1984 Monthly Headlines
Dallas Gardner was named president of NHRA, succeeding NHRA founder Wally Parks, who had served as the organization's president for 33 years. ... The Angus chemical company announced a price reduction for a drum of nitromethane, cutting the cost by nearly $200, to $1,255. ... NHRA completed the purchase of Gainesville Raceway, home of the Gatornationals since 1970. ... Firebird Int'l Raceway in Northwest Phoenix, Ariz., current home of the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, opened. ... The Super Start system, which prevents drivers in Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street from deep staging, debuted.
Heart like a Wheel, a film based on the life of three-time Top Fuel champ Shirley Muldowney, was released in theaters across the country. ... Larry Minor debuted his Miller Lite All-Star team, which featured Top Fuel driver Gary Beck and Funny Car racer Ed McCulloch. ... Gary Ormsby (Top Fuel), Al Segrini (Funny Car), and Lee Shepherd (Pro Stock) won Pro titles at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona. At that event, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits made his first NHRA appearance in nearly a year and upset low qualifier Beck en route to a semifinal finish. ... The Super Stock GT classes, designed for early-model engines in late-model cars, made their formal debut in Pomona.
NHRA placed a moratorium on the use of bead-lock rear wheels, pending a safety evaluation. ... Billy Meyer ran a 5.81 best in his 7-Eleven/Chief Auto Parts Mustang to win an eight-car open Funny Car show held during the Division 2 points meet in Atlanta. ... In one of the most historic events in NHRA history, Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein cracked the 260-mph barrier in Top Fuel and Funny Car with passes made within 90 minutes of each other at the Gatornationals. ... At the Division 2 points event at Warner Robins Dragway, Darrell Gwynn became the first Alcohol racer to break into the 6.20 zone with a 6.27. ... Two years after construction began, Garlits opened his Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla. ... Brad Klein recorded the first seven-second pass for any full-bodied Sportsman car with a 7.98 in his A/Gas Camaro at the Division 4 opener in Fort Worth, Texas.
NHRA announced that chassis inspections would begin immediately for competitors in all three Professional categories and both Alcohol classes. ... Sportsman standout Jeff Taylor made his Pro Stock debut at the Southern Nationals, wheeling a new Camaro owned by fellow Super Stock racer Steve Bagwell, but failed to qualify with a 7.96 best. Also at the Southern Nationals, Clinton Smith, of Chicago, won the first Super Comp title at a national event with a perfect 8.900 in the final against Mark Worden. ... Brad Anderson ran nearly two-tenths of a second quicker than anyone else in Alcohol Funny Car in easily claiming the class title at the Sportsnationals in Indy.
John Force remained winless in national event competition, but he was a terror on the match race circuit and claimed a big win at the Coors 32 Funny Car show at Firebird Raceway in Boise when he beat Gary Thompson's Checker Auto Parts Citation. ... When the first few Stock eliminator cars tore up the asphalt at State Capitol Dragway during the Cajun Nationals, NHRA crews, led by Vice President-Competition Steve Gibbs, rebuilt the track overnight by removing the new asphalt cap and refurbishing the old surface. ... At the Cajun Nationals, in one of the worst two-car accidents in NHRA history, McCulloch got crossed up and ran into the side of John Collins' JVC Camaro during Funny Car qualifying. McCulloch and Collins were not hurt.
A sign of troubled times for the Top Fuel class; just 15 cars attempted to qualify for the Springnationals in Columbus, which Beck won. In comparison, 24 Funny Cars were in attendance. Mark Oswald drove the Candies & Hughes Firebird past Tom McEwen's Coors Corvette in the final. In Pro Stock, Shepherd downed surprise finalist Mark Yuill. ... Top Fuel driver Doug Kerhulas was seriously injured in Columbus when his parachute failed to open, and his car ran off the end of the track. ... T. Wayne Robertson succeeded Ralph Seagraves as the director of the special events operations department of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. ... A match race at Firebird Raceway in Northwest Phoenix had to be postponed after the track was swarmed by insects.
A qualifying accident at Le Grandnational-Molson in Montreal left Top Fuel champ Muldowney in critical condition. Her recovery took nearly three years. ... Amato ran nearly 265 mph en route to a victory at the Summernationals. Raymond Beadle and Bob Glidden also shared the winner's circle in Englishtown. Once again, the Top Fuel field was short — just 13 cars made qualifying attempts. ... Tom Turner won $20,000 at the Super Pro Challenge at Central Michigan Dragway, the richest E.T. event of the year. ... Connie Kalitta, Beadle, and Warren Johnson conquered the thin air at the Mile-High Nationals. ... A barbecue at the Denver event raised more than $15,000 to help Kerhulas and Muldowney.
NHRA announced that the total purse for the 30th annual U.S. Nationals in Indy exceeded $1 million for the first time. ... Amid speculation that the Kings of the Sport were on the decline, NHRA announced that Top Fuel would remain in 1985, and the existing program would not be downsized. ... Ormsby, Frank Hawley, and Frank Iaconio claimed Pro titles at the Popular Hot Rodding Championships at U.S. 131 Raceway in Martin, Mich. ... Future two-time Winston Top Fuel champ Scott Kalitta made his NHRA Professional debut at the wheel of a Mustang Funny Car at the NorthStar Nationals in Brainerd. Amato, Oswald, and Minnesota native Johnson won Brainerd titles in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock, respectively.
Garlits teamed with old buddy Art Malone to win his sixth U.S. Nationals title. In one of the decades' biggest upsets, Jim Head won in Funny Car, and Johnson took over the points lead in Pro Stock when he downed Glidden's Thunderbird in the final. ... Dale Pulde ran a pair of 5.78s to win the annual Jungle Jim Liberman Memorial Race at Maple Grove Raceway. ... Fresh off his Indy win, Garlits routed an eight-car Top Fuel field at Firebird Raceway, driving his Kendall-backed entry past Beck in the final, 5.59 to 5.65. ... On the other side of the country, Big Bud Shootout winner McEwen ran a best of 5.86 in a Funny Car match race against Force at Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach, Fla. At the same event, Sam Carroll drove the Morris high-performance Camaro to capture the win over Reid Whisnant's Dodge in Pro Stock.
NHRA announced that two new national events, the Keystone Nationals in Reading and the Fallnationals in Phoenix, would be a part of the 1985 national event schedule, bringing the race total to 14. ... At Carlsbad Raceway, Tim Grose drove his Spirit Corvette to a narrow 5.89 to 5.91 win over Force's Coca-Cola Camaro at the Kragen Auto Pro-Am event. ... Up the coast at Baylands Raceway Park in Fremont, Calif., Don Prudhomme blistered the clocks with a 5.66, one of the quickest Funny Car runs of the year. ... Rick Johnson replaced Mike Dunn as the driver of Roland Leong's Hawaiian Punch Dodge Funny Car.
Following Muldowney's and Kerhulas' devastating accidents, NHRA began looking into the possibility of a 1,000-foot racetrack for 1985 but ultimately announced that full quarter-mile racing (1,320 feet) would remain. ... In another big upset, Sherm Gunn won the only Funny Car title of his career when he beat Oswald in the final of the Winston World Finals in Pomona. ... Immediately following the World Finals, Force hired crew chief Austin Coil, who began at the 1985 Winternationals.
Two-time Winston Funny Car champion Hawley announced plans to open the sport's first drag racing school, at Gainesville Raceway. ... Bill Mullins became only the fifth driver to exceed 260 mph when he drove John Carey's Top Fuel entry to a 5.63, 260.86 at the Snowbird National Open in Bradenton, Fla. ... Former Alcohol Dragster champ Gwynn and his father, Jerry, announced that they were moving to the Top Fuel class for the 1985 season. ... Garlits announced that he would return in 1985 to defend his Winston championship.
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