1991 Monthly Headlines
Doug Herbert, son of high-performance pioneer Chet Herbert, announced the formation of a Top Fuel team for 1991. ... "Flash Gordon" Mineo, who had been inactive for more than a decade, announced that he had purchased Raymond Beadle's complete Blue Max Funny Car operation and was returning to the sport. ... Former Super Stock racer and Division 2 Tech Director Bill Holt was promoted to Southeast Division Director, replacing Lex Dudas, who was later named manager of Indianapolis Raceway Park. ... Major renovations continued at Gainesville Raceway, where the old timing tower was demolished to make way for the Top Eliminator Club. ... Scott Geoffrion landed what many considered to be a dream job when he was tabbed to drive Warren Johnson's second Pro Stock Olds. ... At the annual PRO Drag Racing Invitational at Firebird Raceway, Gary Ormsby suffered a blowover on the third run in his new Castrol GTX dragster.
Don Prudhomme became the 15th member of the Cragar 4-Second Club with a 4.93 to lead qualifying at the Winternationals. ... Cruz Pedregon made his fuel racing debut in Pomona, piloting Larry Minor's Otter Pops dragster, though he missed the field. At the same event, Russ Collins emerged uninjured from a spectacular blowover in Bill Miller's Top Fueler. ... The Vance & Hines team announced that Dave Schultz would be its rider in 1991 and that he would switch from a Kawasaki to a Suzuki by midseason. ... Gene Beaver, owner of the L.A. Hooker Series of Funny Cars and cousin of John Force, died. ... The Arizona Nationals in Phoenix were delayed one week after a new concrete slab in the left lane began to disintegrate.
After a carburetor violation led to his disqualification from the Winternationals, Comp racer Todd Patterson came back to win the Fram Supernationals in Houston. ... Reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Darrell Alderman was indicted on federal drug and conspiracy charges. He plead "not guilty" and was released on a $10,000 bond. ... After a mad thrash to repair the body of his In-N-Out Firebird, which was damaged when a tire blew, Mark Oswald returned to win the Gatornationals title over Force. Joe Amato, Johnson, and Schultz also scored at the Gainesville race, which, like the Houston event before it, was delayed a week by rain. ... Carl Olson was named NHRA vice president of international relations, and Cary Menard joined NHRA as the vice president of business and legal affairs.
Top Fuel racer Richard Holcomb, the third member of the Cragar 4-Second Club, died of a heart attack April 8. ... After years of struggling as a match racer in Funny Car, Al Hofmann broke through for his first major victory at the Winston Invitational, joining Amato, W.J., and Schultz in the winner's circle. ... In one of the most bizarre Sportsman races of the year, Mike Hashem got past two crashing opponents to claim the Super Street title at the Southern Nationals. Hashem was involved in one of the crashes but repaired his car in time to make the final.
In her last race with crew chief Larry Meyer, Lori Johns won the Top Fuel title at the Mid-South Nationals. ... Bob Glidden debuted the new Lenco five-speed transmission in Memphis. He lost in round two when he forgot to pull 5th gear against Johnson. ... Drag racing lost another pioneer when engine manufacturer Keith Black succumbed to cancer on May 13. ... Tragedy struck again less than a week later when Gary Clark and Nick Floch, crewmembers on Darrell Gwynn's Top Fuel car, were killed in a boating accident in Florida. ... An explosion and fire at the Angus Chemical plant in Sterlington, La., briefly threatened the availability of nitromethane.
Ray Higley broke the 250-mph barrier in his AA/FA '23-T Ford roadster with a 5.69, 251.12 pass at Seattle Int'l Raceway. ... Prudhomme won his first Top Fuel race in 21 years when he beat Amato at the Springnationals. ... Jess Winters, president of The Wax Shop, agreed to sponsor the Pro Bike Dash, a specialty event for Pro Stock Motorcycle racers to be held during the U.S. Nationals. ... Reigning Winston Funny Car champ Force suffered one of his many fires at Le Grandnational-Molson in Montreal but emerged unhurt. ... After a four-month layoff due to foot surgery, Shirley Muldowney returned to Top Fuel racing at a match race in Phoenix.
With Ormsby on the sidelines battling cancer, Don Garlits was offered a chance to be a replacement driver at the Summernationals in Englishtown, but "Big Daddy" reluctantly refused due to a conflict between his longtime sponsor, Kendall, and Ormsby's backer, Castrol. Gordie Bonin was later named the replacement driver. ... The sport suffered another great loss when Funny Car owner and engine manufacturer Joe Pisano died of a heart attack at the Mile-High Nationals. … In Denver, Johns recorded Bandimere Speedway's first four-second run.
Pat Austin clinched the Alcohol Funny Car championship after completing drag racing's first perfect 10-win season in his Castrol GTX Olds. ... Former Winston Top Fuel champ Ormsby lost his battle with stomach cancer Aug. 28. … At the U.S. Nationals, which began the following day, Austin took over as the driver of Ormsby's Castrol dragster. He won the TA/FC title and reached the final of Top Fuel before a blower backfire ended his hopes of victory against Kenny Bernstein. Other Indy winners were Jim White, who ran faster than 288 mph to win Funny Car; Alderman, who downed Larry Morgan in the Pro Stock final; and Jim Bernard, who claimed his first ever win in Pro Stock Bike over Paul Gast. ... Alcohol Funny Car racer Bob Newberry was injured in a two-car crash at a Division 1 event at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
Citing a lack of funding, Dick LaHaie pulled the plug on his Top Fuel operation for the remainder of the 1991 season. ... NASCAR stars won the second annual Darrell Gwynn Benefit Softball Challenge to benefit the Miami Project over the NHRA all-stars, 14-13, in Reading, Pa. ... Just weeks after predicting that he would win Top Fuel and Alcohol Funny Car at the same event, Austin did just that at the Heartland Nationals in Topeka. ... Jim Skelly joined NHRA as the technical services manager.
As expected, the Chief Nationals at the Texas Motorplex yielded some of the year's best performances: White, in Roland Leong's Hawaiian Punch Dodge, clocked the sport's first 290-mph Funny Car run; John Myers recorded an all-time best 7.61 in Pro Stock Bike; and Brooks Brown made a stunning 5.89 pass in his injected-fuel-burning A/FD. ... Fuel Altered legend "Wild Willie" Borsch died of cancer Oct. 10. ... Alderman clinched the Winston Pro Stock championship with a semifinal finish in Dallas. At the same event, Hofmann won his first NHRA national event title.
Gwynn announced that driver Michael Brotherton would replace Frank Hawley in his Coors Light Top Fueler for the 1992 season. ... Bernstein downed Prudhomme in the final of the Budweiser Classic specialty event in Pomona to win the $50,000 prize. ... The Otter Pops Funny Car team, headed by driver Ed McCulloch and crew chief Bernie Fedderly, won the $15,000 Castrol Pit Crew Challenge by firing their engine, changing all eight pistons and rods, and refiring it in just over six minutes, a series record. ... After the Winston Finals in Pomona was delayed a week by rain, Johnson, who was already locked into second place in the Pro Stock points battle, decided to fly to Japan to participate in the inaugural USA Drag Festival at Fuji Speedway rather than return to Pomona. Don Beverly took over the driver's seat of Johnson's Olds in Pomona.
NHRA got rid of the much maligned waiver system for Sportsman drivers for the 1992 season. ... NHRA unveiled a plan for live television coverage of six events in 1992. ... After winning his 11th race of the season in Pomona and the Winston Pro Stock championship, Alderman was suspended for the 1992 and 1993 seasons after pleading guilty to federal drug charges. ... Garlits returned to Top Fuel competition, driving Paul Smith's dragster at the Snowbird Nationals in Bradenton, Fla. ... Four months after his violent two-car crash, Newberry returned to win the Citrus Nationals at Moroso Motorsports Park with his new Olds-bodied Alcohol Funny Car.
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