Michigan champ upsets field at Lions
Reprinted from the Nov. 17, 1961 issue of National DRAGSTER
LONG BEACH, Calif. (Nov. 4) – Michigan state champion Connie Kalitta walked away with Top Eliminator honors here tonight, which was really quite an upset as in our six years of running, no one from out of state has ever come in to take Top Elim. Another out-of-stater, Gordon Collett, from Portsmouth, Ohio, didn't do bad either, and although he got beat, he still turned a low e.t. of 8.87 seconds and top speed of 172 mph. Gordon made four runs, all over 170 and all in the 8-second bracket.
With 17 AA-Dragsters and 10 A-Dragsters entered in tonight's battle, competition was very keen. It was anyone's win right up to the last race.
The special race between the dual-engine coupe of Dye and Hampton and the Ernies' Camera Shop-Ivo rail went to the blown Pontiac dragster with two wins in a row. Both races were real close with Tommy winning the first round in 8.77 seconds and 171.10 mph. Don's losing time was a very close 8.93 e.t. and 171.42 mph! The second round, Don came out first but just couldn't get a good bite. Tommy took over the lead to win with an 8.71 and 172.41, against the coupe's 8.92 and 174.08 mph. Ivo also notched low e.t. of the meet honors with an 8.65 e.t., while top speed of the meet fell to the Quincy Auto dual-engine rail with a 180.36 mph!
Eliminations were under way with Tom McEwen first-up, driving the Thompson Enterprises 278-inch blown Pontiac (on fuel) against Zane Shubert. Tom came off the line first at the signal and took the lead, holding it all the way to win with an 8.87 and 175.78 against Zane's 9.08 and 175.09.
The next round brought another Thompson Enterprises blown Pontiac, 430 inches of muscle, with Mickey Thompson driving, to the line. For his first round he faced the Ohio state champ, Gordon Collett. The start and Mick was off the line just a little in the lead, which is what won the race, for both cars had the same e.t. -- an 8.87 -- with Mickey's time, 168.53 mph against Gordon's 172.74. It was really a close one all the way.
Drag racing's World Champion, Jack Chrisman, rolled to the line with the Howard Cam Special, pitted against none other than Lefty Mudersbach with the Herbert Cam Special. As usual, when these two face each other, it was close one with Jack coming out on top this time with an 8.75 and 174.75, against an 8.87 and 170.13 for Lefty.
Connie Kalitta next paired-off with the Badera-Ferriera rail. Connie came out first and held it all the way down with an 8.79 and 168.22. The Rollema and Hill rail made its bid against the Pfaff & Sowins fueler. Both cars came off the line very good, but about a quarter of the way down, Stan Hill lifted the front end way up on the blown Chevy and shut off, leaving Roger Wolford to go on alone, although he shut off to a 10.25 and 116.42.
Mickey Thompson returned with his blown Pontiac for his second round, paired with Glen Stokey in the Stokey-McCartney dual-engine. Once again Mick came out in the lead, and once again the race was won at the line. Winning e.t.: 9-flat. Glen had a 9.02, Mickey hit 166.97 mph, while Glen managed a 171.75! The Pontiac "lost something" on this run, and was forced to retire for the remainder of the meet.
Jack Chrisman then downed the Pfaff & Sowins rail with an 8.77 and 176.81. Wolford was forced to shut off on the contest.
Kalitta, edging his way to the top, then topped Tom McEwen with an 8.80 and 172.08, against Tom's 9.06 and 172.74. Chrisman downed Richard Rea, who was having trouble with his rig; Jack's wintime was an 8.68 at 176.81.
Tommy Ivo then rolled to the line to face Michigan's favorite, Connie Kalitta. Both cars were running very good, with Tom having a slight edge e.t.-wise. Connie managed a small-margin lead at the start, however, it was enough to take the race and as happened on many runs here at the Lions Associated Drag Strip tonight, we were very grateful for the electronic Judger. Connie's e.t. was 8.73, top ending at 171.75; Ivo had the same trap speed, but with an 8.78.
The final round of Top Eliminator was between Connie Kalitta's blown Chrysler and Jack Chrisman driving the champion-performing Howard rail, using twin Chevies. Connie got the edge off the line and held it all the way to take the win with an 8.73 e.t. and 169.49 mph, against Jack's 9.05 and 136.98. Jack was forced to shut off going through the lights