashed.

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