1961 Monthly Headlines
The first two issues of the year included news of the upcoming inaugural Winternationals in Pomona. The event was to last three days, with Friday reserved for registration, inspection, and time trials. Each of the four eliminator winners would win a new 390-cid Ford engine. John Paulson of P&G Manufacturing in Oregon would be at the race with his new instrument for checking cubic-inch displacement without removing a cylinder head. ... Don Breithhaupt's record-holding B/A Coupe that had won the 1959 and 1960 U.S. Nationals was for sale, complete with spares and trailer, for $3,000.
The Big Go West Special Issue featured four photo pages on the upcoming Winternationals: two on the top drag contenders and two on the top custom cars expected. ... The Big Go results: Jack Chrisman won Top eliminator, Mickey Thompson won Middle eliminator, Dick Manz won Little eliminator, and Johnny Loper won Street eliminator. Don Nicholson won Stock in his 409-powered '61 Chevy. ... 6,000 witnessed the Eastern Winter Nationals at the Navy's Master Field in Miami. Ed Garlits ran 9.26, 163.33 with his blown Chrysler to beat Harvey Collins for the Top Eliminator title. ... Before television coverage, fans could listen to the drags on LP records. "Soundsville, the eighth annual Southwestern Divisional Championships," was available for $3.95 plus 25 cents postage and handling.
The fastest car from the Winternationals was the lone cover subject on March 10, the Bayer-Frietas twin-blown-Chevy-powered rail driven by Hayden Proffitt to a speed of 176.81 mph. ...The photo coverage from the Winternationals was a page and a half. ... More than 120 cars showed for the season opener at Caddo Mills, north of Dallas. The Creitz Automotive fuel dragster took Top Eliminator over Eddie Hill, who in his blown gas Pontiac dragster, won that eliminator and had low e.t. and top time for the day at 9.35 and 153.51 mph into a 35-mph headwind. Hill's dragster was on the cover of the March 24 issue.
The brand-new 3,700-foot Indianapolis Raceway Park dragstrip became the official home to the seventh annual Nationals. The last of two NHRA national events of the year would pay double points to the winners. ... "Nearly every top dragging machine on the West Coast" was at Riverside Raceway, lured by the appearance of Chris Karamesines and his fueler from Chicago. Karamesines lost in round one to the Pink's Automotive dragster, the eventual event winner, but had low e.t. and top speed at 8.56 and 183.00 mph. ... A race between Jack Moss' twin-blown Chevy dragster and Lyndall White's blown Chrysler at Amarillo Dragway was on the cover. Moss had the best e.t. and speed at 9.44 and 168.22 mph on gasoline. ... A beautiful Olds-powered '32 highboy formerly owned and built by Hot Rod magazine's Tex Smith was listed for sale by George Schrieber in Drag Mart for $1,850. ... Don Garlits won the $500 bonus for top speed at 168.53 mph at Newton County Dragstrip. ... The late Terrell Poage took over April 1 as Northwest Division director when Jack Merrill moved to NHRA headquarters in Los Angeles to become Administrative Director. ... More than 6,000 spectators and 400 racers attended the second season opener at Atco Raceway. ... Ben (Bennie) Osborn, the future 1967 and 1968 Top Fuel world champion, won Top Eliminator in Tulsa, Okla., with his A/Modified Roadster at 143.54 mph and the G/Stock class with his '59 El Camino tow car at 16.58 seconds. ... Top Eliminator at the Texas State Gas Championships at Rodd Drag Strip in Corpus Christi would win a $250 bond. It cost $1 to race or spectate plus 50 cents for a pit pass.
Phil McCutchen was named the first Southeast Division Director. ... The 1961 Top Eliminator world champion, determined at the Nationals, would also win a 1961 Thunderbird. ... NHRA had 76 member tracks. ... At Southern New England Timing Association’s season opener at Charlestown Naval Auxiliary field in Rhode Island, Bill Petersen won Top Eliminator with a low e.t. of 9.7 from his A/Dragster. Lee Tatro's new blown Hemi rear-engine A/Dragster had top speed at 141 mph. ... The first revisions to the NHRA Rulebook were printed in National DRAGSTER. Among them, under Engines: "Crankshaft centerlines may not exceed 24 inches from the ground in any class."
The Stone-Woods Willys (Cook wasn't there yet), equipped with a new blown Olds engine, won Top Eliminator in Pomona with a time of 11.10 at 129.21 mph. ... The two twin-blown small-block Chevy dragsters — the Jack Chrisman-driven Howard's Cams Special and the Dragmasters Two Thing driven by Jim Nelson and Dode Martin — were winning and setting records across the land. Cover subject Chrisman set the record at 8.97 in Emporia, Va. ... The late Jimmy Nix defeated Lyndall White at the Texas versus California meet at newly repaved (for $15,000) Amarillo Dragway. ... Vance Hunt's Chrysler rail defeated the Chevy-powered Mareurz-Janke dragster from California in a match race. ... Current and longtime Division 4 Technical Director Chuck Nelson penned a report from a points race in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mickey Thompson, driving four cars, including a '61 Catalina, set eight international speed records for the mile and kilometer at March Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif. ... The Stock world champion at the Nationals would be awarded a new full-race 368-cid '61 Catalina set up by Royal Pontiac. Each of the five eliminator winners would also receive a 348-horsepower Pontiac V-8 complete with a Hurst-equipped three-speed transmission. Hurst-Campbell sponsored both awards. ... A photo was published of the seven-foot, four-inch trophy that would be awarded to the world champion at the Nationals.
The late Dick Harrell won Super Stock and Stock at the Amarillo Regional Championship race with his 409-powered '61 Chevy in 14.17 seconds. The day before, in lower-altitude York, Pa., Dave Strickler won with his 409-powered '61 in 13.20 seconds at 111.12 mph. ... A full-page Lions Drag Strip add touted $1,000-to-win Top Eliminator races for four weeks in September and October. Tow money of $25 was paid to the first 10 entries from more than 250 miles away. ... Joe Schubeck downed Connie "Collitta" in a best-of-three fuel dragster match race in West Salem, Ohio, with a best time of 8.68 at 169.17 mph. ... A small piece submitted by U.S. 30 operator and future booking agent Ben Christ offered an opinion on the origin of the term "drag" racing; two farmers in the days before automobiles would show off their best horses by attaching weighted sleds behind them and then have a drag race at a predetermined distance.
The winners at the nitro-less Nationals were Pete Robinson in Top eliminator, Walt Knoch Jr. in Middle eliminator, Willis Ragsdale in Little eliminator, and Jr. Garrison in Street eliminator. Robinson had low e.t. at 8.68, and Dode Martin's twin-engine rail set top speed at 177.87 mph. ... Jack Chrisman, after successfully racing the twin-engine Howard's Cams Special all over the country in 1961, accumulated the most points to be crowned NHRA world champion at the Nationals. Bruce Morgan and his '57 Chevy from San Gabriel, Calif., won the 1961 Stock world title. Morgan drove his '57 Chevy to the races — 5,985 miles in July alone when he went to Alton, Ill., and won. ... Joe Jacono won Top Eliminator again in the Northeast, this time at New Jersey's Atco Raceway. ... Ron Pellegrini, driving Tommy Ivo's four-engine, four-wheel-drive dragster, ran 173.07 mph at Minnesota Dragway.
The month's first of two issues showed some of the custom cars entered in the National Champion Custom Car Show held with the Nationals. ... The York U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way Regional meet was the first at which Stock national records could be set. Dave Strickler's 13.24 at 107.65 mph in the Ammon R. Smith 409-powered '61 Chevy tuned by Bill Jenkins was the first of six records set at the meet and quickest and fastest.
As at the Nationals, Eddie Hill's twin-blown Pontiac-powered gas rail literally ripped up the asphalt at Connecticut Dragway. ... At York U.S. 30, Dave Strickler's '61 Chevy defeated the Ramchargers' '61 Dodge every time with best marks of 13.21 and 109.75 mph. ... Bruce Morgan's world champion '57 Chevy Stocker was for sale in Drag Mart for $2,250, including spare parts. The car was undefeated for the year and had B/S top speed at the Nationals at 97.71 mph. ... Michigan state champion Connie Kalitta became the first non-Californian in the six-year history of Lions Dragstrip to win Top Eliminator. Of 26 other AA/Dragsters and A/Dragsters, Kalitta defeated Jack Chrisman in the final with an 8.73, 172.08.
The first cover in December featured one big picture of the Moon Equipment Co. blown small-block Chevy dragster driven by Jim Nelson at the points-earning Inyokern, Calif., event. The yellow and chrome A/Dragster, with the blower mounted in front of the engine, had won class at the Nationals. The bottom headline announced that Ed Garlits had won his third Florida state title. ... The eliminators in 1961: Dragsters, Modified Roadsters, Roadsters, Altereds, Competition Coupes/Sedans, Street Roadsters, Gas Coupes/Sedans, Supercharged Gas Coupes/Sedans, Sports Cars. ... The Stone-Woods-Cook supercharged Olds gasser and the Cerny's Automotive-White Brothers A/Modified Roadster were the cover cars from the opening race of the "1962" season. ... Tom McEwen closed his season at Lions with his third Top Eliminator win in a row.
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