1962 Monthly Headlines
The year began with the national records of 8.78 (Howard Cams Co. twin-engine Chevy) and 175.78 mph (Dragmaster Two-Thing), both set on gasoline during NHRA's ban on nitromethane fuel. ... New performance cars from Detroit included Ford's 406-cid, 405-horsepower Galaxie, Chevrolet's first Corvette offered with a 327-cid engine, the 345-horsepower Oldsmobile Starfire, and Chrysler's 413-cid wedge engine for its Dodge and Plymouth Super Stock entries. ... Each winner in Top, Middle, Little, Junior, and Street eliminators was awarded a new Ford 406.
Jim Nelson, who with partner Dode Martin had begun to dominate the dragster chassis business, won the prestigious Winternationals Top Eliminator title by defeating the highly touted team of Gene Adams and Tom McEwen in the final, 8.71 to 9.08. Both drivers clocked identical speeds of 170.13 mph. ... Other winners were Gary Cagle in Middle eliminator, Hugh Tucker (Little), Bob Balough (Junior), Earl Wade (Street), and Don Nicholson, the only repeat winner from the inaugural 1961 event, in Top Stock. ... Roland Leong's Dragmaster Hawaii team took Best Appearing Crew honors.
Sammy Hale in Top Fuel and Pete Robinson in Top Gas won the California State Championships held at Half Moon Bay in California. Don Prudhomme, driving Kent Fuller's Dave Zeuschel-powered entry, took low e.t. and top speed (8.33, 186.80). ... Eddie Hill's twin-Pontiac entry bested Connie Kalitta's single Chrysler Hemi in the AA/D final in Amarillo, Texas, 9.25 to 9.27.
A pair of Pontiac Grand Prix sports coupes were added to the list of prizes for the winners of the 1962 World Championship Points program, courtesy of Hurst-Campbell Corp. ... The Madera '62 California Regional Championship was highlighted by five national records and Jack Chrisman's AA/D victory. ... Ramchargers driver Jim Thornton gave a hint of the Chrysler domination in Super Stock to follow by setting track records of 12.93, 115.00 at Detroit Dragway with his 413-cid wedge.
In yet another example of the many challenges NHRA faced with civic officials who were not advocates of organized and supervised drag racing, a National DRAGSTER editorial took exception to the remarks made by Pennsylvania Commissioner of Highway Safety O.D. Shipley in an issue of the Saturday Evening Post that offered no solution to situations that would exist on the nation's highways if dragstrips were not available. ... Jim Nelson's Dragmaster Dart established AA/D records of 8.63, 176.12 mph at the Memphis, Tenn., Divisional Championships May 20. Nelson's accompanying victory placed him first in the NHRA World Championship Points program with 90 points. ... At the same event, Elwin Westbrook of Ontario, Calif., won class and set national records with his A/S Chevy, putting him on top in Stock with 50 points. ... One weekend later in Amarillo, Texas, the team of Kelly Chadwick and Don Hardy moved into first place with their B/Gas '32 Ford coupe, just 10 points ahead of Nelson. ... A race in the rivalry between the Masters & Richter Chrysler and Jim McClellan's Chevy-powered Champion Speed Shop Special went to McClellan's driver, Sammy Hales, though the Hemi set low e.t. and top speed with times of 8.42, 184.43.
NHRA honored Championship Spark Plug Co. and the Autolite Division of Ford Motor Co. for their valuable contributions to the safety and progress of hot rodding. ... The Pomona Regional race was highlighted by Jim Nelson's 8.67 final-round win over the Dragmaster Hawaii entry with his Dodge-powered entry to move back into first place in the World Championship standings. K.S. Pittman and Mike Edwards won class, Middle eliminator, and set national records of 10.55 and 135.66 with their A/GS Willys. Larry (later known as Butch) Leal won Stock with a '62 Chevy 409. ... A highly publicized match race between Connie Swingle in Don Garlits' Swamp Rat III Top Fueler and the 500-cid gas-burning Bounty Hunter of Connie Kalitta in York, Pa., was won by Swingle in two rounds, 8.50 to 8.68 and 8.41 to 8.91. ... Emory Cook piloted the Cook-Blair A/Fuel Dragster to a win in another fueler versus gasser match in Pomona with an 8.53 best.
Art Chrisman's A/FD Hustler I won the Pomona Top Fuel show with a final-round 8.36 victory over the Porter & Reis Airline Auto Special, but in the match for Overall Eliminator against Top Gas victor Gordon Collett, a pair of wheelstands forced him to shut down while Collett recorded a fantastic 8.56, 180.76. ... Jess Van Deventer, who had been stuck in the middle of the World Championship Points standings for most of the year, climbed to within five points (300 to 295) of first-place Nelson by driving his small-block Chevy B/SR to class and Junior eliminator wins at the York U.S. 30 divisional event July 7. Van Deventer added 45 points at the Pocatello Idaho Regional, and after Nelson stumbled in the Arlington, Wash., AA/D final against Harold Amyx July 22, Van Deventer took advantage by scoring 90 points with a class and Junior eliminator win at the Continental Divide Raceway championships. Van Deventer now had a 375-310 margin over Nelson, a lead he would maintain for the balance of the season to claim the World Championship title as he closed out the month with a class and eliminator win at Omaha Dragway July 29.
In anticipation of a close finish in the World Championship Points program, NHRA established a tiebreaker system, placing premiums on relative performances at the Nationals. ... The Southwest Divisional Championships in Pomona resulted in new national records for 29 of the existing 41 Stock classes. ... Nelson lowered the AA/D standard to 8.59, and Van Deventer countered with an A/MR mark of 10.53 and a class win. ... Tom Grove's Melrose Missile 1 Plymouth took Top Stock at Half Moon Bay with bests of 12.42, 117.34. The Mopars had not yet established total domination, however; Dave Strickler piloted the Bill Jenkins-tuned Old Reliable Chevy 409 to a best-of-five match race victory over a hard-running Ramchargers Dodge.
Defending NHRA world champion Jack Chrisman added to his legendary career by winning the 1962 Nationals, defeating Don Garlits' Swamp Rat IV in the final with an 8.76, 171.5. Harrison Jacobs won Middle eliminator, and Pete Shadinger, Sam Jones, and Hayden Proffitt won Little, Street, and Stock, respectively. ... For his efforts, Chrisman received a Dodge 413 engine, 110 Honda motorcycle, and huge trophy from Car Craft magazine. ... Garlits drove Kalitta's Bounty Hunter to a national record 180.36 mph. ... Jim Nelson's hopes for beating out Jess Van Deventer in the points race ended with his loss in AA/D class eliminations and Van Deventer's win. The final tally was 470 for Van Deventer against Ray Godman's 455. Nelson slipped to third with 385, and C/FX '62 Chevy campaigner Tom Sturm took the Stock championship by nipping the G/SA '56 Chevy of Dan Roberts, 320 to 305. ... Jim Wangers of Royal Pontiac fame took Stock eliminator honors in Muncie, Ind., with a 12.74, 114-mph best.
NHRA received keys for eight new Mercury Colony Park station wagons for its division directors at the AMA Auto Show in Detroit's Cobo Hall. ... AA/D winners in regional events were Earl Poage at Continental Divide Raceway Sept. 9, Connie Kalitta at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, N.J., Sept. 16, and Poage again in Arlington, Wash., Sept. 23. ... '62 Nationals winner Jack Chrisman ran 183 mph on gas at the New England Championships in East Haddam, Conn., then hopped into a Top Fueler to run 185 mph. ... Three Fords from the Ed Martin dealership in Indianapolis earned trophies in A/FX, B/FX, SS/S, and C/SA and wins in Street and Stock eliminator. ... Bernie Partridge was named Southwest Division director.
The Porter-Reis Oldsmobile A/FD took top honors in Pomona, defeating the Cook-Blair entry in the final with an 8.19, 184 after setting the track e.t. record at 8.10 with a best speed of 185.94 mph. ... Racing for a purse that consisted of a $1,000 bond, Southern California's best Top Fuelers gathered at Pomona Raceway Nov. 25 for one of the more memorable Southern California races ever as Don Moody clocked a 7.96, backed up with a 7.99, to win the event over the Porter-Reis Olds. "T.V. Tommy" Ivo's Zeuschel-powered entry set top speed with a run of 190.26 mph.
New NHRA rules for 1963 expanded Stock class designations and the new Super Stock category as the top class. A maximum engine size was set at 427 cid, and the weight-per-cubic-inch ratio was no lower than 7.5 pounds per cubic inch, determined by dividing cubic inches into shipping weight. ... The popular Ernie's Camera Shop Shudderbug won Top Eliminator in Pomona with a best of 8.07. ... Five eliminator winners at the '63 Winternationals would win Ford 427 engines. ... Steve Porter matched Don Moody's 7.96 Pomona track record for a Dec. 9 Top Fuel win. Bill "Maverick" Golden won his third straight Top Stock title in Pomona Dec. 16, and '62 world champion Jess Van Deventer with his B/MR and the famed Mooneyham & Sharp A/FC '34 Ford coupe took class wins.
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