Harris takes only Top Fuel title at Summernats
Reprinted from the July 27, 1973 issue of National DRAGSTER
Drag Racing's "Longest Day" one for the books!
NHRA SUMMERNATIONALS -- The National Hot Rod Association's 4th Annual Summernationals was not just another championship event.
For three days everything went by the book. Then it happened. Mother Nature, who is not always the kindest of souls, decided that it should rain intermittently on Sunday, July 15, causing continual postponement of final eliminations. Some even speculated that the "Land of NED" stood for "Never-Ending-Drizzles!" But the racers, spectators, and race officials stuck with it, and were finally able to get the show under way at 7:00 p.m., roughly a seven-hour delay. Enter drag racing's "Longest Day."
The estimated 20,000 hearty drag fans (out of a 35,000 race total) that persevered on Sunday got a show worth waiting for, as the New Jersey night was permeated with the sight and sound of drag racing action at its finest.
All in all, it was a most unpredictable event, with upsets galore prevailing right and left.
Take Top Fuel Eliminator, for instance. Long time national event contender Clayton Harris finally annexed an overdue championship, but the Eastern Conference champion did it in a manner never before present in his repertory -- he lucked out! The Mississippi pro got into the show as 2nd alternate for a broken U.S. Nationals champ Gary Beck, and proceeded to benefit from an unusual set of circumstances (i.e., luck) which culminated with the likeable Southerner smoking to an 8.72 win over a broken (and broken-hearted) Jim Bucher, who not only lost the race, but his NHRA National Record as well.
The new mark of 6.03 was earlier set by Bill Wigginton while qualifying the Candies & Hughes entry from Houma, Louisiana.
NHRA's record book wasn't the only place that Paul Candies and Leonard Hughes struck paydirt, as their "Cajun 'Cuda" Funny Car, driven by talented pro Leroy Goldstein, prevailed over Pat Foster in the F/C final 6.74 to 6.78. Best marks for the breed were set in qualifying by Don "the Snake" Prudhomme with a 6.40, 230 mph blast.
Pro Stock Eliminator, which featured the quickest-ever field in history, saw Bill Jenkins become the only '72 Summernationals victor to repeat, as the Malvern, Pennsylvania, Chevy exponent parlayed a barrage of 9.0s into his first title of the year, much to the delight of the highly partisan fans. The final saw "Grumpy" belt out his fourth 9.02, 150-plus-mph run of the day to drop the "California Flash," Butch Leal. In losing, Leal hit a game 9.13, 151.77 mph clip to establish a new NHRA National Record in the Pro Stock speed department.
New Jersey's own Pete Shadinger, winner of a batch of NHRA titles in 1962-65, came out of several year's retirement to once again haunt the Competition Eliminator ranks. Shadinger's little 6-cylinder Ford-powered D/Dragster cranked out one sub-record run after another en route to literally scaring virtually all his competition into fouling, and belted out a 9.32, 137.82 mph effort in the final to handle the broken B/Fuel Dragster of Dale Hall, who earned the distinction of being runner-up at two consecutive Summernationals.
But Hall could well go all the way next year if his luck is like that of Bruce Sizemore, Modified Eliminator at the 4th Annual Summernationals. Bruce's little "Preparation H" Maverick was runner-up at the '71-72 events before once again adding credence to that popular axiom, "the third time's the charm." The Livonia, Michigan resident hit a record-setting 11.31 in his H/Modified Production entry in the final to hold off the fast-closing B/MP Camaro of New Yorker Dennis Ferrara, who established a new class standard of 10.02 in his futile catch-up attempt.
Ron Mancini, winner of Super Stock Eliminator is no stranger to the winner's circle, having won three prior titles with his potent '68 Dodge. The Warren, Michigan driver belted out a final 10.06 to eclipse his own mark for the honors over Ray Whinery, who put up a game light at 10.73 with his SS/C '69 AMX.
And in Stock Eliminator it was the '69 Chevy of Michigan's Tom Tereau, which belted out a sub-record M/Stock Automatic clocking of 14.49 to hold off the G/SA Fairlane of Jack Worrell, a long-time NED standout. Worrell, who hails from Trevose, Pennsylvania, hit a slowing 13.80 in the final when he saw that Tereau had him covered.