Warren takes Winternats title on solo
Reprinted from the Feb. 16, 1968 issue of National DRAGSTER
NHRA WINTERNATIONALS -- Every rule has its exceptions. In this respect, the 1968 Winternationals had to be the most exceptional drag event ever staged on the West Coast. From almost every aspect, the three-day meet did not conform to what might be termed, set patterns. It began with the weather. Usually smoggy skies remained clear of eye-stinging irritants for the duration of the fete and while most of the nation shivered, California baked in the warm 70-degree sun. And then there were the spectators. Without qualification, more race fans attended the '68 Winternationals than any other drag race ever held on the West Coast. Last, but most important of all, were the cars -- 750 of the fastest, sharpest, most consistent machines ever to roll down the quarter mile.
The matches themselves deserve special consideration, since they too were unusual. For the first time in Winternationals history, the pass for Top Eliminator was a single, and just for the record, a 7.37, 204.08 by James Warren. It happened when the competition, Dwight Salisbury and "The Addict" were sidelined by clutch problems. With time running out and with no solution in the offing, Salisbury, owner Rocky Childs and crew, prudently withdrew the ailing entry. That action itself may have been unprecedented.
Whether or not Top Gas could be considered extraordinary is subject to discussion. Would you consider a third consecutive win at Pomona by Gordon Collett unusual? If not, would the fact that Collett had qualified last in a field of 16 only to finish first make you reconsider? If so, then get ready to change your mind because that's exactly what the Ohio "Collector" did.
A 7.29-second elapsed time coupled to a 202 mile per hour trap speed are not exceptional. But when they're turned by a short wheelbase, full-bodied, fuel roadster, then it's no longer the rule [short cars with bodies can't break 200] but the exception. And the "exception" in this case is the Marcellus and Borsch, hemi-powered double-A fuel roadster whose flying wing makes it look even more unusual.
Funny Cars are known for burnouts and wheelstands, but not for their consistency, and any true follower of the sport can tell you that what begins as an eight car meet, often ends up a one car exhibition run. Not at Pomona where Gene Snow repeatedly put his Dodge super car through its rigorous paces and copped Competition Eliminator as the result of his persistence.
An indisputable maxim once held that "Fords sure run on the ovals, or on the water, but at the drags ..." Then along came "a better idea" from Ford, right in time for the Winternationals. Suddenly, the old saying, "Fords don't go" was no longer the rule. In fact one of the 10 428-powered entries put the snake bit on Dick Lady's Dodge and caused a large-scale revision of thinking among drag fans throughout the country.
Quoth the bench racer's bible, "Well, drag racing today is a big bucks sport. The little guy just doesn't have a chance." Not until this Winternationals when "little guy" John Barkley laid siege to Stock Eliminator in an 11-year-old Chevy sedan that carried the most absurd designation of M/SA. It was apparent at this point that not only were the so-called rules broken, they were obliterated!
The 1968 Winternationals was the exception to many rules, many of which no longer hold true. Only one is worth remembering. It states that in drag racing expect the unexpected.