California Ford power rules Springnationals
Reprinted from the June 16, 1967 issue of National DRAGSTER
BRISTOL INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, Bristol, Tenn. (June 11) -- Don Prudhomme added the Springnationals to his win skein today with an overwhelming six-second performance in his OHC Ford fueler. Straight from a pair of victories in Washington, Prudhomme marched through the 16-car Top Fuel field with a best clocking of 6.92-222 mph.
This impressive day's work, which put away Peter Robinson's Ford in the final run, topped a Championship meet attended by some 40,000 enthusiastic fans. It was held in a four-day schedule under a 90-degree sun.
Floyd Lippencott, who got by perennial champ Gordon Collett in Top Gas; Tom Grove, who surprised the Funny Car Eliminator ranks with 8.29-second strength; and Super Eliminator Ronnie Sox also scored major wins.
Super Eliminator was Sonny Adkins, Competition bracket winner Joe Law, Street Eliminator Sam Cunningham, and Stock champ Jay Hamilton.
The 1967 version of the Bristol Springnationals boasted more entries , more prizes [$70,000], and more excitement than any before. Spectators and competitors were concentrated as far out as 50 miles, turning Bristol and neighboring cities into a holiday atmosphere.
Going was serious, though, for factory teams, budget racers and those in between with an eye on a share of the prize money and publicity.
Many arrived at the strip on Thursday for technical inspection. Trial runs were topped by Robinson's fuel solo at 7.29 seconds. Friday hosted the first tough qualifying performances, led early by Tom McEwen at 7.15-223, and at day's end by Robinson at 7.11. Collett came up with a 7.79 second clocking to head the Top Gas group. Danny Ongais [7.349] and Billy Smith [8.252] sat in the fuel and gas bump spots at day's end.
Qualifying continued through Saturday, but no one could better existing lows. Jockeying for spots reduced the fuel range to 7.30 seconds by Al Friedman and 8.22 on gas by Smith. Don Garlits, Scott Wilson and "Banzai II" were among notables that failed to make the tough fuel program.
Top Fuel Eliminator, the meet's feature attraction, was opened by Robinson and Tom Hoover in an OHC Ford match. Hoover drew the first in a series of red lights by Robinson opponents, and his 7.18 was lost.
Mike Snively loomed as a favored contender after a 7.06-203 pass in the "Hawaiian." He bumped the Ramchargers, whose driver Chuck Kurzawa mustered a 7.26-207 in vain.
Jere Grice pulled an early leave on Jimmy Nix, got out of shape and saw Nix pull by. Surprising Leroy Goldstein advance the Crower-Blair Chrysler, and then Prudhomme pulled the Baney-Pink-Prudhomme Ford to the line for a heat with Bub Reese. From tremendous clouds of smoke "the Snake" emerged for a 6.99 second-220 mph performance that set the crowd on its ear. Reese had gone all-out with the Jim and Allison Lee machine, but a 7.26-214 was no match for the meet's first "six."
McEwen paired with Dave Beebe, whom he races nearly every week in California. He was lined up awkwardly, and on the green drifted toward the centerline, shutting the Don Johnson car off at 300 feet. Beebe powered on in 7.18.
Mike Sorokin singled the "Hawaiian II" as opponent Jerry Baltes pulled the meet's highest wheelstand, and Connie Kalitta moved Ford and M&H hopes ahead when Al Friedman got crossed up with the "Wheeler Dealer."
Robinson came back to enjoy another red light race, provided this time by usually quick Beebe. Prudhomme got the same treatment, waltzing on in 8.62 when Jimmy Nix drew the red.
A darkhorse gained the semis when Winternationals champ Snively was forced to let off the sliding "Hawaiian's " throttle. Leroy Goldstein, from San Diego, Calif., blazed a 7.25-205. Preventing another Ford from going to the top was "Hawaiian" teammate Sorokin, who got out two cars on Kalitta and could not be caught. Times were 7.13-215 to a losing 7.07-218 effort.
As if by magic, Altantan Robinson had still another race go unopposed. Goldstein fouled and shut off in the face of the low qualifier's potential.
Prudhomme, whose engine had 10 hard runs on it by this time and was suffering from a cracked head, fired with his old nemesis, the "Hawaiian" team -- Sorokin at the wheel. An 82 percent nitro charge at 6.79-220 overwhelmed both Sorokin's 7.20-211 and those in attendance. The Brand Ford entry was on the money, carefully maintained by Ed Pink between rounds. By coincidence, Keith Black was absent from the Roland Leong "Hawaiian" pit for the first time at a major championship, and it's possible his presence might have given them a boost.
Robinson cranked up with his air starter near the line, and met Prudhomme at the line late in the day. Pete had no hard runs on the car and appeared fresh, Prudhomme has raised the percentage to 85 percent nitro and was on run number 12.
It was expected that Robinson would lead the first 200 feet, but the start was dead-even, with Prudhomme pulling away to a two-car lead at the lights. Robinson shut off near the traps to a 7.20-177, paling next to "the Snake's" tremendous 6.92-222.76.
The match had been the gratest show of power ever, clearly evidencing Ford's current edge in Top Fuel competition.