A.J. Routt Photo

The second half of this season started with a most-memorable July. A single Sunday served up two of the biggest milestones in drag racing’s history: the first believable, officially-backed-up 200s and the debt of blown, nitro-burning “stockers,” both on July 12.  

Interestingly, Garlits was not the favorite to break the double-century barrier first, given the flurry of 198s and 199s coming from California cars this year. No, smart money had either Frank Cannon or Paul Sutherland blasting through first in the revolutionary "Flexy-Flyers" from Woody Gilmore's Race Car Engineering (where none other than Sutherland welded up Woody's first set of Chrysler zoomies for the Dave Zeuschel 392 in Cannon’s fueler). Both SoCal favorites were beaten to the punch by two weeks by Garlits, who punctured the barrier repeatedly and convincingly. [Historical footnote: While it’s true that one-off clockings of 200-plus had been reported — and promoted — even before the Greek’s controversial 204.54 in 1960 (when other hitters were barely cracking 180), it would be another four years before double-century speeds were universally accepted.]       

Jack Chrisman's radical midseason conversion of the '64 Sachs & Son A/FX Comet that dominated SoCal class racing with Bill Shrewsberry driving was FoMoCo’s radical response to the three-car Dodge Chargers team. After Chargers codriver Jim Johnson topped 141 mph on gasoline in Lions testing, Mercury's racing division determined to deny Chrysler Corporation the promotional benefits of a 150-mph "stocker." Chrisman, a veteran slingshot racer and NHRA's original national champion (1961), was commissioned to break that barrier using Dearborn hardware. Jack didn't mess around: Whereas the Mopars retained Torqueflite transmissions and full interiors, Jack hooked a blown, injected, nitro-burning 427 directly to the Comet's rearend, Top Fuel-style. The Caliente nearly accomplished its mission the first time out, clocking 148.27 mph (in 10.38 seconds) on July 12 in Fremont, California. Labor Day weekend, it wowed the NHRA Nationals crowd with blasts as fast as 156.31, despite smoking its M&H dragster slicks past the eighth-mile mark. Ironically, at Indy, "B/FD" was lettered on the windows of a car that launched the first and only challenge to fuel dragsters as "kings of the sport." 

Yet another lasting innovation from the latter part of 1964 is exhibition wheelstanding. A mid-engined, cab-forward, rear-weighted pickup that Dodge intended to race as legitimate A/FXer produced far too much traction for its own good—until Super Stock racer Bill "Maverick" Golden bravely rode out the wheelies in whichever direction the Little Red Wagon wandered. He took over from Detroit builders Jay Branstner and Jay Howell and immediately commanded the same $1000 appearance fee that match-race pros Garlits and Karamesines had spent a decade establishing. 

Dick Landy, whose clean machines and clean-cut image made him a favorite son of conservative NHRA, shocked the establishment right after Indy by whacking the wheelbase of his legal Super Stock (also A/Modified Production) Hemi Dodge for lucrative eastern match races. Nobody suspected that this so-called “funny-looking car” was secretly the test vehicle for a whole fleet of radically-altered ’65 Mopars waiting in the wings.

Last but not least, the overhead-camshaft 427 that NASCAR banished from superspeedway races was getting shoehorned into some of the first fastback Mustangs manufactured. In fact, secret track testing of the very first SOHC car occurred in late December (with a single-carb NASCAR intake, pending release of an eight-barrel setup for the drags). Because these purpose-built Holman-Moody A/FXers were not formally introduced until the new year, we'll save them for the early-1965 installment of Power Trails.   

If you just can’t wait, these and other issues of both Drag News and Drag Sport Illustrated can be read in their entirety as individual page scans on computer-viewable CDs available from WDIFL.com.    

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Not even Mickey Thompson could make Fontana successful. The founder and former manager of Lions Drag Strip obtained control from the wife of Don Rackemann after "Rack" went to jail. Despite splashy Drag News centerspread ads (some of the first inside pages to get color ink) and quality shows like these, the San Bernardino County strip was never able to overcome competition from tracks closer to Los Angeles, about 50 miles west. Legendary Midwestern promoter Ben Christ later took a shot, rechristening the strip as Drag City, before Fontana folded for good. The man in the woman’s wig (bottom) is none other than future-LSR-holder Gary Gabelich.  
The same weekend that the 199-mph "Flexy-Flyers" of Frank Cannon and Paul Sutherland squared off in Fontana’s best-of-three match race, Don Garlits beat them both to the first believable 200. During July’s eight-day rampage, the zoomie-equipped Wynn’s Jammer recorded three 200s plus a 199.10 in three states. Even the skeptics tended to believe the 200.44 and two backups on Detroit’s NHRA-certified clocks. 
Frank Cannon and Joe Schubeck bolted zoomies onto their 392 Chryslers at roughly the same time this summer in California and Ohio, respectively. The tire-cleaning, downforce-producing exhaust flow and a new M&H rubber compound shared credit for pushing Garlits and Cannon past 200 mph two weeks apart. Woody Gilmore's Race Car Engineering wasted no time placing an ad in the same July 18 Drag News that carried news of the sport’s first widely accepted, backed-up 200.
None of our usual SoCal sources can recall which writer dubbed Fontana’s management team “the desperate promoters.” Mickey Thompson was grinning here, but soon turned the troubled track over to GM Ron Miller (right).    
John Batto's push-truck driver intentionally mowed down the much-hated Christmas tree—and inspired possibly the most-poetic photo caption ever published in a drag rag—after the electronic device red-lighted Batto's fueler during Fremont's NHRA record meet.     

The summer's hottest match-race trend pitted fuelers against stockers. Lions promoter C.J. Hart would stage a door car about 100 feet behind the starting line, then flag it off first. The digger driver was supposed to wait until the stocker passed the starting line. However, after losing the previous round to a Super Stock Plymouth's flying-start 8.90 at 125.87, Don Prudhomme took no chances against the Snorkasaurus Dodge: He won this one handily, 8.54/189.06 to 9.34/129.68. Arch-rival McEwen was not impressed, as evidenced by his small ad in the same Aug. 22 edition of Drag News. 
We suspect that the instigator of this spoof letter from the nonexistent “Double Century Club Headquarters” in the Aug. 8 Drag News was cosigner Ed Iskenderian, always the prime promoter of the Greek's questionable 204 at Alton, Ill., four years prior (note top line). Tom McEwen’s referenced, rolling-start 5.99 was almost certainly the quickest quarter-mile ever recorded—eight full years before it happened for real (1972 Supernationals, Mike Snively and Don Moody, respectively).  
Barbara Hamilton and Nancy Leonello comprised the first and only all-female team to threaten the super-macho world of Super Gassers. The youthful duo's performance, professionalism, and persistence persuaded tradition-bound NHRA to finally license its first woman driver for supercharged competition in 1964 (two years after allowing pioneering Stock racer Carol Cox into national events). 

Newsstand buyers baited by this colorful cover must've been disappointed to find nothing inside about the revolutionary Dodge Chargers; only one B&W photo of the factory team's state-of-the-art transporter in an article about enclosed trailers. The rented, replacement tractor pictured illustrates the shortages of support equipment and cash that prematurely terminated the ambitious program around the same time that this magazine was being printed. Editor Mike Doherty's contents-page identification of San Diego Raceway tells us that photo editor Al Yates got the color shot months earlier, prior to the ill-fated tour by fulltime teammates Jimmy Nix and Jim Johnson, neither of whose name had yet been lettered onto the driver's door. Also, this guy looks more like builder and initial test-pilot Jim Nelson of San Diego County’s Dragmaster Company.
A page in the Sept. 12 Drag Sport Illustrated documented the wild diversity of contemporary Top Fuel combinations, ranging from traditional Hemi Chryslers to an unblown stroker Chevy (center) and dual blown Pontiacs, entering the first NHRA Nationals since 1956 permitting fuels other than pump gas.  
Has there ever been a more-mismatched pair of class finalists than the injected rail and supercharged stocker thrown together as B/Fuel Dragsters by NHRA classification rules? Chrisman's nitro-burning Comet lost the battle but won the war, literally stealing the show as the most-talked-about Indy entry.    
Tom McEwen was called "the Cassius Clay of drag racing" and, like the future Muhammad Ali, backed up the lip with performance. In his Sept. 19 Drag News coverage, Lions reporter Ralph Guldahl Jr. noted that McEwen flew Chris Karamesines in from Chicago as a tuning consultant for perhaps the first-ever Mongoose-vs.-Snake promotion. That plane ticket paid off in two straight humblings of Tom's SoCal arch rival: a holeshot-aided 8.19/194.80 against Don's 8.14/194.38, followed by a decisive 8.23/192.30-to-8.41/193.12 clincher. “Digger” Ralph’s race report concluded with a quote from McEwen sponsor Ed Iskenderian: "Just like Tom says, it's already written up that way in The Jungle Book!"  


Rockford (now Byron) Dragway doubled the trending fueler-vs.-stocker fun by matching the Guzzler and the Greek with Tommy Grove and the Smith Brothers. Despite rolling starts by the Super Stockers, as depicted in the upper photo, Chris Karamesines prevailed in this first round at 7.93/204, and again in the rubber match at 7.73/200. Equipped with an 18-inch-long telephoto lens, Bob "Slatts" Nelson snapped the Oct. 24 Drag News cover sequence from a perch more than 4000 feet downtrack. Look closely at the Greek’s front wheels, airborne and sideways at 200 mph! 
The first East Coast monthly to challenge the nationally distributed California titles was also the first devoted to doorslammer drag racers. Publisher Monk Reynolds, an Alexandria, Virginia, nightclub owner, hired gas-class-racer Jim Davis as editor and premier West Coast photographer Jim Kelly as photo editor. Bill Jenkins also appeared in the masthead as technical editor.  
Powerful publisher Doris Herbert recognized the booming popularity of factory hot rods by launching  
the Drag News Mr. Stock Eliminator list. Hayden Proffitt's Plymouth successfully defended the top spot in this best-of-three-round Houston match against the first stocker described as a "funny" car. On tour down south at season’s end, Dick Landy's altered wheelbase and straight axle previewed the fleet of radical Dodges and Plymouths secretly under construction for the '65 season.  
What Lions reporter Ralph Guldahl Jr. dubbed as "the most-requested match race of the year" was really a mismatch because, as Jack Chrisman explained in Drag News, his fuel-burning, tire-blazing, 10-second exhibition Comet "is not set up for e.t." It must've been a damp Saturday night "in the dew,” as both cars struggled for traction through two rounds. The only numbers reported in the Nov. 18 Drag News were Cook's winning 10.14 e.t. in the first heat and his sideways, off-the-asphalt 131 mph in the second. Guldahl's report suggests a split decision, though Drag News's cover caption stated that Cook swept both rounds. Track photographer Roy Robinson got the shot.      
Petersen's entry-level publication traditionally targeted pre-driving-age readers by serving up go-karts, model kits, "doodle bugs," and car shows. The inclusion of fuelers and American Hot Rod Association meets—both previously taboo under former editorial director Wally Parks (who departed in 1963)—signaled the Car Craft’s gradual transition into a respected drag mag. 
Exhibition pairings of dissimilar vehicles were another 1964 fad. Ohio George Montgomery's AA/Gasser was challenged at Houston by Arnie Beswick's GTO, believed to be the first late-model, independent stocker to acquire a GMC blower and injectors. Alas, Drag News reported no times; only that both cars were "troubled" and that Beswick won this round. Arnie lifted the erroneous "S/FX" designation from the unofficial category that NHRA created exclusively for intrateam exhibitions by the now-defunct Dodge Chargers—with the stipulation that no Super Factory Experimental would engage in actual competition. (The derisive term "funny car," initially applied to altered-wheelbase ’65 Mopars, would not be accepted by the press until 1966.)