LIONS Last Drag Race Reunion
at the Auto Club Wally Parks NHRA
Motorsports Museum in Pomona, CA
Dec. 3, 2011
Story and Photographs by Roger Rohrdanz
This is why we were all here that evening
It all began in the early-1950’s with a Los Angeles Police officer named Gordon Browing. Browning had formed the Police Advisory Council of Car Clubs, with officers from 25 Police Departments in the area.
He met Wally Parks, who was the editor of Hot Rod Magazine (HRM). Gordon found some land at 223rd and Alameda Streets and got the Harbor Department to put in a dragstrip for the kids to race on. He then got the Lions Clubs in the Long Beach Harbor area to sponsor the track, which became known as the famous Lions Dragstrip in the mid-1950’s. A young, up and coming, racer name Mickey Thompson was made the Track Manager. For more than 15 years Lions enjoyed an unrivaled reputation. In 1972 the fun ended when the Los Angeles Harbor Commission needed the land for the development of what became the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility.
39 years later, on December 3, 2011 at the Auto Club Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, CA. Tom “Mongoose” McEwen hosted the “LIONS Last Drag Race Reunion”. After the introduction by Museum Curator Greg Sharp, Hot Rod Deluxe Editor Dave Wallace did a masterful job of moderating the discussions with panelists, Judy Thompson, Bill Bagshaw, “TV” Tommy Ivo, Tom McEwen, and Larry Sutton. An estimated 300 racers & fans filled the Museum meeting area until there was standing room only. Some of the many notable people on-hand were, Tom “Mongoose” McEwen, Don “Snake” Prudhomme, “TV” Tommy Ivo, Harry Hibler, Don Long, Alan Earman, Pete Eastwood, Mike Kuhl, Tommy Thompson, Frank Baney, Jim Rossi, “Fast” Jack Beckman, Roland Leong, Don Rackmann, Ed Iskenderian, Steve Gibbs, “Mousie” Marcellus, John Peters, Bob Muravez, Steve Chrisman and Art Chrisman. Four nostalgia Top Fuel dragsters were on-hand for people to check out.
This event was well done and I hope to see it here again next year.
Thanks for the Show!
|“Officer” Gordon Browning. (circa 2005)|
|In front of the Museum, 4 nostalgia Top Fuel dragsters were on-hand forpeople to check out.|
|Junior Thompson’s Son Tommy was there with some pictures of his Dad for the Museum.|
|(L-R) John Peters (of “FreightTrain” fame), Bob Muravez (aka-Floyd Lippencotte Jr.), “Fast” Jack Beckman (drag racing nostalgia buff).|
|Doug Fisher (L) with Jim Rossi (Yeakel Bros. dragster).|
|(L-R) Mike Kuhl, Mendy Fry, Steve Chrisman, and Art Chrisman.|
|NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Steve Chrisman|
|The fabled Don Rackmann (L) visits with Butch Gatner.|
|(L-R) John Peters (of “FreightTrain” fame), Bob Muravez (“Freight Train” driver), Ed Iskenderian (The Camfather).|
|“TV” Tommy Ivo, Jess Sturgeon, Jack Beckman, Roland Kilegor.|
|Stormy Byrd (“Revelation” driver in red shirt), “Mousie” Marcellus (Winged Express).|
|Harry Hibler visiting with old friend Alan Earman (veteran photographer)|
|Old pictures and tables of memorabilia were all around the room.|
|The crowd begins to fill the room anticipating the start of the program|
|Museum Curator Greg Sharp welcomes everyone then introduced the Lions drag strip panelists, Judy Thompson (Mickey’s ex-wife), Bill Bagshaw (“last race” pro stock winner), “TV” Tommy Ivo, Tom McEwen (“last race” Funny Car winner), and Larry Sutton (Starter).|
|Greg Sharp then turned the program over to Hot Rod Deluxe Editor Dave Wallace and he did a masterful job of moderating the discussions with panelists. Eventually, the panelists were answering questions from the audience.|
|Judy Thompson’s roll at the track included hand writing each racers name, class, et & mph in a book that she still has.|
|McEwen relates a comic event that happened at LIONS.|
|After all those years, Starter Larry Sutton has room full of tales, some he can tell.|
|It seems “TV” Tommy Ivo was quite the prankster. He had everyone in stiches.|
|A question for the panelists came from Art Chrisman.|
|Nostalgia Funny Car Crew Chief Roland Leong was a car owner during the LIONS era|
|Don “Snake” Prudhomme is half of one of greatest rivalries in drag racing with panelist Tom “Mongoose” McEwen.|
|After the program, the panelists signed autographs and talked with fans.|
|Art Chrisman and Judy Thompson|
|This is the sign from the LIONS tower. This precious piece of memorabilia disappeared before the “Last Race”. After several decades it was found and all the racers were asked to sign it.|