1972 Monthly Headlines
At the last Grand Premiere ever at Lion's Drag Strip (the track would close its gates forever in December), Don "the Snake" Prudhomme uncorked the quickest Top Fuel pass of all time. In the final round, he left first and clocked a 6.174 in his yellow rear-engined dragster to beat John Wiebe, who made the second-best run ever, 6.175, in his front-engined Donovan-powered car. The NHRA national record at the time was Don Garlits' 6.26. Wiebe also ran 236.22 mph, tying Tony Nancy's brand-new speed record. ... A new track, the Las Vegas Speedrome, was completed, replacing Vegas' Stardust Raceway, which was closed in late 1971 because due to land development. ... A new category, Stock Eliminator, reserved "exclusively for cars driven right off the street," was created. The former Stock Eliminator was combined into the existing Super Stock category, as Modified would be absorbed by Comp and Super Stock 10 years later.
Bill Jenkins took the Pro Stock title at the Winternationals in the debut of his lightweight 332-cid Chevy-powered '72 Vega. Carl Olson claimed the biggest victory of his career, upsetting reigning Division 7 Top Fuel champion Dennis Baca in the final. ... in Funny Car, Ed McCulloch began the best stretch of his driving career with a final-round win over another of today's fuel crew chiefs, Dale Pulde. ... Clayton Harris became the first to string together four straight 6.2s in a Top Fuel dragster — 6.24, 6.22, 6.28, and 6.27, all at between 232 and 235 mph — during his win at an All-Pro event at Orange County Int'l Raceway. A week later at Lion's Drag Strip, he upped the mark with an all-time-best 6.16.
Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen claimed perhaps the biggest win of his career to that point, outlasting a huge field to win the Top Fuel crown the "racer's race," the March Meet, in Bakersfield, Calif. He was using a Don Garlits chassis. ... At the third annual Gatornationals, Garlits, 40, topped Clayton Harris in the Top Fuel final in the quickest race of all time, 6.17 to 6.24. During the event, "Big Daddy" also became the quickest (6.15), and fastest (243.90) Top Fuel driver ever.
Pat Foster became Funny Car's quickest driver with a 6.40 at Rockingham Dragway. ... Clayton Harris reclaimed the Top Fuel mark with a 6.11 at Suffolk Dragway in Virginia. ... Lil' John Lombardo, the eventual 1985 U.S. Nationals champion, won the first big Funny Car race of the year at Irwindale Raceway. ... Current Top Fuel crew chief Ken Veney ran the first 8-teens with an injected Funny Car en route to an undefeated season with his Veney's Vega. ... Still-active Funny Car racer Dale Creasy scored at the Indianapolis Raceway Park Division 3 opener with driver Al Marshall.
Night races were held for the first time at National Trail Raceway outside Columbus, Ohio, the new host of the upcoming eighth annual NHRA Springnationals. ... Jerry Ruth continued his domination of Northwest Top Fuel racing by winning at Deer Park Raceway in Spokane, Wash., over Ken McLean and his crew chief (but not yet driver) Gary Beck, the soon-to-be 1972 U.S. Nationals Top Fuel champion. ... Bill Jenkins reset the NHRA national record for Pro Stock with a 9.42 at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. ... 19-year-old college student Randy Allison won his first Top Fuel title at an event at Orange County Int'l Raceway, beating Brissette & Noice in the final. Brissette was using the new aluminum Donovan 417 engine for the first time.
Mid-season points leaders in Top Fuel were Sarge Arciero (Division 1), Clayton Harris (Division 2), Dale Funk (Division 3), Bill Wigginton (Division 4), Ed Renck (Division 5), Jerry Ruth (Division 6), and Bob Noice (Division 7). ... Chip Woodall, driving Gene Snow's Top Fuel dragster, upset Winternationals winner Carl Olson in the final round of the Springnationals for his only NHRA title. McCulloch, enjoying the greatest season of his career, won Funny Car. He'd already won the other three big ones of 1972: the Winternationals, Gatornationals, and March Meet. ... Pro Stock newcomer Warren Johnson of Fridley, Minn., won a show at Minnesota Dragways when both he and final-round opponent Bob Harvey received red-lights. Harvey was found to be 100 pounds light and Johnson was declared the winner.
Both ends of the NHRA Top Fuel record were reset at the Division 7 points meet at Lion's Drag Strip. Clayton Harris set the official e.t. mark at 6.15, Bill Tidwell the speed mark at 239.64. Oddly, they met in round one, and Tidwell won on a holeshot, 6.36 to 6.25. ... 18-year-old Jeb Allen became the youngest to win a Professional category at a national event by defeating McEwen, who was enjoying one of his best years ever, in the Top Fuel final of the Summernationals in Englishtown. ... McCulloch made it to the Summernationals final before losing to Don Schumacher. ... Also at that event, the first scoreboards to appear at a national event were unveiled.
At Le Grandnational in Montreal, 23-year-old underdog Art Marshall, driving a swoopy slingshot purchased from Tom McEwen, takes the last major Top Fuel win for a front-engined entry. Jeb Allen, looking for two in a row, ran through a puddle of his own water and went up in smoke just off the starting line. Don Schumacher won Funny Car easily when Al Marshall was shut off with Dale Creasy's car. McCulloch bested Schumacher, the other major event winner of 1972, at a match race in Martin, Mich., at which both appeared after having their cars damaged in incidents at other match races. ... NHRA Vice President-Facilities Operation and Development Wayne McMurtry, then a Comp racer, won the Division 5 event at Donnybrooke Int'l Speedway (now known as Brainerd Int'l Raceway) on the way to a world championship season.
Beck merely won Top Fuel at the U.S. Nationals in his driving debut, running a 6.11, one of the better passes ever, to eclipse Ruth, who went up in smoke after earlier
establishing an all-time best of 6.06. McCulloch won Funny Car for the second year in a row, this time defeating young Gordie Bonin in the final, and Ray Allen won Pro Stock. Many of the top names of the day missed Indy to attend National Challenge '72 in Tulsa. ... "Jungle Jim" Liberman lost his first race with what would be one of his most
popular cars, his first Revell Vega with the scoopless injector. Lew Arrington beat him two straight at Maple Grove Raceway with his stock-stroke Brutus Mustang. ... Allison broke the Lion's Drag Strip track record with a 6.13 and also recorded a 6.15.
Top Fuel racer Jim Walther and Funny Car racer Larry Fullerton became NHRA World champions by winning the World Finals at Amarillo Dragway. Neither had won a national event before. Hard-luck Clayton Harris was Top Fuel runner-up, and hard-luck Jake Johnston was Funny Car runner-up for the second year in a row. Jenkins, who had dominated Pro Stock all year with his Grumpy's Toy Vega, ruled again. ... Changes to the controversial Pro Stock rules are announced. Small-block-powered cars must weigh a minimum of 2,100, not 2,300 as was proposed.
At the Supernationals at Ontario Motor Speedway, the greatest race ever to that point, the five-second barrier officially is broken by Mike Snively on a losing 5.97 run in Top Fuel eliminations. Don Moody won the event with the Walton-Cerny-Moody dragster with an unbelievable 5.91. Crew chief Wes Cerny also powered Moody to a 6.00 and a 6.01. Also at the memorable event, Bob Glidden a Pro Stock unknown competing at his first NHRA national event as a Pro, took runner-up honors to Bill Jenkins and even outran Jenkins in the final but lost on a holeshot. Jim Dunn, a 25-1 shot whose rear-engined Funny Car is described by Tricky Tipster as "Has yet to se the world on fire" became the only driver to wheel a rear-engined car to an NHRA national event win.
McEwen, who grew up just down the road from Lion's Drag Strip in Long Beach, Calif., won the beloved track's Last Drag Race Dec. 2, beating the new Barracuda of Prudhomme in the Funny Car final. Olson won Top Fuel. ... On the other side of the country, Garlits won the Miami National Open at Miami-Hollywood Speedway Park, defeating his biggest rival at the time, Harris, in the final round. Richard Tharp drove the Blue Max to the Funny Car win over Paul Smith, and Reid Whisnant dominated Pro Stock.
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