First thing, I have to stress about my drag racing career, my racing was never a hobby, even when it was on a hobby level, before I became a traveling professional drag racer. In the beginning, in 1969, as a regional sportsman drag racer I also owned a two year old, hands on automotive shop specializing in high performance car service. I realized immediately, even racing on an amateur level, it was ‘Race on Sunday and Sell on Monday!’
Who would take their vehicle to be repaired, or have a hot rod or race engine built, by a loser. I had no choice but to work hard, do well and win. And win I did. By 1976 I became a professional traveling Pro Stock drag racer. I was then getting not only local, but also national coverage. My motto, "Race on Sunday and Sell on Monday", became even more important. My racing successes during my career has gifted me with more business than I can finish if I worked till I am 100. Retiring from my business is not an option; I’m 74 and will build performance and race engines till I drop.
I have said many times, jokingly, in interviews, "Drag Racing made me semi famous. I got away in one piece, kind of, but I didn’t end up wealthy. Hey! Two out of three isn’t bad! "
Linda Lou and I are okay and we’ll get by. I consider myself very lucky. Many of my race victim peers are dead or crippled and I’m still up on the tires! And so is Linda Lou. She just came from substitute teaching as I was writing this. Linda, now 73, taught 40 years full bore. Now retired, she subs every chance she can, which is constantly. Add the sub years and she has now taught 51 years. Linda was a first year teacher when I met her in 1964.
As I look around my shop, there are mementos displayed for 55 years of racing. Many of which are broken pieces. Everything from burnt pistons, broken rods, cranks, flywheels, clutches, engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmission and rear end broken pieces. Then there are crashed race car body parts made of steel, aluminum, magnesium, fiberglass and carbon fiber. There are crashed doors, hoods, roofs, escape hatches, front clips, spoilers, fenders, quarter panels, wheels, broken lexan windows and more.
I had to rotate this picture. Fender and hood are from W. Bird at Md. Door is from my Zephyr Zeke in 1980.
And more includes broken super-expensive suspension parts, cut apart twisted chrome molly tubing sections and worn out parachutes hanging from the rafters. Along with the car pieces, there are discarded scuffed up helmets, burnt and torn fire suits and driving shoes and used seat harnesses.
And of course, I have my own physical and mental maladies to remind me of my 5 major crashes, especially the crashes in 1960 and 1975. Ouch!
In the famous words of John Wayne, "A day without pain is like a day without sunshine." For sure pain assures me I’m still alive. Some days I feel like a football player the morning after the season's first practice. Some days are ok.
My broken engine and car pieces, added together, were probably worth serious six figures when in service. A new Pro Modified car, a true player like my last two Thunderbirds, would be worth $400K today. Plus three times that for back up pieces, crew and logistics. But if I had the funding, I would build a new Pro Mod in a heartbeat and drive it myself. But who would be crazy enough to fund a venture like that with a 74 year old man that has marginal health problems? No matter how popular he was.