One of the greatest and best-remembered stories in all of dragdom was Jon Asher's 1972 series for Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine about his exploits in Cecil Lankford and David Sien's Brand-X Funny Car.
Asher, who had absolutely zero qualifications to get behind the wheel of a fuel-burning Funny Car other than being one of the best to ever photograph or write about them, made seven laps, earned his license, and, famously, caught the car on fire on his final run. "People still ask me about it every once in a while," said Asher, who was Editor of Car Craft in that magazine's best years and today is a Senior Editor at Competition Plus.
It all started at a 1971 AHRA Grand American race in Colorado when Lankford told Asher to get in his car for the warm-up. "When we were done and I shut it off, he told me, 'You ought to drive this thing sometime' " Asher said. A few months later, the day after the Manufacturers Race at Orange County International Raceway in November 1971, he did.
"The first thing I noticed was the incredible noise," said Asher, who was 29 at the time. "You're in the car, all strapped in and ready to go, and when you step on that accelerator, your first inclination is to take your foot out of it because it's shocking. I still remember the first couple of burnouts. I was waiting for this huge cloud of smoke to envelop me, and it was more like the exhale from a cigarette puff. It was embarrassing. When the car launched, it really set me back in the seat. You're trying to mentally process everything, but you suddenly realize that everything's happening a lot faster than you ever thought it would."