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Episode 264

May 19, 2019

Local Racer awarded Red Cross Real Heroes Awards

Recognized at the 21st Annual Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast event Friday at the Stone Ridge Event Center in Presque Isle was snowmobile and kart racer, Gage Theriault of Limestone.  A fifth grader at Limestone Middle School, Theriault was nominated by Galen Morrow. He was at his 73-year-old grandmother’s house when a fire broke out. He called 911, helped put the fire out, and then got his wheelchair-bound grandmother, along with her oxygen tank, out of the house safely. (Gage Theriault Racing photo)

Van Buren native serves as judge at International FSAE Event at Michigan International Speedway

Philip LaPointe , a Van Buren native now living in Marysville, Ohio was once again a judge at the Society of Automotive Engineers student competition, Formula SAE (FSAE) event at Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan. LaPointe works for Honda as an R & D engineer having previously worked eight years for the performance arm of Honda, Honda Performance Development in California and England. Before the stint with HPD he worked in as a design engineer.

LaPointe worked at one of the 15 design cues which featured 6 or 7 judges with 7 – 8 teams in each group. LaPointe’s group featured the overall winner the last three years, University of Stuttgart, as well as a nicely put together University of Illinois entry.

Philip LaPointe on left acts as one of the many FSAE judges May 8-11, 2019. This 2018 photo shows him judging the University of North Carolina Charlotte FSAE team.  (2018 File photo University of North Carolina, Charlotte FSAE Team)

Overall FSAE winner and design stage winner, University of Stuttgart, Germany. Design features include 383 pound overall weight, composite monocoque frame, naturally aspirated four-cylinder Yamaha YZF R6 engine running on E85 fuel, and 10 inch Hoosier shod wheels. The team featured nice aero package with quality workmanship. They also did brake testing on a dyno. (Philip LaPointe photo)

Team Ecole De Technologies Superieure Montreal (ETS Montreal) placed second in the design segment. They had one of the lightest cars at 325 pounds. Their engine featured a custom block fashioned after a single 450cc Yamaha with supercharger. They had the lightest monocoque with extreme attention to mass. Judges noted the bonded construction featured mechanical redundancy. (Team ETS Montreal photo)

University of Connecticut with one of their best finishes, eleventh place overall, in FSAE. They had the best finish of any New England school in 2019. (U Conn FSAE team photo)

LaPointe noted that University of Stuttgart had the best fit and finish, very professional similar to what one might expect in an IndyCar.

Engineers from Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Tesla, Space-X, and level 1 suppliers like Bosch, AP brakes, were all present at the event.
Takeaway notes for FSAE teams sounded very similar to the recommendations Jeff Braun made during the Ross Bentley Webinar “Free Stuff to Make You and Your Car faster”.
Summarized they are:
1) Reduce weight
2) Lower the weight
3) Centralize the weight
And remember:
1) Building these cars takes longer than anyone can imagine
2) The more time you spend simplifying, it will work simpler and it makes it look like there is less to it.
LaPointe at Mid Ohio IMSA race and Indy Qualifying Day One
LaPointe’s central Ohio location proved advantageous allowing him to attend the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio May 5. LaPointe.

Overhead view of the Penske Acura #7 of Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves during their pre-race weights and alignment session at Mid Ohio. The Acura went on to finish 5th one lap down to the winning #6 Penske Acura driven by Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron. (Philip LaPointe photo)

LaPointe was also on hand to see the Indy Pole Day Qualifying Day on May 18th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He commented that the Chevrolet’s looked fast, however, after the qualifying day extra boost, the Chevy and Honda teams should be evenly matched.

Racing, Racing, Racing!

If you want to know where I will be during one of the busiest weeks in racing this season here is my schedule of to be watched or listened to events:

  1. Kody Swanson at USAC Silver Crown Hoosier 100, Indiana State Fairgrounds Thursday May 23 (USAC Radio)
  2. Kody and Tanner Swanson at USAC Silver Crown Dave Steele Classic 100 at Lucas Oil Raceway (USAC Radio)
  3. Saturday evening at Anderson Speedway, Anderson, Indiana, I will be listening to Kody Swanson attempting a repeat win in 2019 on 1240whbu.com
  4. Sunday afternoon I will be at my brother’s house watching the 103rd edition of the Indy 500 on NBC at 12:45 pm followed that evening at 6 pm by the World 600 from Charlotte on Fox.

It makes me tired just thinking of it. Reminder that locally, Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) will be holding their Test, Tune, Arrive and Drive Day at Spud Speedway June 1st. Racers will be practicing with their karts from 9:30 am to 11:30 am. At noon those folks interested in trying out a kart may drive. This will require a NMKA  insurance wristband to drive and be in the pit area.

Rusty Wallace Driving Experience will be at Spud Speedway June 14 with their fleet of Super Late Model short track cars. Interested drivers mat get information about pricing at their website https://rush49.com/deals/rusty-wallace-racing-spud-speedway

There are a few local businesses that are utilizing this day for a company employee appreciation day. In addition several individuals are signed up for the event. The 3 lap ride along experience is sold out according to their posting as of tonight.

Local racers help the FFA 

Small Engines portion of the FFA State Ag Technologies and Mechanics contest at EMCC. Antique Tractor puller and former NMKA series champion Tyler Raymond on left with his father Dan Raymond, Caribou on right supervised this portion of the event. Dan Raymond later that day was honored with the Maine State FFA Degree, the highest honor a state association can bestow on a person. The four unidentified Ashland FFA members listen to pre-competition instructions. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The FFA, formerly Future Farmers of America now FFA, the Student Organization of Agriculture Education, held their annual Maine State FFA State Convention at UMaine at Orono and Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC) May 16-17, 2019.

Welding segment of the Ag Technologies and Mechanics contest held at EMCC Welding shop run by Presque Isle Regional Technology Ag Mechanics instructor Darrell Espling on left, Robb Smith Air Gas Corporation, and Scott Moir Agriculture instructor at Caribou Tech Center on right. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I had the privilege to be in charge of the Agriculture Technologies and Mechanics contest held at the EMCC Diesel, Truck, and Heavy Equipment Technology program shop run by Lowell Gardner and the Welding Technology shop run by Roland Clukey. Presque Isle Regional Technology Ag Mechanics Instructor Darrell Espling and Caribou Tech Center Agriculture instructor Scott Moir assisted with running the contest concentrating on the welding and general knowledge portions.

The FFA members who competed in the contest had to show basic proficiency in electrical wiring, welding, small engines and take a general exam. Sixteen FFA members from Maine competed in this year’s contest. The Presque Isle FFA team took top honors followed by, Caribou FFA and Mars Hill FFA.

Prior to the FFA Ag Technologies and Mechanics contest Shelby and Tyler Raymond in foreground, arrange the written portion of the General Knowledge exam. In the back on the left is Lowell Gardner EMCC Diesel Technology program chairman and Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame member Bob Alexander who helped run the Small engines portion of the contest on right. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:14-16)

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Up North Motorsports by Tom Hale - 1w ago

Episode 263

May 12, 2019

Thinking of my Mom this Mother’s Day 2019

Barbara E. Johnson Sutherland. Mom (Hale Family photo)

My brothers and sisters and I gathered together around my Mom’s bedside January 18, 2003 at the Intensive Care Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center as her Doctor prepared us and her to remove the respirator that had been supplying her life-giving oxygen for many days.

The doctor told us that when the tube was removed my Mom will die because of her COPD damaged lungs and heart. The nurse moved into a location allowing her to remove the tube and asked if we were ready? My sister Lori moved to the head of the bed with her Bible in hand.

She read from the 23rd Psalm “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. When she finished reading, we said, ‘Now we’re ready, pull the tube’.

My sister, Kristi,  a nurse began suctioning my Mom’s lungs when the tube was removed and fluid rushed in to fill her airways.

The doctor was right, my Mom did die…25 months later on February 19, 2005. Those two years allowed her to mend fences with family as well as my Dad who she had divorced in the early 1970’s. She went to church and sang songs of joy every Saturday night right up until the time when she did die.

I say this to let you know how much my Mom had an influence on me growing up on a dirt poor potato farm on Grimes Mill Road in Caribou, Maine.

This woman who I call Mom was my biggest cheerleader. She never missed a baseball game, which was tough considering the baseball season coincides with potato planting season. My Mom was a large part of the farming operation, however, she arranged to get to every game, home and away.

If there was a band concert, she made sure that she was at that concert. Before I obtained my license she ferried my brothers and sisters to many school and church events.

My adventures and misadventures in motorsports were tolerated by my Mom. She must have been on her knees praying to keep me alive despite my crazy back-of-the- farm exploits. I had made so many laps on an old potato field on the back of the home farm with our 1950 Ford pickup powered by a 239 flathead V8 that I doubt if anything grew on that track pathway for years.

I am unsure if she knew the pickup had no brakes. I suspect if she knew that she might have put the kibosh on my dirt track racing. I learned how to stop without brakes which became handy later in life when I lost my brakes on a few occasions.

After my Mom was divorced, she moved away to Florida then to Massachusetts and was unable to watch me race stock cars at Spud Speedway. I suspect that she would not have attended the races like she did baseball. She did support me in a roundabout way by not speaking in opposition to my racing adventures.

My Mom was quick to praise her son and made me confident to move forward in some areas of life where I may have been reluctant to take chances, including going to school at the University of Maine at Orono and to apply for a job as an agriculture instructor at Caribou Tech Center.

She became as shelter to us in Worcester, Massachusetts when my fraternity brothers and I limped into Massachusetts after travelling by car to Florida and back. We blew the engine in my room mate’s VW Beetle, once on the way down outside of Richmond, Virginia then only a few miles from the same location on the way north.

We disabled one cylinder of the four-cylinder engine in Richmond and pushed northward barely able to maintain minimum interstate speeds. We were exhausted when we finally made it her home. She provided food and shelter before we made our final leg of the trip to Maine the next day. It was soooo good to see a familiar face and have free food.

My Mom’s tombstone at her gravesite at the New Sweden Cemetery. I know it is an old cliché, however, that little dash between birth and death was certainly significant to me. (HTF Motorsports photo)

My Mom died February 18, 2005 from complications from COPD. We were there with her at the end and did our best to honor her at the funeral a few days later. Her influence on my life continues to this day. I love you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

Month of May, Indy is the place to be

If there is any month of the year I would like to be in the Indianapolis area it would have to be May. The heartland of America is hopping with open wheel racing. This is my hypothetical schedule were I actually in the area.

First off I would start my month by staying with my friend Mick Saunders in Rushville. He knows everyone both in racing and out. This man was on Tony Stewart’s midget team when Tony was staying with the Martz family in Rushville. Up until a few years ago, Tony was known as the Rushville Rocket. Signs in Rushville attest to that fact.

Mick and I would probably venture up to New Castle to visit former IndyCar driver Mark Dinsmore’s karting facility New Castle Motorsports Park. Who knows maybe I would get a chance to put in a few laps at the one mile road course.

Indy Pro 2000 driver Sting Ray Robb, a 17-year-old junior from Payette, Idaho, driving for Juncos Racing steps out of his race car after setting fastest time in practice. Sting Ray, yes that is his real name, finished second in the Indy Pro 2000 race Saturday May 11. (Sting Ray Robb photo)

My first stop of the month would have to be Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The addition of the road race course to the schedule is a race I would like to see. I would have met Sting Ray Robb from Idaho. Despite the fact that Robb’s sponsor is the Idaho Big Spud Truck, I like the fact that he is also an FFA officer in his local chapter. To a former Ag instructor/FFA Advisor (38 years) that is cool stuff.

You can be sure that later that same day, I would be seeking a good viewing spot to see the IndyCar race won by Simon Pagenaud in the last lap and one-half Saturday afternoon.

While waiting for the Indy 500 on May 26, I would be visiting area race shops including Ganassi Racing to not only see their IndyCar team but their Ford GT program which is ending this year.

A trip to Indy would not be the same without staying a few days with my dear friends Gene and Deb Robbins in Greenwood. I am sure Gene and I would be making a field trip somewhere like Duman’s Turn 4 Restorations in Speedway.

Remember the engine that blew apart on the dyno in previous episode? That video became very popular on You Tube. Engine block fatigue was determined to be the likely culprit. Pieces of the engine flew out through the roof and were embedded in the walls of the dyno room.(Marlatt Engines & Dyno photo)

Marlatt Engines & Dyno would be on that short list. I have featured Marlatt Engines & Dyno several times. You may remember the engine that literally flew to pieces at the Marlatt facility a couple of years back.

A drive in the countryside to see the agriculture industry in action would land me at my cousin Steve Belyea’s home in one of the state’s many corn/soybeans areas in Morgantown, Indiana. After a few days in farm country, I would head to Brownsburg to visit Tom Patsis at Cold Hard Art, and maybe a few of the race shops in Nitro Alley.

Did I mention that there is a famous race going on at the Speedway on May 26th? I have never been to an IndyCar race at the Speedway, although I have covered the NASCAR race six times.

Before the 103rd running of the Indy 500, I would go to the  USAC Amsoil Sprint Car Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track, Terre Haute, Indiana Wednesday May 22 at 6:30 pm. I have not seen a sprint car race on dirt since our honeymoon in Florida February 1977.

Setting fast time at the Indiana Fairgrounds one-mile dirt track, Kody Swanson went on to win the event. (Rich Forman photo)

Silver Crown races would be the  next night when I would see four-time champion Kody Swanson in action. Swanson is also a former FFA member from Kingsburg, California. He would have a visitor in the pits as he tries to duplicate the incredible run of wins in May last season four wins in a row.

Swanson begins his three races in a row with the final race at the one-mile dirt track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 64th Hoosier 100. The track surface will be converted to a “horse friendly” surface after the final race May 23rd.

The race was won by Swanson last year. The field of up to 30 starters take the green for the final time at the fairgrounds track at a time to be announced. The winner of the race will win $10,000.

The Swanson family at Lucas Oil Raceway Victory Circle May 2018. Left to right Levi, Allison, Tanner second place, Darla and Mike (Mom and Dad), Kody race winner, Jordan and Trevor. (Rich Forman photo)

Friday’s race action is back at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont less than 10 miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Silver Crown cars will be on the track for the Dave Steele ‘Carb Night Classic’ that evening for 100 laps on the .686 mile banked oval. The field will be limited to 24 qualifiers. The race has been won by either Kody Swanson or his brother Tanner each of the past four years. Tanner has won the race five times.

After the 2018 Little 500 with his family in Victory Circle. The #4 was owned by Gene Nolen and was Nolen’s first Little 500 win. Nolen Racing is Swanson’s 2019 team. (Chris Gardner photo)

Saturday would find me in Anderson, Indiana for the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway. The 1/4 mile paved oval features one of the craziest race formats of all, 500 laps on the high banks with sprint cars. Last year Kody Swanson won the race for the second time since 2015, his first Little 500.

The front row of the 1972 Indy 500 on the pole in the Dan Gurney car #6 driven by Bobby Unser, middle of the front row in the #12 McLaren Peter Revson and outside row one Mark Donohue in the #66 Penske McLaren. I listened to the Indy races on the radio in the “old days”. (Pete Biro photo)

The next day would be the Indy 500 at arguably the most famous race track in the country. I would want to be near the pits since this race is often won by pit crews with lightning quick stops near the end of the 200 lap event.

Thanks for going along with me on my imaginary journey through the month of May in Indiana.

13 Year Old Garage Genius protegé builds a scale model Tyrrell P-34 Six Wheel Formula One car

Tyrrell Ford six wheel Formula One driven in this race by South African Jody Schechter. I always was a Tyrrell fan. (Lothar Spurzem photo in Wikipedia)

 Gene Lin’s Tyrrell based design has a modified 6.5 hp  4-stroke Harbor freight Predator engine. Gene added a billet flywheel, removed the governor, intake parts, rejetted, exhaust, and added nitrous oxide shot. The side pods are airplane landing gear fairings. The rear wing is a 1997 Reynard champ car speedway wing and the front wing is chopped down aluminum wing from a Japanese car. It is a steel frame with a riveted carbon fiber floor.(Genius Garage photo)

Gene Lin at Genius Garage in Bowling Green, Ohio dreaming of hitting the race track with his scaled down version of the Tyrrell P-34 six wheel Formula One. 13-year-old Lin, with the help of Genius Garage founder Casey Putsch. built the kart from scratch. This is a view minus bodywork.(Genius Garage photo)

On the track with his Tyrrell P-34 six wheel replica, Gene Lin was quite pleased with the results. He learned how to MIG weld as well as a multitude of other fabrication skills. (Genius Garage photo)

Let’s Go Racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:14-16)

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Episode 262

May 5, 2019

Super Chicken I

My recent visit to Vermont, when I visited with Luke Moultroup and Paul Tingaud at Paul’s Super Car Machine shop located in the former Libra Racing HQ in Colchester, Vermont and the next day at Luke’s home garage in Richmond, Vermont, gave me the idea that it might be interesting to tell you a little about Super Chicken I and Super Chicken II Modified Hillclimb Specials.

By no means do I profess that this will be a complete treatise or comprehensive story. My goal is to show some of the quirkiness and ingenuity of these two Tingaud-built cars. Super Chicken I was the fastest privateer car at the Mount Washington Hillclimb in 2014 bested only by Travis Pastrana and David Higgins in Team Subaru USA STI built by Vermont Sports Cars located now in Milton, Vermont.

Paul Tingaud driving Super Chicken I at Mt. Washington Hillclimb “Climb to the Clouds” event in 2014. (Mike Proulx photo)

The following video from in the car shows Tingaud piloting Super Chicken I at Mt. Washington Hillclimb. For me it got scary after Tingaud reached the tree line. Those cliffs look a long way down!


Super Chicken I Changes Hands

Luke Moultroup was talking to his friend Paul Tingaud about Super Chicken I when Paul suggested that Moultroup purchase the car and bring it back to the New England Hillclimb Circuit with the goal of having it sorted out in time for the “Climb to the Clouds” race in July 2020. Luke agreed that that would be an interesting challenge to replace his Howe modified hillclimb car with one of the most famous homebuilt cars to race up Mount Washington.

Luke Moultroup brings Super Chicken I to its new home in the basement of Moultroups new Ward’s Log Homes log cabin.The car was minus it’ 5 cylinder Audi and had 2 X 4’s replacing the coil-over shocks.(Moultroup Racing photo)

Moultroup created a thread on Grassroots Magazine Car Forum found here:


When I visited Luke as outlined in last week’s episode he was at the old Libra Racing shop where Paul Tingaud was now located. He was building an adapter to mount the Hyundai throttle body to the Audi 2.7L V6 which he had removed from a donor car. The Audi 6 speed O1E was utilized and stock WRX Subaru turbos replaced the smaller Audi units.

How do you make an adapter for your custom Audi intake? Here is how Moultroup performed the task. (Moultroup Racing photo)

Moultroup is a jet engine mechanic and it shows when you look at the neat wiring bundle. The original wire was more like a bundle of snakes. (Moultroup Racing photo)

What looks like paddle shifters are actually brake handles. There are three master cylinders, one foot operated giving normal 4 wheel braking. The others are operated by the handles which will brake front only or rear only to allow rally like sharp turns. Not used much in the hillclimb car however. (Moultroup Racing photo)

Preparing the Audi fabricated exhaust manifold for welding of the Subaru WRX turbo. This would not be an optimum set up for a race car that was going to see a great deal of mileage. Moultrop feels the relatively short time spent on a hillclimb course should allow this setup to work fine. (Moultroup Racing photo)

Moultroup’s goal is to attempt to have the Super Chicken I race ready for some of the 2019 New England Hillclimb events.Super Chicken I will carry the number 71 since Moultroup’s favorite aircraft is the SR 71 Blackbird. His last hillclimb car, a Howe modified chassis with a big V8, was given the number 70.

He has suggested that with a new son John, work, and other daily occurrences, the schedule is highly variable. You can follow his progress at the Grassroots Motorsports thread previously listed in this episode.

Paul Tingaud’s latest, Super Chicken II

When Tingaud pulled into the Mount Washington Hillclimb “Climb to the Clouds” for the first time, his homebuilt Super Chicken I drew some scoffs and chuckling. The car, called by some the “ugliest race car”, silenced the scoffers when he rocketed up the 7.6 miles course setting third fastest time.

When people heard that Super Chicken II was being built, they knew that function, not form would be the  hillclimb car’s forte. And it would be would be fast when sorted out.

For Super Chicken II Tingaud mid-mounted the Audi engine searching for a more balanced front to rear weight distribution. Super Chicken I engine was mounted before the front axle thus making it nose heavy.

Super Chicken II at the starting line at “Climb to the Clouds” Mount Washington Hillclimb 2017. (HTF Motorsports photo)

In order to drive the front wheels of Super Chicken II, Tingaud built the reverser gearbox which sent power up to the front differential. (HTF Motorsports photo)

A look at the front suspension of Super Chicken II. Note the use of Audi stock components rather than fabricated race only parts. Afco shocks are Tinguad’s shocks of choice for SC II (HTF Motorsports photo)

Tingaud built some custom snow/ice tires this winter and had some fun on the ice at a local pond. The ice thrown from the tires kept plugging the radiator intakes. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Once Tingaud finished Super Chicken II he needed to try it out on the driveway outside his shop in Colchester. He has begun dyno-tuning the racer for the 2019 hillclimb season. He hopes to have the machine running well before the 2020 “Climb to the Clouds” Hillclimb at Mount Washington.


RYAN Motorsports reveals 2019 Maritime Pro Stock Tour Car

RYAN Motorsports, Harvey, New Brunswick unveiled their 2019 Pro Stock #1 driven by Ryan Messer with Crew Chief Robb Messer. The team plans to run the 10 race Maritime Pro Stock Tour rather than contend for the points title at Speedway 660 in Geary Woods, New Brunswick. (RYAN Motorsports photo)

Rear view of RYAN Motorsports Pro Stock based in Harvey, New Brunswick. The family owned and run team will be contending for the 2019 Maritime Pro Stock Tour title. My wish is that they would add the Firecracker 200 PASS race at Spud Speedway August 4, 2019. (RYAN Motorsports photo)

Return to MIK is fun time

Disclaimer: MIK is a long time sponsor of HTF Motorsports

I have raced at Maine Indoor Karting in well over 100 races. By far my most enjoyable races are with friends especially my brother Bob Hale. It seems like every time we talked prior to racing at MIK we would trade barbs about who was going to beat who at the indoor track.

The time finally arrived last Friday evening when we travelled to Portland to attend the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference which was held the next day,Saturday. When we got to MIK in Scarborough there were only three of us racing, my brother Bob, a friend Joseph Howe who came down with us to the conference, and me.

We had the track to ourselves at that late hour and decided to use our five race package deal we had bought for each other as Christmas presents. We suited up and unbeknownst to us track officials ran all five races back-to-back without stopping. That was a total of 40 minutes of track time or roughly 95 laps.

Our collective goal was to get into the 22 second lap time. My best time was 23.224 on lap 92. Bob’s was 22.293 on lap 14. Joseph’s was 23.974 on lap 28.

Left to right Joseph Howe, Caswell, Tom Hale, Westmanland, and Bob Hale, Caribou. Though not one of us reached the 22 something lap time good racing was enjoyed by all. (Joseph Howe photo)

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:14-17)

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Episode 261

April 28, 2019

WAR featured in national publication

Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) got a PR shot-in-the-arm recently with a feature article in Speedway Illustrated May 2019. The article found in pages 38-41 was written by motorsports writer Jason Beck.

Wyatt Alexander and Lindsey Walker pose for “The Art of WAR” written and photographed by Jason Beck in the May 2019 Speedway Illustrated. Jason Beck photo

Beck concentrated on how a low dollar Super Late Model race team is able to compete in one of the most competitive and expensive series in the United States. Alexander mentioned that they pick and choose the races they compete in during the race season.

Alexander currently resides in the Charlotte, North Carolina area where he attends engineering school at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. His location has allowed him to work at race shops such as chassis builder Clattenburg Racing Fabrication (CRF), World Karting Association (WKA), and others.

He has been able to race at tracks where the legends of NASCAR raced and visit other venues in the heartland of stock car racing in America.

Alexander earned first place in the Valvoline Fast Track to Fame contest in July 2018. Valvoline provided cash, contingency prizes, coaching, and graphics assistance to the racer from Ellsworth, Maine.

In the article, chassis builder Dean Clattenburg outlined suspension/chassis information and crew chief Bob Alexander provided engine information. Great to see someone with County connections recognized on the national scene.

Alexander’s next race is the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset Motor Speedway May 26, 2019. In the meantime college finals take center stage for the sophomore engineering student.

Mystery Solved

Which driver from the United States has the most wins, in fact the only wins, on the World Rally Championship or its predecessor the European Rally Championship? Ken Block? No. Travis Pastrana? No. Paul Choiniere? No!

John Buffum is the correct answer. Buffum won the 1983 Sachs Rally in West Germany and the 1984 Cyprus Rally in an Audi Quattro becoming the first and only American to reach victory circle.

Buffum was born in Wallingford, Connecticut October 4, 1943. He did his first rally , a Time, Speed, Distance (TSD) event in 1964 when a fraternity brother at Middlebury College invited him to be his navigator. He eventually went on to race rally cars. His race shop, Libra Racing, in Colchester, Vermont was where he prepared rally cars, eventually landing the Hyundai Factory Racing contract with his step son Paul Choiniere as the driver.

Buffum was the subject of Tom Grimshaw’s 1993 book, “In Like A Lamb…Out Like A Lion” which is still available online. Grimshaw was one of Buffum’s co-drivers.

Buffum last race he won was the Lake Superior POR Rally in 1999. He was one of the group who restarted the Mount Washington Hillclimb in 1990. That race has become New England’s premiere hillclimb event and will be run in July 2020.

Currently Buffum works as a rally consultant for Vermont Sports Cars in Milton, Vermont. I will be given an inside look at Team Subaru USA organization new shop when I am in Vermont in August.

Buffum won 11 National Championship titles and 117 National Championship races. I first met him at Mount Washington Hillclimb around 1990. I was at the event with my family who were not big hillclimb fans. I learned to attend these events solo.

At one of the New England Forest Rally events in Maine, not sure which one, I along with several other spectators were on a race stage where we could not leave until all rally cars had raced by. They and I were treated to about an hour of instruction with Buffum who told us about racing lines, braking, positioning for turns, and throttle response. I will not soon forget that session.

Since I knew of John Buffum, I wondered where is Libra Racing? Does it exist today? What did the race shop look like when it was in its hay-day?

For some unexplained reason, I was unable to make connection with someone, anyone who knew where this elusive, to me, Libra Racing was located.

That all changed when a couple of weeks ago my wife and I made our spring pilgrimage to Huntington, Vermont to visit grandchildren and their parents.

Prior to leaving home, I set up interviews with Holler Customs, Garret Holder and his fiance Heather Herskowitz and hillclimb racer Luke Moultrop. THe night before I was to meet with Moultrop at his home/shop, he said he would be home later in the morning since he was going to friend’s race shop to fabricate a couple of pieces for his newest hillclimb project Super Chicken 1 which he purchased from Paul Tingaud.

Luke mentioned nothing about Paul in the actual message, however, a race shop is a race shop and very rare in Vermont so I asked if I could meet him at the shop.

He said his friend approved and with directions in hand, I set out to meet at the race shop. After missing the exit off I 89 I went to the next exit to try again. It was then that I realized this Colchester exit was the same one I used to visit Vermont Sports Cars old shop probably a half-dozen times.

I had literally been within 1/2 mile from the race shop which I was about to visit. When I made the corner to drive to the last big door at this nondescript building, I had to sit there a few moments when I realized that the shop that Paul Tingaud Super Car Machine Shop is renting is the old Libra Racing shop!

There it was in front of me. I had quite by accident discovered the location of Libra Racing. Of course several outside photos were taken before heading inside to meet Paul and Luke.

The sign on the door says it…John Buffum & Co, Libra Racing now rented by Paul Tingaud Super Car Machine Shop. (HTF Motorsports photo)

One can tell it has been quite awhile since Libra Racing was active as this sign attests. If you look closely the words are barely visible(HTF Motorsports)

A fading poster on the wall acclaiming the exploits of John Buffum circa 2004. (HTF Motorsports photo)

One of four cars under cover inside the former Libra Racing Shop is the Michele Mouton and Fabrizia Pons Group B Audi Quattro. Mouton from France,  won 4 World Rally Championship races. She went on to co-found the international Race of Champions (ROC) in 1988. The ROC continues to feature NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, LeMans, and MotoGP racers in identical cars. Mouton was inducted into the Rally Hall of Fame in March  2019  (HTF Motorsports photo)

Paul Tingaud’s Super Chicken 2 was being prepped for a dyno test the next day. Note the gearbox reverser in lower left of the car. Tingaud’s Super Chicken homebuilt hillclimb cars are crowd favorites wherever he shows up to race. I will be featuring more about Tingaud’s Super Chicken 1 now in possession of Luke Moultrop and Super Chicken 2 in a future episode. Tingaud was the winner of the New England Hillclimb Association “King of the Hill” in 2013, 2015, and 2016. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Kody Swanson wins round two of USAC Silver Crown season

Kingsburg, California native Kody Swanson, now living in Indianapolis, Indiana continues to set the bar higher and higher when he won his record 26th USAC Silver Crown race, The Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness  Rollie Beale Classic held at Toledo Speedway, Toledo, Ohio. After the race Swanson said, “Everyone on the Nolen Racing team works so hard. Yesterday we worked in the parking lot for six and a half hours before the rain came to make sure we were as ready as we could be for today’s race.” (Rich Forman photo)

This race is a classic example of what has been said in racing circles for decades, the race, more often than not, is won in the garage before the race car goes to the track.

This video shows some of the work the Nolen Racing team did to prepare for the Rollie Beale Classic.


Swanson humbly remarked ,”I’m thankful to my team and our sponsors, and to the organizers, promoters and sponsors of this race. I’m thankful to the fans that braved the cold to be here, and I’m thankful to my wife and spotter, Jordan. In two days it’ll be our eighth wedding anniversary. I have a lot to be thankful for.”

“The race worked out well, but it was nerve-wracking. I had a really good car, and I just wanted to execute at the end. I knew Bobby Santos was there; he’s always a threat at the end.”

“I’ve been putting in a lot of hours myself as have a lot of the guys and gals on this team. It’s great to have a result like this for all of their efforts.”

The race had to be delayed 24 hours due to rain and snow that hit the Toledo area Saturday. The delay did not deter the Nolen Racing #20. Swanson took pole position and led all 100 laps on the 1/2 mile banked asphalt track. Bobby Santos III was second and Aaron Pierce third.

Thanks to Linda Mansfield, Restart Communications for the next segment dealing with Kody Swanson and Nolen Racing’s very busy May schedule.

May is one of the busiest and most important months of the year for Nolen Racing. There are two USAC Silver Crown races in two days, as the 64th and final “Hoosier Hundred” is scheduled for the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis on Thursday, May 23. After that the historic dirt oval will become just a chapter in the auto racing history books, as the current fair board plans to add crushed stone to the surface and use the track solely for harness race horse training and automobile parking.

The following day, Friday, May 24, the USAC Silver Crown series is back on an asphalt track at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. Swanson won both of those USAC Silver Crown races last year, but the story gets even better.

The next day, Saturday, May 25, Swanson will try to win his second consecutive Pay Less Supermarkets Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway, which is the most famous asphalt sprint car race in the world. Nolen Racing will field two cars in that race, as Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind., who finished third at the Little 500 last year, will again join Swanson under the Nolen Racing tents.

Mutt Strut kicks off the month of racing at Indy

One of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway traditional events kicking off the races at Indy in May is the “Mutt Strut” where dog owners are allowed to walk their “Mutts” on the most famous bricks in the racing world. Makes you wonder when the winner kisses the bricks what deposit may have been left behind. Enjoying the day is Cold Hard Art’s Amanda Patsis with daughter Luna in stroller, Lucy on the infield wall, June Crawford Sanning (Amanda’s mom) and Tom Patsis. (Cold Hard Art photo)

Only drag racer from Maine competing in Canadian Bracket Super Tour

Crouseville’s Gene Cyr, now working and living in Canaan, New York, will be contesting the 2019 Bracket Super Tour in Canada this summer. Cyr has done his pre-season work including new fibreglass doors and rebuilding his engine from the 2018 season. Cyr said the Tour has excellent payouts at each of the events. He may also include a few other races in his 2019 schedule. Follow Cyr here at UpNorth Motorsports for results from his season beginning June 1 & 2. (Cyrous Racing photo)

Isetta history needed

BMW Isetta acquired by Edwin Walker from a gentleman in Crouseville. The Isetta is undergoing an extensive frame off restoration. Walker is seeking information about this car. Contact him at walker.c.edwin@gmail.com (Edwin Walker photo)

I heard from Edwin Walker recently and discovered he has a 1958 BMW Isetta 600 that he is restoring from the frame up. Edwin had some questions which I have included along with a few photo:

“I am hoping you can help me find information on a car I am restoring. It is a 1958 BMW Isetta 600. I am inclined to believe it arrived in the County through Loring somehow. I bought the car as it sat with no background on it, on paper at least. No idea who owned it before.”

As for the background, I have little to no information. This is where i need your help. The seller gave me everything he had on the car in terms of paperwork but this stack did not include service or ownership history. The only thing to indicate the car came from elsewhere is an oil service sticker just inside the front door, I’ll include a picture of that.”

“I have talked to various people who *think* they may have seen the car in or around Loring AFB back in the 1960s or 70s. My guess is it was brought here by an airman in the 60s who soon realized how impractical it was on our roads, not to mention the winter roads. I’ve already reached out to Cuppy Johndro since she is the administrator of the Loring Facebook pages. It generated a lot of interest, but no leads.”

“Perhaps you may know of, or have heard of this car? It sat outside this guy’s house outside Washburn for 10-15 years. I now own it and I am doing a frame-off restoration.”

1958 BMW Isetta engine and frame during restoration process being performed by Edwin Walker. He is seeking information from anyone who may know the history of this unique car found in the County. (Edwin Walker photo)

Spud Speedway highlights two events to be held at the Caribou track

Sign up for the Rusty Wallace Driving Experience at Spud Speedway continues. One idea that is growing in popularity is some companies are shutting down for the day, or part of the day, and treating their crew to several laps in the super late-model race cars that Rusty Wallace Driving Experience will be bringing to Spud Speedway for June 14. Check them out at their website. https://racewithrusty.com/

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Episode 260

April 14, 2019

A local Cafe Racer bike comes to life

Writer Spurgeon Dunbar in his December 2014 article in revzilla online publication says,”For me, the term cafe racer can be applied to any bike being reinvented by men and women who are genuinely trying to squeeze more ponies out of their aging machines or adding elements which will allow them to increase lean angles and improve handling.”

“In its simplest form, building a cafe racer started with removal of the stock handlebars, sitting in a clamp above the triple tree, in favor of clip-on bars mounted to the front fork tubes, which lowered the rider’s hands and forced a tucked, aerodynamic riding position. From there, rear-set footpegs were installed to allow for additional ground clearance, a fairing was sometimes added, and any unnecessary weight was lopped off.”

Prior to the early 1970’s the cafe racer bike scene was dominated by British bikes. When the Japanese bike invasion of the 1970’s took place, the scene changed with the addition of the Asian bikes which were typically 2 strokes with engines as large as larger 900 or 1100 cc.

Stealing Speed

Stealing Speed: The Biggest Spy Scandal in Motorsports History by Mat Oxley gives some intriguing information about the rise of the modern two-stroke motorcycle engine similar to the Yamaha engine in Tyler Raymond’s  Cafe racer.

After WWII Walter Kaaden, an engineer who had been working on the V1 and V2 Vengeance Weapons facility in Peenemunde, was recruited by rocketeer Wernher von Braun who went on to work with NASA on the space program. He turned down von Braun and instead went home to Zschopau, East Germany.

He began tuning and racing the 50 cc MZ two-stroke motorcycle with much success despite the ratty looking machines which were accompanied by a broken down looking support vehicle. Kaaden was so successful, the communist authorities asked him to run the low-budget MZ race program.

Ernst Dagner became the driver and mechanic with Kaaden in this effort. They gave the factory Honda team a run for their money and caught the eye of the other Japanese manufacturers Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki.

Degner had a secret meeting in 1961 with Suzuki officials to hatch a plan for him to defect and bring Kaaden’s secrets with him. The building of the Berlin Wall threw Degner’s escape plans for a temporary loop. Escaping was going to be much more difficult.

With the help of his West German friend, Paul Petry who bought a large Lincoln Mercury car which was outfitted with a secret compartment in the trunk, the plan was to smuggle Degner’s wife and two sons out of East Germany while Degner was racing outside of East Germany.

It was the time of the Swedish Gran Prix motorcycle race at the Kristianstad circuit when the plan was to come to fruition. Degner’s wife and sons were drugged so that they would maintain total silence while crossing the border in the Lincoln.

Meanwhile Ernst was to sneak away from his Stasi Secret Police escorts after winning the race and world championship. Unfortunately his MZ bike broke early robbing the Soviets of a chance to declare victory on the continent.

With the help of a Suzuki staffer, Degner was able to slip away from his teammates and the secret police escort while they were drowning their sorrows at a Swedish bar. Degner, along with a suitcase full of crucial MZ engine go fast parts and blueprints, was driven to Denmark and safety.

Later Degner was paid the equivalent of $260,000 to design a two-stroke engine for Suzuki in Japan which would boost the company’s anemic two-stroke engine program from its current state to world contender. Combining the three secrets of Kaaden’s success with two strokes; boost chamber technology, exhaust expansion chamber design, and rotary disc valves, he was able to exceed the target horsepower and reliability.

The two-stroke engines of that era so dominated the world championships that no four strokes would win from 1975 to 2001 when the MotoGp came along with its rule changes which made the two strokes non-players.

I say all this to set the stage for the Cafe Racer scene in the 1970’s and now the retro two-stroke scene that Tyler Raymond tapped into with his 1972 Yamaha R5 350 two-stroke bike.

Tyler Raymond’s Cafe Racer

The beginning of the Cafe Racer restoration project in 2016, a 1972 Yamaha R5 350 cc two-stroke. (Tyler Raymond photo)

In Raymond’s words, “Growing up around the vintage Yamaha 2 stokes allowed me to grow a love for them. It was when one of our family friends got a Honda CB750 cafe racer, that I learned what a cafe racer was and the history of it.”

“For example the name cafe racer originated from British bikers, also called ‘Ton-up boys’ in the 1960’s when they would put a song on the jukebox at a local cafe, and then hop on their bikes and race from one cafe to another and back.Who ever didn’t make it back to the original cafe before the song ended on the jukebox, lost.”

“Back in the 60’s the ‘ton-up boys’ was a group with the purpose of going 100 mph on a motorcycle. Most stock bikes back then wouldn’t come close to 100 mph, so they modified the bikes by stripping weight, making an exhaust change, and lowering the handlebars. Without the cafe racer craze who knows if the modern sport bike would have ever been invented.”

Where does all this “stuff” go? Despite what looks like a bundle of snakes, Tyler Raymond was able to rebuilt the wiring harness and controls to original or better condition. (Tyler Raymond photo)

” I would say I have at least $1500-2000 into it. Most of the work was done by me.  The only work that I had to outsource was the honing of the cylinders, done by Caron and Son engine machine shop, and the replacement of the case gasket done by Gary’s Yamaha both in Caribou.”

Cafe Racer frame in primer during the restoration process which took almost three years. (Tyler Raymond photo)

“I disassembled the bike down to the frame and rebuilt everything. The last thing that needs to be done is to paint the headlight, tank, and seat.”

“My plan with the bike is to bring it to car/ motorcycle shows, and hopefully spread the love for vintage bikes and cafe racers.”

1972 Yamaha R5 350cc Cafe Racer in running condition awaiting dry roads and slightly warmer Aroostook County weather. (Tyler Raymond photo)

I would say you have a pretty good start Tyler.

Back in the race mode again

Let me begin with a disclaimer, I do get some sponsorship help from Maine Indoor Karting (MIK) in Scarborough. With that being said…I had my first opportunity of the 2019 season to get in a kart and put in some laps at speed.

Nowhere else in Maine do I know of a facility quite like MIK. I like to use it as a tune up for the upcoming Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) racing season at Spud Speedway. The time at MIK makes me realize that I must get in shape in order to perform at speed in my own racing kart.

My goal was to run in the 22 second range, however, my best lap was a 23.043 seconds. I will be returning to MIK in early May to try to get into the 22 second area. That means weight loss and exercises since I was sore for a couple of days, a good type of sore!

I had the opportunity to meet and race against from left to right Jason, Taylor, and TJ all from Gray, Friday evening at MIK. They have been racing at MIK a number of times and did well in each of their races on course #3 which is tough to pass equally skilled karts. (Melinda Semmelrock photo)

Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Inducted

Two “County Boys” Hall of Fame members Tom Peters on left and Bob Alexander on right at the 2019 Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. The Class of 2019 included Dale Chadbourne, Billy Clark, Ricky Craven, Dick Fowler, Lomer Pelletier, and Bob Bailey. (Tom Peters family photo)

NMKA Race Schedule Released

The Northern Maine Karting Association released their 2019 schedule which includes eight race dates, two doubleheader dates, Thursdays on Sweden Street date, and a June 1 Test, Tune and Tryout date. On June 1st a noon, those who would like to try out a race kart need to be at the NMKA race track, Spud Speedway at noon to actually race and experience what it is like to go fast in a real race kart.

NMKA Kids Kart on left, Junior Cage Kart on right and Senior Cage kart in back. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The three race divisions are Blacked Out Window Tint Kids Karts for ages 5-7, Aroostook trusses Junior Cage Karts ages 8-12. and Aroostook Savings and Loan Senior Cage Karts 13 and up. The Victory Lane ceremonies will be presented by Coastal Auto Parts NAPA.

June 1st: Test, Tune, and Trials at Spud Speedway. Test and Tune from 9:30-11:30 am.
Try out the kart from 12 noon to 1:30 pm. Testing $10 per crew member and
driver. Trials free admission with wristband.
June 6th: Thursday on Sweden Street from 5-8:30 pm. All teams invited.
June 15th: Season Opener – presented by Pat’s Automotive
June 29th: Race Two – presented by Burger Boy
July 13th: Race Three – presented by Machias Savings Bank
July 27th: NMKA Double-header – presented by County Qwik Print
August 4th: PASS Firecracker 150 with karts on display at entrance gate.
August 10th: Race six – presented by Lavender Puff
August 24th: Race seven – presented by United Insurance Kieffer Agency
Sept. 7th: Race eight – presented by Machias Savings Bank
Sept. 14th: Season Finale – NMKA Doubleheader – presented by Team JRT

Long time sponsor of NMKA, Pat’s Automotive in Caribou with NMKA President Tom Hale on left and owner Wayne Belanger on right. Pat’s Automotive has been a full service automotive shop in Caribou for the last 60 years. They are the presenting sponsor of the season opener June 15. (Mary Lee photo)

USAC Champion back in school

USAC Silver Crown Champion Kody Swanson visited the Sidener Academy for High Ability Students in Indianapolis, Indiana Friday. He read Curious George to the second and third grade students and answered a barrage of auto racing questions. Swanson was scheduled to compete in the Sumar Classic at the 1/2 mile dirt Terre Haute Action Track, Indiana on Sunday. The race was postponed to a later date due to a forecast of cold and rainy weather. Swanson will be back in action April 27 on the pavement at Toledo Speedway in Ohio. (Kody Swanson Racing photo)

Easter Celebration Next Sunday

Next Sunday all around the world Christians celebrate the events which changed the world, the death on a cross of Jesus Christ for our sins and His resurrection on Sunday. My hope is that you and your family will be able to celebrate this event at the church of your choice. I certainly will be rejoicing. Because of the Easter Celebration UpNorth Motorsports will not be publishing next Sunday evening but will return April 28th with a new episode.

Happy Easter and God bless,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:14)

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Episode 259

April 7, 2019

Swamp Rat 8 on display at Don Garlits Museum in Ocala, Florida. This was his first AA/FD dragster that used the new 426 Hemi to replace the out of production 392 version. (Courtesy Garlits.com Joseph E. Adams photo)

The Legendary 426 Hemi

I always associated “Big Daddy” Don Garlits with the Chrysler Hemi engine. When I was younger in the 1960’s I dreamt about owning a Hemi powered car with two four barrel carbs. Of course I wanted it in a Dodge Challenger, winged Daytona, or Barracuda, my favorite cars at that time.

I had the chance to ask Don Garlits about his experiences with the Hemi specifically the 426 version. Here is his reply to my inquiry.

“Okay, I’ll tell you the 426 Hemi. It’s so funny. We got some of the very first ones, in fact we got a 1963 426 Hemi. I wished I’d have kept them. They were junk, they were pitiful, they were too weak, and the blocks weren’t cast right. They broke but you know, to have one of them today on display would be something, but they were all thrown away.

We built the first 426 for 1964 Swamp Rat 8. It’s in the museum, but the front half has been changed and we call it 10. The back half is from number 8. So, we actually recreated that car because we had all the pieces and had a pattern right there. We actually have a re-creation of Swamp Rat 8 in my collection out here because it’s so important.

We carried the (426) at the Bakersfield race in 1965. There were a hundred and twenty top fuel cars in attendance.  They ran a 64-car field on Saturday, which I won with Swamp Rat 6D. They had a 32-car field on Sunday, which the car that won that race was Marvin Swartz’s Garlits Chassis Special which I drove through the entire five rounds.

Then Swartz had to get in it and race me because the winner of the 32-car field got to race the 64 car field guy who sat out on Sunday. I beat him. I won the whole shebang with 6B but 8 was there and it didn’t even qualify for the 32-car field on Sunday, but it did qualify it for a 16-car consolation race that day.

Swingle took it to runner-up against James Warren and it was running in the 8.80s the low 8.90s where I was running over 200 in the 7.70’s with my car. So, we come home and the phone rings. It’s Frank Wiley from Chrysler, my boss, which was actually Dodge, he was public relations.

And he says, ‘Garlits, we want you in the 426 car. We don’t build 392s anymore.’

I said, “It ain’t running that good.”

He said, ‘It’s never going to run that good until you take it out on the road!’

I said, “Frank the thing is so heavy.”

He said, ‘It has to be heavy. It’s for heavy-duty racing. Now I want you in that car.”

I said, “yes.”

I take the Swamp Rat 8 sign off and put Wynn Jammer on it and away I went. I couldn’t beat anybody. During that year the Greek (Chris Karamesines) was the big match race, because he was really running good.

The “Silver Bullet” Chris Karamesines dragster after restoration for the “Cackle-fest”. (Cackle-fest photo)

He was running 7.80s all the time. He beat me twenty-three runs side-by-side. In that period, I never could put a wheel out front of him. I called the car the Silver Bullet. It was so funny because his was the first car that I got in my museum besides mine.

I was in Chicago. He was our fuel dump. That’s where the nitro truck would leave the fuel and then we go by and pick it up. So, I went to pick up my fuel at the Greek’s place.

The Silver Bullet had been hanging in the ceiling for years and years and he had it down on the ground. I said, ‘Great, what are you doing with the Silver Bullet?’

He said, ‘I sold it to some guys in St. Louis. They are  going to make a dragster out of it.’

I said, ‘Greek, you would sell the Silver Bullet, the car that beat me so bad for money?’

He said, ‘I need $2,000 real bad Big Daddy.’

‘I know,’ I said. ‘I’ll give you $2,000 for it and I’ll take it back to the museum.’

This was after the museum was formed. He was probably about 80 something like that.

He said, ‘What in the world do you want with it?’

I said, ‘I’ll put that SOB in my museum and I’ll just put my Swamp Rat 8 just about two wheels out front. At least I won one race.’

He said, ‘You got it!’

We carried it back on the on the roof of the trailer and got it back here. I have it. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it. And it runs and it has  been to “Cackles” and everything.( Cackles is short for Cacklefest events which feature nitro burning race cars that seem to cackle and crack when on nitro)

UpNorth Motorsports: So did he have the 392? And did you have the 426?

Of, course, So, this 426 I had, everybody was beating me, but at this particular event where it all came to head. I won the race. It was a match race at National Trails Raceway against Jim and Allison Lee.

It was a two out of three, $1,250 for me. I’ve won the race with an 8.12. and 192 top speed. I won two of the three rounds and made all three rounds.

The match race finished up about midnight.  I go to the tower to get my money and old man Clark Rader, Senior that built the place was sitting there.

He had that great big moose head up on the wall and the beard on the moose hung down to here. That’s a real long beard on the moose. I’ll never forget that one time. I asked him, ‘Who shot that monkey?’

He said, ‘It was me.’

I said. ‘It’s a shame to kill such a beautiful animal.’

He said, ‘You see that beard? See those gray hairs in it?’

I said, ‘Yeah.’

He said, ‘That shows that moose wasn’t breeding anymore. So, it didn’t make any difference.’

I said, ‘It’s a good thing they don’t think that way about humans.’

He never liked me after that.

So, how am I going to get paid? He slides $500 across the table. At the same time, he has a 45-caliber service pistol and he slides it right out on his desk aimed  at me with his finger on the trigger. Just like that in his hands and just kind of shaking like that. (Garlits reaches in his top drawer and pulls out his 45 caliber pistol to demonstrate. He noted,’This was my sidearm in the military. It’s a dangerous weapon.’).

Garlits, ‘You laid down on me tonight!’

I said, ‘Mr. Rader, please point that pistol somewhere else. I made all the runs. I have top speed and low ET. I did not lay down.’

He said, ‘Yes you did. You didn’t go 200 miles an hour. You’re saving it for tomorrow. I advertise 200. You’ve made a fool out of me, now get out of here before I shoot you.’

So, we go down the road to Byron Dragway for the next day. We were stood up for that race, (at Rader’s track), but we weren’t saving it. It was running as hard as it would run I thought.

So, I told the kids, we’re going to blow this 426 up tomorrow and we’re going home and get the 392 stuff and going to give up the Chrysler deal. I said what good is it having free engines if they won’t run?

My crew man Bob Taft said, ‘Hey, how you going to blow it up? We never even put a rod bearing in it this whole year!’

I said, ‘I’m going to put some spark lead in it.’

Remember if you ever put more than 34 degrees (spark advance or lead) in a 392 Hemi, it doesn’t last. If you put 40 degrees, you only get one run. Then we see her walls are cracked and the waters running down in it.

We thought that this 426 was weaker in a way. I don’t know why we thought that it was weaker than the 392, but I guess because that it got so much hotter so much quicker. The 392 would make a run and it would hardly heat the water.

The water in the 426 will steam and shoot out of it at the end. What it was, it was always too lean.

So very carefully the next day at Byron Dragway with my timing buzzer I set 40 degrees, then locked the mag down.

We had been running 34 degrees in the 426 like my 392. The tune-up had that on it that’s including all the injectors and everything from the 392.

That SOB went 213 miles an hour, 7.51 seconds. and it didn’t blow up, but we rushed back to the pits and got it up on the jack stands really quick to see how bad it was hurt. Pull the pan down with no water dripping out of it. The oil looks brand-new. Didn’t need an oil change.

I pull a couple of rods down, the rod bearings weren’t touched. We put it all back together, put the pan back up on it. I said, what have I got here, and I loosen the mag and just did this and locked it down.(Garlits demonstrates a twisting motion with his hand)

I lock it down after I just eyeballed it. Just give it the “Bateman twist”.

You ever heard of John, John Bateman? He had a funny car and every run up to the final they ran like 34 degrees, but when it was the final round he loosened mag and just give it a twist and tightened it up right in the staging lane.They call it the “Bateman twist” because it  usually  blew the blower right off.

So anyway, I give it the “Bateman twist’ and locked it down. Later when I checked, it was 52 degrees.

It was the ride of my life, 219.84 miles an hour and 7.31 seconds. Bruce Crower made a t-shirt. It was a world record but not official, but he didn’t care, it was the speed. It was there and backed up too you know, and I never hurt a thing.

Keith Black, who was the big 392 guy on the West Coast for boats. He had two 392 engines for Dome (Don Prudhomme), in the Greer, Black and Prudhomme car and the Hawaiian. Those were the 2 Keith Black engines that he had in drag racing.

He called Center Line in Detroit. Center Line was the big parts depot. Black talked to the manager and said, ‘It looks like that 426 is going to be the engine of the future. I want to be a dealer. What do I have to do?

The guy said, ‘Mr. Black, the policy is you have to take a tractor-trailer load of them.’

He said, ‘Send them’.

He did become the West Coast dealer and he got real tight with Chrysler. When he made the aluminum block, it actually had a 426 Chrysler part number right on it.

UpNorth Motorsports: So, what happened to the guy that blamed you for not going 200 miles an hour?

He called me and told me I was the dirtiest SOB that ever was. He says, ‘I didn’t need anything like that. You could have just given me 200 or 201. I didn’t need 220 miles an hour. Don’t ever come back here. Don’t ever call me again.’

Garlits and land speed racing, “Whatever you say Mom”

Don Garlits “Saltliner” built to set Land Speed Records in FX/GS at Bonneville Salt Flats. The “Saltliner” went average of 217.947 mph on August 8, 1988. The Flathead Ford engine that powered the “Saltliner” is on the left of the photo.  (HTF Motorsports photo)

UpNorth Motorsports: Have you ever considered land speed racing? I’m from the former Loring Air Force  area in northern Maine where the Loring Timing Association host land speed races twice a year.  Have you ever considered doing something like that?

Yeah. I actually did it. There’s my car. It’s a flathead dragster engine, supercharged. I got in the 200 Mile-Per-Hour Club. I went an average speed of 217.917 mph, the average of two ways in August 8, 1988.

UpNorth Motorsports:What was that an attraction to you? I mean was that almost kind of boring?

I don’t want to say it that way, but it was fun. It just comes at a time of the year that’s bad for me. I’m real busy and I make a lot of money in August. There’s no money involved in this right?

Yeah. I have that car. We have it in the museum and we have the real engine that did it. It’s out of the car. So people can look at it.

A long way back there was another issue in land speed racing, when they built the Blue Flame out of Chicago. I was the driver. I want to be the driver. Yes, and because I knew the guy’s, Dick Keller, Ray Davis, and Pete Farnsworth and the other guy, Chuck Suba that was involved that had the X1 rocket car.

I was the guy scheduled to do it and we just get ready to go test and my mother, who had real good intuition, says, ‘Donnie I’ve never asked you not to do anything. I have a real bad feeling about that. Please don’t drive that car.’

I said, ‘Whatever you say Mom’. Then I  called him up and said I wasn’t driving.

Chuckling as he said it, ‘Sure enough. It went off the end. It didn’t hurt the guy but it did crash on the first run.’

I think it was Gary Gabelich. They did go fast. They did set the records with it. (Over 600 mph)


UpNorth Motorsports: What do you do in retirement?

Well, I come to this office and I open my mail. I sign all the autographs that people send me. There’s the autograph table right there (pointing toward a thick piece of glass directly in front of his desk).

That happens to be is step out of the World’s Fair in 1939 at New York. This was a step out of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass “Stairway To the Stars” exhibit. You can see where so many people went down the steps its worn supposed. It supposed to be like this (pointing toward the edges of the glass step which was the original thickness).

They set the stuff to be signed on it. I already signed this morning the stuff that had to be signed.

UpNorth Motorsports: Do you still work in your shop?

Yes, I have a shop, my own up there (pointing to another building on the sprawling complex). I’m working on a flathead dragster engine right now for a customer. And I build a couple of flatheads a year.

Big Daddy in the fab shop area. Swamp Rat 38 being built by shop foreman Chris Bumpus is directly behind Garlits and the Chrysler industrial water pump engine is on the engine stand. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I’m getting ready to put together a 1951 Chrysler industrial engine that came off of a water pump in Lake Okeechobee. This will be a running engine.

It was really in bad shape. We’ve got it all apart. Now, we’re going to over bore it and rebuild it. This will be a runner, a run stand motor.

UpNorth Motorsports: So that’s what you do in your spare time?

Yeah, it is. I have the world’s largest toy box problem. This is my toy box.

Chris Bumpus key to battery-powered dragster, Swamp Rat 38, potential success

Shop Foreman/fabricator for Don Garlits Museum, Chris Bumpus, Dunnellon, Florida, with Garlits latest version of Swamp Rats, the SR38 battery-powered dragster with a goal of 200 mph for the 1/4 mile. The Chrysler Industrial water pump engine mentioned earlier is on the left of the photo.(HTF Motorsports photo)

Chris Bumpus was a medical student who washed cars for Don Garlits as a part-time worker. Thirteen years ago Don Garlits approached Bumpus about going to work for the museum and giving up his studies in the medical field. Garlits recognized the talent that Bumpus exhibited.

Bumpus for example said, ” My father was a transmission mechanic. I did not learn a lot from him. I was in pre-med type courses in high school and did not take shop classes.”

” My wife bought me a welder. I didn’t know how to weld so I tinkered around with it and learned how to weld. Totally self-taught.”

When you look at the welds on Swamp Rat 38 you get an idea how talented this self-taught welder has become. Each bead looks simply correct with a touch of elegance.

Electrification via batteries to set 200 mph in the 1/4 mile quest

Garlits first experience battery power with the Darrell Gwynn electric dragsters, which were basically used to drag race for show and to raise money for the Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, which was set up to help people with paralysis and to prevent paralysis type accidents.

“I always troubled me about slowing them down. I hate slowing something down. So, I said to Mike Gerry (the builder of battery-powered dragsters used for  demonstration) later, maybe as much as a year later when I run into him. How fast do you think we could have went if we were taking the gloves off?”

He said, ‘You know you might reach 200 miles an hour.’

I said, “Let’s do it.”

UpNorth Motorsports:  What year would this be roughly?

“Well 5 years ago. Probably 2013. Yeah, maybe before then.  Oh, yeah, about 2013 we started running it. It would have been a couple of years before then. Probably 2011. Time gets away and goes very fast.”

“So anyway, we first we went just to Gainesville with just the chassis, just to make a squirt and NHRA really got ticked, ‘Don’t come back here with that thing anymore. It’s not safe.’”

“So I want to Bradenton and did all the testing.”

” After that there was lots of things that held us up. They build a body and then there was some arguing about who owns what in the batteries and there’s all kinds of things that just took all kinds of time.”

“But the first time we really got to the track we raised the record from 156 mph to 176 and then 184, and then 185. and that’s where our car parked. The car went to the line at 2,300 pounds with me in it and we had about 1,500 horsepower. It just couldn’t cut it.”

“So, then I got this idea. I knew they had this one single motor that was 1500 horse. And I got to thinking maybe we could just build a light car. So that’s why we built Swamp Rat 38 which is out in the shop with this single motor.”

“But they gave me some bad information. They didn’t tell me the right RPM of the motor. So, the gearing wasn’t right. So now we’ve changed gearing this week and ordered the new sprockets to gear it correctly.  Plus it was doing fishtailing at the very end and slipping when the power would really come into it.”

“What we did, we put a high wing on it because these electric motors don’t have zoomie headers for downforce. The wing itself is off Swamp Rat 29, one of my spares. That’s good for 265 mph.”

“Then we also have a rudder on it like on Swamp Rat 34 mono-wing. I’ll let you look at it. It’s out there. That should keep it nice and straight and the wing should plant it. That ought to make the difference and jump right up there the 15 mph that we need.

UpNorth Motorsports: When will that occur?

“The sprockets and the motor were sent back to the motor shop. It had some end play that had to be taken care of. That’s what I’m waiting on.”

“The guy just got back from China that does that type of work.  He goes between here and China all the time because he works for Disney.  His company works on all the floats and stuff. And so he’s real busy.”

” So he told me in a text yesterday that he would be getting right on the motor and see what it says here. Garlits quoted the text message, ‘Got my plane tickets,China to LA today, LA to Ohio tomorrow, Ohio to Orlando tomorrow night. Friday night at the shop working on the motor. Friday night flight to Ohio for a funeral. The best I can do.'”.

“That’s where it is.”

UpNorth Motorsports:  Do you think there’s any future in the electric side? How quiet was it?

“Very quiet, doesn’t make any noise at all. You can hear the tires screeching going down the track. NHRA. would not allow me last year to bring the car to Gainesville and display.”

“This year they said bring SR 38 up and make runs if you can, it is probably the wave of the future.”

“We got two or three of them in the country right now that are fast as I go. So two or three people could hit the 200 at any time.”

“If we get the electric worked out it’ll be cheaper, lots cheaper, and I think that’s what they’ll do. They’ll just introduce an electric dragster class in NHRA drag racing. They already have one in the National Electric Drag Racing Association, where there’s a few cars.”

“I think they’ll let what they’ll do because of the expense of fuel racing.”

Update on Loring Timing Association record..

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Episode 258

March 31, 2019

Garlits Part 3…stealth movement of rear engine dragster

The cover of the May 1971 Hot Rod Magazine displaying Swamp Rat 14 as built before the conversation with Jim Hall of Chaparral.( HTF Motorsports)

UpNorth Motorsports: Mr. Garlits you weren’t letting anyone know were you?

No. They didn’t know what was going on. All these tests were in private. Chrysler was having during these tests, a seminar, and all these Ramchargers came down to Clearwater for Superstocks.

They did this seminar because they were really big into Superstocks. One guy stuck his hand up and he said, “What about this car that Big Daddy’s doing over in Seffner?”

Tom Hoover, the father of the 426 (Hemi) said, “At Chrysler, we have the utmost respect for everything that Don Garlits has done, but this time we think he’s bit off more than he can chew.”

UpNorth Motorsports: Hoover said that? Was he just pulling their leg?

No, he was serious. Goodyear called me and they said, “Big Daddy stop it, we’ve got lot of money in you and we don’t want anything happening to you.  Don’t you know that every rear engine car that was built turned right or left in the timing traps?”

Pat Foster was nearly killed in one like 3 weeks before my debut at Long Beach.  His Woody (Woody Gilmore Chassis) just turned and went into the stands, but it was just a test so there was nobody up there but he got hurt real bad. While I was running in the rear engine car for the first time, he’s laying over in Pacific Coast Hospital recovering, so it was not a good thing.

Anyway, me and Tommy (T.C. Lemons), Swingle didn’t go for some reason he wanted to stay back here, went with the rear engine car and with the slingshot.

We went to Waterman’s first, that’s where we stopped. They’re all in there and it’s the middle of the night on the weekend, they said, “Have you got the rear engine car?”

I said, “Yeah.”

‘Let’s see it!’

So, we went out there and I opened the door and I took the flashlight and I just shined on the slingshot. They couldn’t even see the rest of it, and I shut the door.

And they laughed, ‘Oh my God, we knew it would never work. Thank God all our cars are current.’

We took the car (the slingshot) over to the Coliseum, dropped it off for Goodyear, and went to the hotel and got some sleep.  We went up to Long Beach the next day.  For all practical purposes, the trailer looked like it was empty.

We pulled up to the pits at Long Beach and who should be running the gates but Jim Tice (AHRA President and promoter) himself.  He come right over because they’d been running ads on seeing Garlits and his rear engine car.

‘Have you got the rear engine car?’ said Tice?

“I do”

Jim, ‘ Let’s see it.’

I opened the trailer door and he said, ‘Where is it?’

I said, “There’s the chassis and the body panels are wrapped in that blanket right there and there’s the rear end and the motors up in the rack.”

I mean he got mad and when he got mad he really was something.

‘Garlits,’ he says, ‘I write a check every event to you for $10,000 even if you don’t qualify. This is the Grand American Series of professional drag racing and you bring a piece of s___ like that here.!  You should be ashamed of yourself. Now put the damn thing together right out here at the gate where the spectators coming in can at least see the sign on the trailer and know you’re here.’

The pits were almost a half mile away way down there and I’m up here at the gate. We didn’t give a s__, we had our little area and we’re here putting it together. We had more people standing at the gate watching us than was going in.

Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s AA/FD in the Garlits Museum. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Here comes the Snake, Don Prudhomme. He was there with his brand-new car. I have that Prudhomme car with the box frame looking thing, I have it back there, the very car. He was going to debut it.

It’s the only time in drag racing they ever made a slot car and had a dragster built to copy it. Usually they build the dragster and copied it for the slot car. This time they had to build the cars to match what they had in there. It was the biggest mistake that was ever made. They quickly sold it and I got it from the guy that bought it.

Prudhomme walks around that thing at the gate and I’ll never forget it. He had a mannerism about him and said, ‘Well I guess that’s one way to get publicity.’

In other words, if you can’t race anymore, do something stupid and maybe they’ll write something about you. So, he goes down into the pits and he tells the guys, ‘Have you seen that thing up there at the gate?’

“Yes Snake we’ve seen it.’

‘You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?’

‘No Snake what’s going to happen? ‘

‘Well it’s probably going to run pretty good, but it’s probably going to turn right or left in the lights and if you happen to be on the side that it turns, it’s going to run right into you. What do you think about that?’

Well Snake we can’t have that, what are we going to do?’

‘What we can do is, we’ll refuse to race if they let him race. Now we’ll have to stick together,It’ll have to be 100%, we can’t have anybody falling out of ranks.’

‘Oh, we’re with you Snake, we’re with you.’

Ok. So, they went to Pappy Hart (Lions Dragway Manager) and he said fine because he’s the one who had to pull Pat Foster out of the wreck and he didn’t want anymore of that.

The last word was Tice. He was the Barnum and Bailey of drag racing. I’ll never forget it. He had his cigar and he said ‘Boys I have a better idea. What do you think about this? We make Garlits do every qualifying run, that’s going to be 6 passes.

He’s got to make all 6 of those passes full throttle from the start to the finish. If he backs off on a run it doesn’t count, he’s got to come back and make it again. If he touches the outer barrier line or the center line on any one of those 6 passes, he’s in the trailer and has to go home. Now in the unlikely event that he qualifies and doesn’t hit those barrier lines, would you race him on Sunday?

There was a long silence and one of the guys says, ‘Yeah, we’ll race him. That’s a good idea because he won’t be here on Sunday, he’ll be dead. Nobody can go down the drag strip 6 times full throttle in a rear engine car and survive.’

UpNorth Motorsports: They were that convinced that it wasn’t going to work?

Yes. I made all 6 runs and I qualified #3. I went to the finals and I would have won but I was in the same lane, at the same track, at the same event, at the same time of year that just 12 months before I blew my foot off. When the light went yellow then green, just momentarily I had deja vu and saw that flash. In that instant Gary Cochran got a half car length on me. I pulled right up to him, but I couldn’t get by.

The rear engine car was here to stay. I won the Pomona NHRA Nationals and I went to Bakersfield and won the US Fuel Cars Championship, besting Prudhomme in that race. It changed everything.

UpNorth Motorsports: Did you tell them the secret?

No, nobody wanted to know. There is an epilogue to this; it was still just competitive with the really fast cars. I was having to get them off the line and stuff like that. We both run 6.60’s and stuff like that. Jim Tice signed on another race, West Palm Beach, to make the Grand American Series 11 races.

It was really quick, it was early in the year. It fell right on top of my match race at Shuffletown Dragway, Charlotte, North Carolina with Ivo (TV Tommy Ivo). I told Jim I would be happy to show, but all I could do was try to put it in the field Friday, do as best I could and then I had to go to Shuffletown to take care of my contract.

He said he understood and wouldn’t want anyone breaking a contract with me. I said if I’m still in the show on Saturday night when I’m at Shuffletown, I’ll call and I’ll race back to West Palm for the race.

He says ‘That’s great. We’ll do that.’

So, we go to Shuffletown and it was slick. I would scoot out in front of Ivo, then spin the tires, and here he would come, spinning right by me.

He beat me three times at this match.  I think because my whole career is based on match races and Ivo’s the one, and I can beat him like a Texas baby. Now all of a sudden, he can beat me. We called Tice, and we were still in the show.

Jim Hall and Garlits on the same plane and look what happens!

The car that Garlits describes in this episode, Swamp Rat 14 with the first wing. Note the firesuit on the left and in the Hot Rod Magazine cover photo. UpNorth Motorsports Southern Headquarters assistant/brother Bill Hale looks over the car in the Museum. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I was complaining to Swingle (about Ivo) and what I haven’t mentioned here, which now has to be told, is I came home between Pomona and the U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships. I took a night flight, the red-eye out of Los Angeles, and who should be on that flight but Jim Hall of Chaparral.

Jim Hall,83, on left at Rattlesnake Raceway Reunion 2018 in Midland, Texas. He owns the track where he built and tested the Chaparral racers. His son Jim Hall II is to his left then three unknown fans and in the blue shirt is Franz Weis his engine builder. (Bob Jackson photo)

He sat right next to me and he never stopped talking about the rear engine car. I knew that it was going to come about sooner or later, but he never knew who, but me could do it, the innovator of the sport.

One of Hall’s Chaparral with a wing similar to what he described for Garlits, This is the Chaparral 2E which has been fully restored and was on display at Road America in 2018. (Larry Fulhorst photo)

Blah blah blah and I trying to get some sleep because I’m going to work the next day at the shop.

His final statement was “When the smoke clears, you’re going to have a little wing over the back tires. It’ll be about like that wide and about like that.’ Like he had on his Chevy Chaparral.

So, when I got back home, I told Swingle, who was a big fan of Hall, that he’d never guess who I rode home on the plane with.

“Who’s that?”

I said, “Jim Hall.”

“Oh my God, what did he think about the rear-engine car?”

I said, “He loved it. He loved it and you know what Swingle, when the smoke clears we’re going to have a little wing over the back tires. Can you believe that? Yeah, a little wing.”

 So that’s how it was said. I went on back to Bakersfield and won the race.

We’re coming down 95 and Swingle says, “Well looks like it’s about time for that wing Jim Hall was talking about.”

I said, “Yeah as soon as this race is over, that’s what we’d do. We’d put it on there.”

He said he was thinking about right now. I said there’s no way we can build a wing right now and go down and make it for the first round.

He says yeah there is because he’s already got all the bucks. He’s made the ribs and the thing to fold it, so he can finish up the actual wing.

He said, ‘If you and I work straight through the night we can build the superstructure.’

It’s all original stuff that we did, and it was all adjustable. We could move the wing like this or up and down, whatever we wanted because we had no idea what was going on.

UpNorth Motorsports: When did you test?

We didn’t. We tested in the first round at West Palm Beach and it was 10 miles an hour faster and a quarter of a second quicker. That summer at Indy we went 6.21. It was over.

UpNorth Motorsports: Do you believe in divine intervention?

Oh, I do Jim Hall sitting on the same plane as you. That’s crazy.

Oh, yeah. I just tell it like it is. We humans don’t know exactly how it all works. I mean we’re setting in the in the catbird seat and all you got to do is just talk to the man. Everybody can do it, just don’t take advantage of it.

Yeah, they just don’t take advantage of it. He’s ready. He loves to listen.

Folks are letting me know that they like the Garlits interview and want more soooooo Part 4 next week. Garlits quest to go 200 in the 1/4 mile in a dragster, battery-powered that is! Land Speed racing at Bonneville.  So stay tuned again next week.

WAR Crew Chief part of Owls Head Transportation Museum special panel

Panel for the Owls Head Transportation Museum’s about left to right Bob Alexander, Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame member and current Wyatt Alexander Racing Crew Chief, Ken Minott, Wiscasset Motor Speedway promoter and announcer, and Mac McComb, former sports car racer from Maine who raced Shelby Mustangs and Daytona coupes. (WAR photo)

County native Bob Alexander, now residing in Ellsworth, is known for his skills in race car set up and a host of other skills. When Owls Head Transportation Museum officials told him about this event and their desire to have him on the distinguished panel he agreed.

“We had a great time last evening at the Owls Head Transportation Museum,” said Alexander. “I was honored to have been asked to participate in their Reels to Wheels program as one of their motorsports panelists. The other members of the panel were Ken Minott with Wiscasset Speedway and John “Mac” McComb, a museum volunteer with an extensive and impressive racing background in road racing.”

“We had an awesome audience in attendance that had lots of questions and comments as we watched video clips from such iconic movies as Talladega Nights, Grand Prix and Herbie the Love Bug.”

“Discussion included other questions like, most memorable win, favorite car, racing rivals, technology advances, temperature and smells during a race.”

“Kudos to the entire museum staff for putting together a fun and memorable event.”

DriveRefine formed by Austin Theriault and Joey Coulter

Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault continues to build his racing resume with the announcement that he and Joey Coulter, CIV Driver Optimization, were teaming up to form a new consulting business, DriveRefine based in Mooresville, North Carolina. Theriault is going to be a busy man with his ties to R & D at Crazy Horse Racing in Oxford, Maine, two more races with Ricky Benson Racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, as well as competing on Archie St. Hilaire’s GoFas Racing team in the Monster Energy Cup Series.

Austin Theriault brings his winning attitude and hard earned knowledge about the business of stock car racing to the consulting firm DriveRefine formed with Joey Coulter of CIV Driver Optimization. Theriault is pictured at the ARCA 2017 Banquet receiving his championship awards.(AT Racing photo)

This is the official announcement:

Mooresville, North Carolina: Today, two notable names in the NASCAR and short track arena, Joey Coulter and Austin Theriault, announced their new business venture within the motorsports industry. DriveRefine was established with a strong focus on helping the driver maximize his or her skills behind the wheel through their driver optimization process.
DriveRefine’s mission is to provide drivers of all experience levels the guidance necessary to maximize their investment in motorsports. This is accomplished by implementing the duo’s comprehensive process that combines all of the necessary components a driver needs to find an edge over the competition.
“We focus on helping the driver maximize his or her skills behind the wheel by giving them the tools they need to be more prepared before an event, optimize their performance during the event, and analyze information after,” Theriault commented.
“The whole industry knows that a driver has to be marketable and attract sponsorship to climb the ladder, but based off of what we’ve been seeing throughout the NASCAR landscape lately, there is still proof that talent and results are still moving the needle,” stated Coulter.
“There is a serious gap not being addressed by spotters and typical driver coaching in our industry today,” stated Coulter. “Unlike most programs that are only implemented at the track, we offer one that combines at track elements with a comprehensive pre and post race process, giving the driver all of the necessary components to develop and perfect their race-craft.”
The combined involvement that Theriault and Coulter have from Late Models to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, is almost equivalent to two decades worth of knowledge and expertise within the racing industry. Coulter and Theriault have both used their experience to strengthen the skills of drivers making the climb to the top of their respective divisions.
Coulter formed CIV Driver Optimization in 2015 to help drivers maximize their individual strengths when behind the wheel of the racecar. Theriault has also been a crew chief, coach and spotter for a number of drivers over the past several years, including Travis Stearns, Molly Helmuth, Chase Purdy, Zane Smith, Dacin Roberson and Cory Roper to name a few.
Joey and Austin met at the Performance Racing Industry show in late 2018, and both agreed that it was time to re-design and re-define traditional driver coaching.
Theriault and Coulter are excited to announce the launch of DriveRefine- a driver optimization program built by drivers, for drivers.
Bangor’s Mike..
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Episode 257

March 24, 2019

Tame the Track Snowmobile Tour season concludes in Caribou

The 2019 Tame the Track Snowmobile Tour eight race season began January 19th at Shin Pond and came to an exciting conclusion in Caribou with the 2nd Annual Mega Meltdown Race to benefit  Brian’s Ride Cancer Fund. When I pulled into the venue Saturday morning, I immediately noticed that the crowd had to be larger than in 2018. The warm weather probably helped increase the numbers since the 2018 edition was bitterly cold.

A mix of racers and fans filled the area on the north side of the track. It seemed like interaction between the groups lent itself to a family friendly atmosphere.

I was able to get a ride on the safety sled of Keith Dumond between races while the trail groomer was in action. I gained a new-found appreciation for what the racers had to endure in those tough track conditions. I guarantee many of them were sore the next day!

Series promoter Jere Humphrey commented, “The members of the Tame the Track Snowmobile Tour, who were battling for one of the fifteen points championship titles, were ready for the tough competition, despite the wet and nasty travel weather.   Races included the prestigious special events, Brian’s Bracket Challenge and the Trail 600 special thirty lap feature.”

“Several familiar faces reached the podium again this week for the final time, after battling fierce competition, all day long.”

“Great showing by all the race teams, with a good crowd on hand watching the thrilling action on a pleasant winter day. Thank you once again for all the supportive and dedicated race teams and families, as this week’s race was not only the last of the season, but also the largest entry list of 2019, with well over 139 total entries.”

Travelling the greatest distance to race was third place finisher MJ Timpane, Lakeville, Minnesota. MJ is the son of one of my former students Haley Ouellette Timpane and her husband Erik. MJ was on the sled of his Uncle Scott Moir. They remarked that several veteran racers were very helpful even loaning them a part which allowed them more speed in the feature race. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Dysart’s Truck Stop KIDS 120cc STOCK —
1st Kaleb Partridge: Charleston, Polaris
2nd Trenton Hanscom: Benton, Polaris
3rd MJ Timpane: Lakeville, Minnesota, Polaris

Northern Maine Karting Association kart racer, Gage Theriault, Limestone, placed second in 120 Improved. after winning his heat race. (GT Racing photo)

Witham’s Heating KIDS 120cc IMPROVED —
1st Riley Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Polaris
2nd Gage Theriault: Limestone, Arctic Cat
3rd Mason Silva: Hudson, Arctic Cat

Witham’s Paving & Machias Savings KIDS 120cc MODIFIED –
1st Emmett Walker: New Vineyard, Arctic Cat
2nd Kaden Rose: Skowhegan, Arctic Cat
3rd Riley Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Polaris

Katahdin Motorsports & Pro Industrial Plus KIDS 200 STOCK
1st Kaden Rose: Skowhegan, Arctic Cat
2nd Jayden Huff: Skowhegan, Arctic Cat
3rd Jayce Rose: Skowhegan, Yamaha

Casella Waste Systems WOMEN’S INVITATIONAL —
1st Katie Letourneau: Turner, Polaris
2nd Alley Ripley: Center Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
3rd Haley Brownell: Ossipee, NH, Yamaha

1st Aiden Murray: Turner, Arctic Cat
2nd Trevor Eldridge: Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
3rd Austin Witham: Levant, Yamaha

Houlton Powersports & RV TEENS INVITATIONAL —
1st Caleb Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat
2nd Henry Moneypenny: West Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
3rd Christian Hanscom: Benton, Yamaha

The vintage sled racing legend Mike Morris, Hartford, with his Arctic Cat before winning the single cylinder race at the Mega Meltdown in Caribou.. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Blanchard’s Towing & Recovery SINGLE CYLINDER STOCK
1st Mike Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat
2nd Nathan Alexander: Hermon, Sno Jet
3rd Ryan Sullivan: Auburn, Arctic Cat

Harry’s Motorsports & Equipment SINGLE CYLINDER MODIFIED —
1st Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Sno Jet
2nd Mike Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat
3rd Caleb Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat

Justin Hartford, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire with his Yamaha 340 Enticer in the 340 stock class at Meg Meltdown 2019 in Caribou. (Jamie Hathcock photo)

Renegade Race Fuels 340 STOCK —
1st Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
2nd Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat
3rd Mike Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat

Savage Paint & Body 340 MODIFIED —
1st Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
2nd Brian Gendreau: Madawaska, Polaris
3rd Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat

Bangor Motorsports & J McLaughlin Construction 440 STOCK —
1st Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat
2nd Shawn Berry: Center Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
3rd Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha

Nick Huff, Hampden, (right) is congratulated by Jere Humphrey, Tame the Track Tour promoter, for winning the 440 Modified class. Huff is the commentator for East Coast SnoCross and Loudon Road Race Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (HTF Motorsports photo)

O’Reilly Auto Parts 440 Modified —
1st Nick Huff: Hampden, Arctic Cat
2nd Shawn Berry: Center Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
3rd Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat

1st Rate Bait and Cyr & Sons Repair IFS 440 STOCK —
1st Joe Pelletier: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat
2nd Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Ski Doo
3rd Caleb Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat

Mission Trailers & Unifirst IFS OUTLAW —
1st Joe Pelletier: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat
2nd Brandon Ouellette: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat
3rd Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat

Winner of Brian’s Brackett Joe Pelletier (with trophy) is congratulated by Pam Caldwell to his right. Pelletier races the Last Chance Motorsports Arctic Cat owned by Jere Humphrey to his left. Pelletier won both qualifying heats, IFS Stock 440, and IFS Outlaw classes. He finished third in the 30 lap Trail 600.(HTF Motorsports photo)

Brian’s Bracket Challenge Winner —
Joe Pelletier: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat
Runner Up: Landon Collins: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha

Landon Collins and his mother Jamie Hathcock, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, after he placed second in the Brian’s Bracket Challenge 2019. Jamie has provided many of the photos I have used in UpNorth Motorsports coverage of the Tame the Track Tour this season. Thank you Jamie! (Elizabeth Agnew-Hartford photo)

Willette’s Automotive Holeshot Awards —
Kids 120cc Modified — Emmett Walker
Women’s Invitational — Alley Ripley
Teens Invitational — Christian Hanscom
Single Cylinder Stock — Justin Hartford
340 Stock — Christian Hanscom
440 Stock — Daytona Gould
440 Modified –Shawn Berry
IFS 440 Stock –Daytona Gould

Brandon Ouellette, Fort Kent, secret weapons, sled tuners nephew Tucker Ouellette on front and his friend and fellow race tuner Savannah Pelletier in the rear. Supervisor (and Savannah’s mom) Allie Pelletier on right. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Installations Unlimited Trail 600 30 Lap Finale Winner purse –$300.00 and Runner Up $125.00
1st Brandon Ouellette: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat
2nd Henry Moneypenny: West Ossipee, NH, Ski Doo
3rd Joe Pelletier: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat                                                              Holeshot Award — Henry Moneypenny: West Ossipee, NH, Ski Doo
Halfway Leader Award — Brandon Ouellette: Fort Kent, Arctic Cat

Jere Humphrey concluded saying, “Congratulations to all the race teams who competed @ the “Mega Meltdown” Vintage & Kids Endurance Races.  Double points will be awarded to all VVCS active members, to keep the competition in check, for the season points tally.”

The event raised more money for Brian’s Ride Cancer Fund than in 2018 according to event organizers.

Austin Theriault qualifies at Martinsville and will make his Cup debut

After qualifying the #92 Rickie Benton Racing Ford F-150 in 26th, Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault awaits the start of the TruNorth Global 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Theriault went on to finish 22 only 2 laps down to the winner Kyle Busch. (AT Racing photo)

Austin Theriault will be running two more races in the Ford F-150 for Ricky Benton Racing, Charlotte May 17th and Bristol August 15. Each race in the truck series will require him to qualify on speed.

Theriault announced last week that he will be driving for Old Orchard Beach native Archie St. Hilaire’s North Carolina based GoFas Racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 21, Michigan August 11, Richmond September 21, and Talladega October 13th. Each of those NASCAR Monster Energy races will require him to qualify their Ford Mustang on speed.

Theriault will join Connecticut native Corey Lajoie on the GoFas Team. Lajoie’s father Randy Lajoie, competed at Spud Speedway, then known as Aroostook County International Speedway, Sunday July 1984 with the Stroh’s Tour in the Steego 100 which was won by Tom Glaser. Randy Lajoie finished 4th in that race.

If Theriault can qualify, he will be the first Maine racer to qualify in a NASCAR Cup Series race since Rickie Craven in 2004 at Talladega. Additional races in the top series have not been ruled out.

WAR shows sign of speed in season debut

Wyatt Alexander #96 after the MTP Tire Super Late Model CARS Tour 150. Some different than in 2018 when the car was banged up. Wyatt finished 8th after being sent to the rear of the field twice. (WAR photo)

The hard work over the winter seems to be paying off as the Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) made their season debut at Hickory Motor Speedway, Hickory, North Carolina in the CARS Tour 2019.

Twice the team finished atop the leaderboard in practice sessions. The speed continued in qualifying when Alexander earned the 4th place starting spot just .072 seconds out of first. Qualifying in third just ahead of the Ellsworth, Maine native was Alabama’s Bubba Pollard, one of the hottest short track racers in racing today.

During the race, Alexander led several times until a restart. Crew chief, Bob Alexander explains what happened.

“Wyatt quickly mage it into the lead and checked out. He kept a comfortable lead, using only as much of his tires as needed. He reported over the radio that he was using only one-quarter throttle to stay in front of any challengers.”

“We led over half of the race until restarts resulting from competition yellow flags.”

“Confusion as to the location of the Cars Tour restart zone , not between two bright pink lines 30 feet apart painted across the track on exit of turn four as one might expect and as used by the PASS tour in our previous races at Hickory but actually starting at the second line. This resulted in a warning the first time, which was unheard by our spotter and a penalty the second time for restarting too soon.”

“The penalty resulted in Wyatt being placed last on the field from first. Another incident from accidental contact with another car resulted in another penalty for rough driving which took him from 8th place to last again.”

“We ended the night in 8th place. Overall very happy with our performance but discussing with the results as we felt clearly that we had the winning car.”

“Overall it was just a misunderstanding on our part that created the situation. We were very happy with the performance of our CRF chassis and our home-built engine package. We will learn from it and move on to the next race knowing that we have a team, driver and equipment that will be front-runners at any event that we compete at.

The race team is discussing when and where their next race will be.

Swanson wins USAC Silver Crown season opener with new team

One of the most difficult tasks in racing is to win a race in your debut with a new race team, Despite the odds stacked against him, California native, Kody Swanson brought home the Nolen Racing #20 to Victory Circle at the USAC Silver Crown Memphis 100 on the Tennessee 3/4 mile paved banked oval.

A familiar sight, Kody Swanson in the #20 leads Bobby Santos III and David Byrne at Memphis Speedway. Santos finished second and Bryne tenth. (Brad Plant photo)

This was Swanson’s 25th Silver Crown victory and his first for Nolen Racing. The win was Nolen Racings first pavement win since July 27, 1995 when Jim Keeker beat second place Tony Stewart at Indianapolis Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway). Last year Nolen Racing won on the dirt two times with driver Chris Windom.

From Richie Murray, USAC media report, “During Friday’s practice, Swanson practiced both of Nolen’s cars.  They had their primary car pulled apart on pit lane during the session after a brand-new driveshaft dealt them trouble.”

“Meanwhile, the team pulled out their backup and Swanson put some laps on it to make sure it was ready to run.  Swanson jumped back into the primary with a new driveshaft and proceeded to set the fastest lap of the afternoon.”

“Fast forward to race day on Saturday, Swanson took to practice back in the primary before encountering what he described as a fluke engine part issue.  Nolen once again had to roll the backup car out where they tweaked on the chassis to get it to where Kody felt it was at its best.  Enter qualifying and Swanson put it on the pole position.”

“Easy as clockwork, right?  Of course not, but with Swanson as part of the operation, he almost makes it seem that way on the regular.”

‘I’m exhausted; I’m elated; I don’t even know what to feel,’ Swanson exclaimed.  ‘I’m very grateful.  I haven’t been to my day job since Tuesday.  I could see the writing on the wall that we were already in a corner then.’

‘We had guys that were there into the wee hours of the morning with me almost every night this week, then back at it the next day, just digging for all we were worth to be ready.’

‘We got one ready and dug deep enough to get the other one ready just in case,’ Swanson explained.  ‘You hate to think you’d ever have a failure and need it, but we did, and it was ready to come in off the bench and do a great job for us.’

The USAC Silver Crown Series heads to the Terre Haute Action Track – Terre Haute, Indiana for the Fatheadz Eyewear “Sumar Classic” on April 14, 2019.

NMKA race karts on display at Presque Isle Forum

Several area youngsters wanted to at least sit in a real race kart . Lydia Brown of Mapleton seemed to get in the swing of it quickly in a Kids Kart driven during the race season by Caribou’s Kayden Haines. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The Northern Maine Karting Association displayed each of their three classes of race karts at the Presque Isle Kiwanis Club “Swing into Spring” at the Forum Saturday and Sunday. Track Safety and PR helper Wade Bright and I explained the schedule and..

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Episode 256

March 17, 2018

It was January 14, 1932 in Tampa, Florida that  drag racing legend-to-be, Don Garlits was born to Edward and Helen Garlits. Ed and Helen had eloped from their New Jersey homes, she was 18 and Ed 40.

When the Garlits had arrived in Florida, it was said they possessed somewhere near $100.000 and lived in Tampa’ high end. In the grips of the Great Depression, the bank they had deposited their money went broke, leaving them virtually penniless owning only a small plot of land on the outskirts of town.

The Garlits shared a ramshackle home with another couple according to Don Garlits who shared the story at the Don Garlits Museum with my brother Bill and I in January. For some reason the other couple were disgruntled living in such conditions.

In March 1932, two months after Garlits was born, he was in his crib near the back of the home when the couple that had been living with them decided they had enough. A trail of kerosene was spread throughout the house and was ignited as they locked the front door and ran away.

It was unclear if they knew that baby Don was still in the shack, however, as the smoke began to billow out the windows, Helen screamed, “The baby, the baby!” and she and Ed raced to the house.

Ed got there first and tried the back door, it was locked. He raced around to the front which was also locked. He knocked the door down and raced to the back room where Garlits was in his crib. The crib was covered in a mosquito net which had caught fire and was dropping embers on the baby.

Ed scooped Garlits into his arms covering him in his coat, ran through the house which was fully engulfed, and through the flames, out into the front yard gasping for breath thus saving his son’s life.

Garlits did not tell us if charges were pressed against the former co-tenants, but he did say his mother and father  moved into a tool shed on the property.  His father began to rebuild the family home.

Life lesson at two

At two Garlits got a lesson in perseverance and hard work when a load of bricks for the new chimney were dropped off at the home site. Wet soil conditions did not allow the truck to get close to the chimney building area and the driver dropped them off at the road despite Garlits mother urging him not to drop them at that location.

Garlits described it this way, “When dad came home from work he went ballistic. He was ranting and raving and all of a sudden he got this bright idea. He said: ‘The boy can move the bricks.’

“And boy, did I like that.”

But my mother yelled, “The baby can’t move the bricks, Ed! It’s cruel!”

“It’s not cruel,” Dad said. “He can do it!”

“For the first time, I felt like a contributing family member. My mother said I couldn’t do something, but my father, a strong but often abusive man, said I could. I wanted to make my father proud.”

“I’m already gearing up to do it. My dad said I could do it. My mother said I couldn’t do it. I thought to myself, ‘What in the world is she talking about? Who’s the baby? You’re holding the baby!” Garlits said of his little brother Ed, who had been born earlier that year.

Big Daddy’s father went out to the dirt road and got out his engineer’s slide rule. He walked up to Don’s little red wagon and put five bricks in. He then looked at his pocket watch. He did some math, and said, “The boy can move the bricks in seven days, if he starts when I drive out this driveway in the morning at daylight and he stops when my truck comes in at dark.”

Helen screamed and screamed: “The baby!” Garlits recalls. “Every other word was baby.”

As it turned out, Garlits said,”The baby moved the bricks in five days and became a man.”

School teacher is an influence to Garlits

Garlits was influenced his senior year by his high school General Metals Instructor Mr Howard Fuller. Mr. Fuller showed the young man, who up to then was considering a career as an accountant, the California publication, Hot Rod Magazine with its shiny street cars and home-built race cars.

When Garlits met Hillsborough High School senior Pat Bieger in 1952 his interests changed from street rodder to married man in February 1953. A chance visit to a drag strip they were passing by lit an interest in both of them. This 27 Ford Model T was built by Garlits under an oak tree in their front yard in North Tampa in 1954. It had a top speed of 130 mph and turned the 1/4 mile 13.5 seconds and a speed of 93 mph. The drag racing fuse was ignited. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Garlits was burned by igniting fuel after a manifold explosion at Chester, South Carolina in 1959. His hands were so severely burned that at one time, doctors considered amputation. Garlits would hear nothing of that.

He sold his racing equipment and went into a racing partnership with Art Malone who would drive Swamp Rat 1 followed by Connie Swingle later in 1960. Both men continued with Garlits for years. Swamp Rat I was pictured in last week’s episode. It is the car that Malone used to set a speed record at Sanford, Maine.

Three career highlights

At the interview conducted in Big Daddy’s office by my Florida helper/brother Bill and I, Garlits was asked about three highlights in his career.

He replied, “Winning the US Nationals in 1964, and that was the highlight of the first car over 200, officially 201.34. Then winning the 1975 World Championship for NHRA, which was the first NHRA points race sponsored by Winston. Going into Ontario 400 points down having to win the race, set top speed, and low ET, in order to get enough points ahead and I did that.”

“And then 2001 they dared me to come back and drive one of these top fuel dragsters. I’d been out for 17 years and I came back into the sport. I borrowed a car from Gary Clapshaw in Las Vegas, the Spirit of Las Vegas, and drove 303 mph at Indianapolis. It revived me and I got one of my old cars out of mothballs and refurbished it, Swamp Rat 34, campaigned if for three years, reached 323 mph in 4.7seconds. I would say those are 3 big highlights.”

The race that changed Garlits and top fuel dragsters

Probably one of racing’s most famous photos. Caption read: March 1970 Driver Injured as Transmission Explodes. Don (Big Daddy) Garlits is in satisfactory condition in a Long Beach, California, hospital after he suffered leg and foot injuries when his AA-fuel dragster broke in half. Garlits underwent surgery on his right foot after the accident, which occurred in the final round of top fuel-eliminator competition at the American Hot Rod Association Grand American Pro series in Long Beach. It is not known if he will ever race again. Garlits is an ex-national champ. (Credit: The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The above photo was splashed around the world when Garlits’ Top Fuel Dragster transmission exploded at the start line at the Lions Dragstrip. A piece of the exploding transmission went into the crowd at the opposite side of the track seriously injuring 17-year-old Timothy Ditt whose left arm was nearly amputated.

When Garlits came to the line, Lions Dragway Starter Larry Sutton noted, “The car didn’t move right after the dry hop and I knew something was wrong with the car, I have seen enough cars race to know the difference. So I knew something stupid was going to happen I just didn’t know what. I push the button, Garlits’ car exploded and something hit the pole in front of my face, cutting the timing lights wire.”

Garlits car was cut in two and sat running about 100 feet from the starting line until the Hemi engine ran out of fuel. Crew member TC Lemons sprinted to the roll cage portion of the dragster as did Sutton. Fortunately nothing ignited and they along with Tom McEwen, another Top Fuel Dragster driver, and Mickey Thompson were at the site helping extricate Garlits.

Garlits lost consciousness for a short time and when he came to, “Mickey Thompson came up there, and he looked at my foot. You couldn’t actually see my foot with the boots and all, but you could see it was all mangled up. So Mickey Thompson took that leg up under his arm just like that, so I couldn’t see it while they unbuckled me and got me out of the car.”

“Now there are some events that are very important and probably more important than the three from above. One would be the explosion at Long Beach which I lost part of my right foot. It’s not a highlight, but it’s one of the most important things because it forced me to get serious about developing a rear engine car which I did.”

“One year later we debuted that car which changed the entire face of the sport. Every car out there now of any consequence, all the classes, are rear engine because of that development. There were no successful rear engine cars up to that point and all that were had been jokes. People just laughed at them.”

“They all crashed and they did all sorts of stuff. They couldn’t compete with the slingshots but my car did. It not only competed with them, it was faster, and of course, look what it did, the results are history.”

The rear engine Swamp Rat 14 that changed everything

My assistant/brother Bill Hale admiring Swamp Rat 14 at the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum. (HTF Motorsports photo)

When I asked Garlits about whether he had been thinking about a rear engine drag chassis before the Lions transmission explosion and how did he overcome the problems that others ran into with their rear engine designs.

“Oh yeah, but it was just thinking about it, not actually getting down to the nitty-gritty of building it and taking it to the track and realizing how difficult it was to make it work. And I’d set in Dwane Ong’s ‘Pawnbroker’ car which was a nice car and also Bernie Schackler had one.”

“Dwane Ong’s wasn’t too bad. He’d actually won a race over there in New York at New York National Speedway, a big event. That was really the first big event won by a rear engine car but for some reason that was all he did. He didn’t do anything in AHRA or the NHRA  and he wasn’t a big name so and he didn’t out run anybody important so who cared, right?”

“Nobody wanted to, I mean people don’t like change, I’ll never forget when I showed up at Waterman’s place (Waterman’s Racing Engines) with the rear engine car. I actually had given up on the rear engine car and set it aside after 3 months of testing, never getting down the dragstrip once.”

“I set it aside and we snapped together Swamp Rat 15. The rear engine car was Swamp Rat 14. And we were just putting the finishing touches on the body panels when the wife walked out in the shop. She was comptroller and she took all the deposits and everything, so she knew what was going on.”

“She looked at that car on the rack with the jig and me working on the body and she knew what it was but she says ‘What is that?’”

“I said, well it’s my car for 1971. In three weeks I have to be at Long Beach, California at the Grand American.  That was a 10 race series that paid $10,000 a race. That’s a $100,000 contract, nothing to be sneezed at in 1971. I said they’re expecting me there and I haven’t got on the strip one time in this rear engine car.”

Garlits voice was now raising to a crescendo as it often did when he was excited about telling a story during the interview.

” She said, You would get back in one of those monstrosities after its mutilated you like it has?'”

” I said, ‘Honey this is what I do and I don’t have a transmission in this car and that’s what hurt me.’”

“She said, ‘You have 6 friends that were killed in these cars in the last 2 years and not one of them had a transmission. There’s one hundred things back there to hurt you.’”

“It’s so funny, in the picture of me winning the NHRA Nationals with the slingshot, in the other lane, it’s blowing up and, in the lights, you can see the black pieces in the smoke that’d just went by the guys hip. I mean it’s so poetic.”

Garlits, like a good husband listens to his wife

“We took the car back to the track the next day and went right off the track. We were working on the rear, we thought there was something funny about the rear end.”

“We were trying Detroit lockers, we were trying spools, we were trying open rears, we were trying everything, and it just darted off the track at high-speed, which you couldn’t do today because of the concrete barriers. You’d hit them about 2 or 3 times, you’d kill yourself or it’d be over.”

“But this track was built though in Orlando and a guard rail was 100 feet from the track in front of the spectators, way away from the track. It’s like all this nice smooth dirt and I could go out there and spin it out and not get hurt you know. So, we went back out again and went off the track. We were coming home and I’m like really dejected, I mean we just have run out of ideas on what’s wrong.”

How close is it now to long beach or the California race?

Three weeks, two weeks maybe. Maybe another week has gone because the sling shot was finished. All I had to do was paint the panels and put the letters on”

“So we go back to the shop, on the way back to the shop I’m riding what I call shotgun in the passenger’s seat, Swingle is driving and TC’s setting between us.”

“I didn’t have glasses then and I had my hat just like this and I said, ‘You know boys if I didn’t know better I’d think the steering is too fast, but that can’t be it ’cause we put the steering on that car just exactly the way it came off the slingshot.’”

“See this was before rack and pinions. We had the steering box way up front with all exactly the same stuff, it just ran the little arms out to the arms on the spindles.

Swingle said,” Gar, this isn’t a slingshot.  This is a front driver. If you think it steers to fast, we’ll just slow it down’.

“That night, we made longer arms for the spindles and shortened the little arm up which was pretty short already but we shortened it up more on the box and we go back to the track the next day and go straight as a string.”

“But the good part was, which you didn’t even expect, this is a very light car. It went to the line about 1250 pounds with me in.”

“It turned 6.86 seconds.  Now that don’t sound like anything today, but at that particular point in the sport that track record was 6.85 by the Ram-Chargers who set low ET everywhere they went.They hardly ever won a race cause they had a p- poor driver that couldn’t leave good, but they could sure lay down a number.”

“We only had 75% nitro in this car ’cause we just were trying to get from here to there.”

“We couldn’t get that stuff together fast enough. We go back to the shop and we got this nice brand new slingshot sitting on this jig and it’s a totally worthless now.  We’ve just made it worthless.”

“This is how my life has went and it goes this way because I believe the Man Upstairs runs the show and if you work with Him, they can’t stop you.”

“So anyway, the phone rings. Its Goodyear Tire and Rubber. They said,’Big Daddy we’re in trouble.’

“I said, ‘What’s wrong?’

‘The car we were supposed to have at Coliseum in LA can’t make it this weekend. We got a big problem, we wanted a nice dragster there,  a slingshot dragster with Goodyear tires on it for this show. Have you got anything?’

“I told them what I have.”

‘Oh my God, that’s perfect, that’s perfect. Can you get it to us?’

“I said I can.”

‘How much will all that cost?’

“I said $10,000.”

‘We’ll wire you the money,’

“We take the rear engine car all apart and we load the chassis in the rear of this small trailer; just tag-along trailer. We put the engine in the rack.”

“Now we don’t even have a spare engine, and of course the engine in the sling shot is a dummy we make up from broken parts. We put the nice finished sling shot on the floor of the trailer just like it’s a race car.”

“We got the rear end of the rear engine car over in a box in the corner, the body panels are wrapped up in blankets. It’s a tiny little 2 side panels and a nose. you know it’s nothing to it. They’re wrapped up in blankets on the floor.”

“For all practical purposes, you open that little side door and there’s no lights, it just looks like there’s a slingshot in there, a brand new one so we head out to California, me and Tommy.”

What happens in California? What does Chaparral’s Jim Hall have to do with the rear engine dragster? What about the battery powered dragster? You will need to read next week’s episode to find out.

“Big Daddy” vs Shirley Muldowney

As part of the 50th Annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Anniversary Celebration, at Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, eight legends of drag racing squared off against each other in the Unfinished Business competition. Fan votes paired Don Garlits vs Shirley Muldowney in the first round. Muldowney In the pink Toyota never looked back beating Garlits 15.49 to 17.41 in a rematch of their Top Fuel Final at Gainesville in 1982. Muldowney also won in 1982. The legend races were won by “The Professor” Warren Johnson. (NHRA photo)

Brian’s Ride volunteers getting ready for Caribou race

Looking out the back window of Madore Farms New Holland at the John Deere of Shawn Pelletier while clearing snow for parking and pits at the site for Tame the Track Mega Meltdown 2019. The groomers will move in next to prepare the race surface. (Madore Farms photo)

Caribou’s Keith Dumond utilizes a Volvo loader to push back the banks at the Mega Meltdown Vintage Endurance race track. The track is behind the Northern Brewing Restaurant in Caribou. Races begin at 11 am Saturday March 23. Proceeds from the event will go to benefit Brian’s Ride Cancer Fund at Jefferson Cary Medical Center.(Madore Farms..

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Episode 255

March 10, 2019

“Big Daddy” opens up to UpNorth Motorsports

In the personal shop of drag racing legend Don Garlits. In the background is Garlits’ electric dragster, Swamp Rat 38, which he hopes will set a drag racing record for electric-powered dragsters. Could 2019 be the year? The name Swamp Rat was given to Garlits in 1959 by fellow dragster driver Serop “Setto” Postoian who based it upon the Florida location of the eastern based racer. Most of the hot shoes at the time came out of California. (HTF Motorsports photo)

In previous episodes of UpNorth Motorsports, listed several motorsports legends that I would like to meet and interview. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would get a chance to sit down with one of drag racing’s biggest legends Don Garlits.

The journey to Garlits Museum actually began in January 2018 when on a whim I called the Museum and asked to speak to Garlits after reading about him in Road & Track magazine. Somewhat to my surprise he agreed to an interview on the Thursday prior to the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Turns out that Phil Miller and I were stranded in northern Maine when the airport was snowed in thus forcing us to leave on Thursday, meaning no Garlits interview in 2018. I called Don and explained that I would not be able to make the appointment. He was very gracious and agreed to an interview in 2019 if I was returning to Florida.

Turn the clock ahead to 2019 when an interview was set up for Thursday January 24 at 10 am. I stay with my brother Bill while in Florida and utilize him to take photos in the garage area at Daytona when I am in the turns.

It was with a great deal of anticipation that we left his Orlando home and headed northwest toward Ocala, about 1 1/2 hours away. In my mind I wondered what Garlits would be like…would he be like to young Garlits who was not always the nice guy at the track? Would this be a three question interview and then done?

Before the Swamp Rat moniker, Don Garlits built his first dragster from 2 sets of Model T frame rails at the shop where he worked in Tampa, Florida. The Canadian model flathead ford displaced 289 cubic inches and netted him his first NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) win. Top speed with this rail was 108.17 mph and 12.10 ET. Photo from Garlits Drag Racing  Museum, Ocala, Florida. (HTF Motorsports photo)

When we arrived at the Don Garlits Museum we were ushered in to meet Don in his office which is filled with racing memories of every imaginable type. It was like taking a walk down memory with photos, trophies, or keepsakes surrounding us depicting some event or memory of importance to one of the best known drag racers in history.

On his desk neatly stacked about 8 inches high were autograph requests which he had signed just prior to our interview. We were greeted by Garlits, who at 86, is quite spry as he bound out of his big leather chair and shook our hands with a firm handshake and the words, “Hi, I’m Don Garlits”.

I was unsure how much time he would allot to the interview so I had my list of questions ready to go and was fully prepared to have him answer two or three questions then excuse us so he might attend to other business.

Not the case. Two hours after arrival while touring Garlits collection of engines and cars in his private garage, his son Rodney tracked us down to remind his Dad that he had other commitments. We took time to pray together after which my brother and I talked with Chris Bumpus, Museum Restoration Specialist and Shop Foreman about a couple of projects going on in the fabrication shop. Next episode I will include more of Chris’s interesting story of how he became the project guy at the Restoration Shop.

Don Garlits with his son Rodney who serves as Assistant General Manager and Comptroller of Garlits Drag Racing Museum. I do believe Rodney works out with weights…look at those pipes! (HTF Motorsports photo)

After interviewing Garlits in his office for about an hour he said, “Want to see some of our special projects?”

We jumped at the privilege of being offered an inside look at both the fab shop and his private garage. First stop was through a door in the back of the office which opens directly to the fab shop where we were greeted with the new battery-powered dragster Swamp Rat 38. In fact the special gearing was to arrive that very day enabling Chris Bumpus to make serious strides forward to getting the car ready for 2019 record attempt, over 200 mph in the quarter-mile.

My assistant Bill Hale in the fab shop at Garlits Museum with Swamp Rat 38, the battery-powered dragster under construction. Hopefully it will be completed for record attempt in 2019. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I did not know that Garlits or at least his partner, Art Malone raced in Maine. After incurring burns at a race at Chester, South Carolina. in 1959 Don was unable to drive and his friend Art Malone, took over the driving. Don also changed over from the 8 carburetor set-up he had used previously pictured here, to a Hilborn two-port injector. With the ability to tune the car more accurately, performance immediately improved. At one of the first outings with Malone in the seat at Sanford, Maine on August 23, 1959, the car set a new 1320 foot speed record of 183.66 MPH.The Swamp Rat 1, claims Garlits,was his favorite car, stating it was that car which helped make him what he is today.(HTF Motorsports photo)

Garlits is a huge Smokey Yunick fan. He did not have a great deal of interaction with Smokey while he was alive, however, he did value the innovative spirit of the Daytona based Yunick. Garlits dedicated his garage section of the drag racing museum to a depiction of Yunick’s shop in Daytona which Garlits was able to visit after Yunick’s death.

Smokey told his daughter Trish that Garlits could have his pick of the engines that were located at the shop that needed to be removed after he died. Garlits obtained several very famous engines which are now on display including the dynamometer Smokey used up until retiring. On the dyno is a 427 Chevy developed for the Can Am an effort of McLaren in 1963. The engine was deemed to heavy after an aluminum version was produced. (HTF Motorsports)

Actual engines, dyno, and miscellaneous “stuff” from Smokey Yunick’s “Best Damned Garage in Town” located in Daytona. The spot where Yunick’s garage stood is vacant after the garage was torn down. Smokey did not want no museum dedicated to him. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Don Garlits with Smokey Yunick’s “Smoketron” which was built to test engine friction and develop ways to reduce the horsepower requirements simply to rotate the engine through its four cycles. Airflow through the engine was tested as well as exhaust flow.Smoketron was driven by the huge electric motor in the lower right. The test engine was bolted to the test device where Garlits left hand is located. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The Ardun head flathead Ford. The heads were built in Manhattan by Zora Arkus Duntov and his brother Yura Arkus Duntov. The name came from the brothers last names ARkus DUNtov. Garlits said the Ardun boys designed the heads for truck mechanics who wanted more power than the stock 100 horsepower and less overheating in the Ford trucks used by the military and commercial truckers. The brothers developed the hemi-heads which gave the engine another 75 horsepower. After some problems with the heads the Ardun was abandoned. You may recognize Zora. He went on to be “The Father of the Corvette” at Chevrolet. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Garlits was like a kid in a candy store as he started up four engines for us. The engines were mounted on stands with fuel tanks, electrical, and cooling. This was a pristine example of the 60 horsepower 1932 V8 which revolutionized the power plant market with its relatively cheap horsepower to cost ratio. The V8 provided the basis for many pre-war and post-war midget racers. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Next week Part 2 of Garlits Interview

Throughout the interview, Garlits’ voice would start softly as he told the beginning of an adventure and then descend to a loud, almost shouting voice as he excitedly explained how each account blended into what has become his life’s story. I was absolutely and thoroughly entertained by him as time passed very rapidly.

You won’t want to miss part 2 with a seldom told story of how Garlits nearly died at 3 months of age in a fire and a story he has never shared before in an interview. How a flight back from California with Chaparral famed Jim Hall helped Swamp Rats develop wings.Do not miss next week’s episode.

Garlits takes on Shirley Muldowney at Gator Nationals next weekend

NHRA fans have spoken and the first-round pairings for the much-anticipated Unfinished Business competition have been selected.

Hoards of fans voted online to select which NHRA Legends will face each other on the track at the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

The first-round match ups, in random order, are:
• “Big Daddy” Don Garlits vs. Shirley Muldowney
• “The Professor” Warren Johnson vs. Terry Vance
• Kenny Bernstein vs. Joe Amato
• Don “The Snake” Prudhomme vs. Ed “The Ace” McCulloch

NHRA fan favorite Darrell Gwynn, who will serve as the honorary starter for this prestigious group of competitors, announced the pairings online via NHRA’s Facebook page.

“I’m excited to watch all of these legends of NHRA drag racing get back on the track,” said Gwynn. “Just because they’re retired from professional drag racing doesn’t mean they’ve lost any of that competitive fire that makes them great. It’s going to get heated out there and the fans are going to love it.”

Each driver will compete in a custom Toyota Camry distinctly wrapped to emulate looks inspired by some of the drivers’ favorite rides.

Penultimate race for the 2019 Tame The Track Tour in Skowhegan

The vintage snowmobile endurance race tour is winding down with only one race to go, The Mega Meltdown race in Caribou March 23, 2019.

Meanwhile the Skowhegan make up race was held at Get ‘Er Done Raceway with Skowhegan Sno-Hawks Snowmobile Club the hosts. Thirteen entries in the 50 lap Trail 600 class made that race one of the most exciting for the day and a good conclusion to a day of racing.

Race promoter, Jere Humphrey, described the Trail 600 race stating, ” After dominating this epic special event last season, the talk amongst drivers was that RMR XC regular, Derek Dawson, had a huge bullseye on his back for the 2019 version, with several new competitors joining the winter racing action.”

“Anticipation grew throughout the afternoon, looking forward to the main event, which kept spectators on edge of the banks, cheering and talking about racers they probably didn’t even know.”

“Suspense was all now in the hands of the drivers, with fifty grueling laps awaiting on the deteriorated quarter-mile oval layout.”

“Action prevailed as promised, right from the initial green flag, with Henry Moneypenny capturing the Holeshot Contingency Award, sponsored by Last Chance Sno, passing Derek Dawson on the outside groove. Unfortunately, directly behind the leaders, sleds we’re beating and banging, searching for positions , causing a red flag conditions, as Justin Hartford was trapped underneath a rolled over snowmobile.”

“The original lap had not yet been recorded, race officials opted to restart the race and Hartford was able to get a sled replacement.”

“Green flag take two was an eye opener for the others, showing Dawson harder on the handlebars and leading not only the first lap, but the first forty-one circuits collecting the Tame the Track Halfway Contingency Bonus with the eventual race winner on his rear snowflap.

“Brandon Ouellette, who recently joined the Tame the Track Snowmobile Tour made the long trek from Fort Kent, Maine pay off, as his #179 Arctic Cat made the pass on Dawson on lap forty-two and never looked back stretching out the lead, with the end in sight.”

“The added challenge for Ouellette was not only on the track of fierce competitors, but with his loyalty to his brand Cat, as his 2019 entry only has a three gallon fuel cell!”

“Daytona Gould also on a well prepared Arctic Cat, would earn the runner-up spot, after making the pass on Dawson just a lap later (lap 43), giving hope and running room to chase down the leader.”

“With Derek Dawson now dropping back to third spot, the two Cats clawed their way to the checkered flag for the final eight laps, putting on an awesome showcase of talent and machines.”

“At one point, Gould took the lead briefly weaving through lap traffic, but Ouellette was able to regain the lead on the same lap.”

“In the end, when the snow dust settled Brandon Ouellette — #179 won the BCD Excavation Trail 600 race sponsored by Dawson Racing, with Daytona Gould— #6 coming home second and Derek Dawson- #29 third in the final podium spot.”

“Great race for the supportive spectators and the fellow competitors. Great display of respect and sportsmanship amongst the drivers.”

Race results

Dysart’s Truck Stop KIDS 120cc STOCK —
1st Kaleb Partridge: Charleston, Polaris
2nd Keeghan Reynolds: Hermon,Polaris
3rd Keaton Brennen: Eustis, Arctic Cat

Witham’s Heating KIDS 120cc IMPROVED —
1st  Riley Hartford: Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Polaris
2nd Nick Ciampa: Mount Vernon, Arctic Cat
3rd Ben Ciampa: Mount Vernon, Arctic Cat

Witham’s Paving & Machias Savings KIDS 120cc MODIFIED –
1st Emmett Walker: New Vineyard, Arctic Cat
2nd Riley Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Polaris
3rd Kaden Rose: Skowhegan, Arctic Cat

Katahdin Motorsports & Pro Industrial Plus KIDS 200 STOCK
1st Kaden Rose: Skowhegan, Arctic Cat
2nd Jayce Rose: Skowhegan, Yamaha
3rd Austin Lancaster: Skowhegan, Arctic Cat

Casella Waste Systems WOMEN’S INVITATIONAL —
1st Alley Ripley: Center Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
2nd Haley Frohlich: Auburn, Polaris
3rd Haley Brownell: Ossipee, NH, Yamaha

1st Riley Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
2nd Austin Witham: Levant, Yamaha
3rd Hailey Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha

Houlton Powersports & RV TEENS INVITATIONAL —
1st Henry Moneypenny: West Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
2nd Landon Collins: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
3rd Asa Grace: West Ossipee, NH, Yamaha

Blanchard’s Towing & Recovery SINGLE CYLINDER STOCK
1st Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Sno-Jet
2nd Mike Eldridge: AR Ossipee, NH, Yamaha
3rd Pat Garand: Sidney, Elan

Harry’s Motorsports & Equipment SINGLE CYLINDER MODIFIED —
1st Caleb Morris: Turner, Arctic Cat
2nd Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
3rd Andy Frohlich: Auburn, Arctic Cat

Renegade Race Fuels 340 STOCK —
1st Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
2nd Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat
3rd Henry Moneypenny: West Ossipee, NH, Yamaha

Savage Paint & Body 340 MODIFIED —
1st Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
2nd Derek Dawson: Jefferson, Ski Doo
3rd place Dalton Varney: Effingham, NH, Mercury Twister

Bangor Motorsports & J McLaughlin Construction 440 STOCK —
1st Daytona Gould: Dexter, Arctic Cat
2nd Justin Hartford: Wolfeboro, NH, Yamaha
3rd Shawn Berry: Center Ossipee, NH, Yamaha

Tame the Track 440 Modified race left to right Cole Valley, race winner Shawn Berry, Ben Eldridge, (all three from Ossipee Valley, NH,) and Daytona Gould, Dexter. (Jamie Hathcock photo)

O’Reilly Auto Parts 440 Modified..

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