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Land Speed Racing Newsletter #381

Land Speed Racing Newsletter #381


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Ann Lawford,   
PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Richard Parks, [email protected]  
PHOTOGRAPHIC Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, [email protected]
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REPORTER: Spencer Simon, [email protected]
FIELD REPORTER/HISTORIAN: Bob Falcon, [email protected]
HISTORIANS: Anna Marco, Dick Martin, Burly Burlile, Jerry Cornelison, Robin Millar, Ora Mae Millar
IN MEMORIAM: Wally Parks, Tex Smith, Tom Medley, Lee Blaisdell, Eric ‘Rick’ Rickman (editors and photographers)
GUEST EDITORIAL, by LandSpeed Louise:
     Please share with any interested party in sympathy with restoring the Bonneville Salt Flats to is historic, safe racing splendor. The Utah Alliance is an all volunteer group without an “A-list” email database so any pass along will be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance!  Sincerely, Louise Lanigan
     SAVE THE SALT COALITION UTAH ALLIANCE Contact: Louise Ann Noeth, 805-312-0893, [email protected]  Land Racing Advocates Join Forces for Bonneville September 8, 2015.
     The Save the Salt Coalition and Utah Alliance are working closely together as advocates for the land speed racing (LSR) community to protect the Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF).  The following is a report on current actions.  The Save the Salt Coalition is an international group of businesses and organizations with a vested interest in the BSF.  The Utah Alliance provides expertise and connections at the state and local level. Major LSR sanctioning organizations are members of both groups.  The two groups have partnered on the shared mission of restoring the BSF as the premier venue for setting world land speed records.  The collaboration allows experts within the groups to undertake specific projects.  The cancellation of four of the five major racing events for 2015 due to weather and deteriorating conditions has helped place a spotlight on Bonneville.
      As a result, the Save the Salt Coalition and Utah Alliance have already had extensive discussions with officials at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which oversees the BSF, mining officials, geologists, engineers, lawmakers in Congress and at the state and local level.  Numerous press interviews have also conveyed the plight of the BSF to the world via newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs.  Two educational meetings have been now scheduled: one for the public (Sept. 9) and another for elected representatives, government officials, industry and other interested stakeholders (Sept. 14); Wednesday, September 9, 2015 4PM Salt Lake City.  A one - hour informational meeting “100 years of Bonneville - Racing History from the Racers Perspective” presented by Louise Ann Noeth will be at Totem’s Restaurant, 538 S. Redwood Rd., Salt Lake City.  Land speed cars will be on display in the parking area at 3:00 pm.  The public is encouraged to attend, and press and public officials have been invited.
     The second briefing will take place on September 14th at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Representatives from the two Coalitions will conduct a private tour and present the racer’s perspective to government, industry and local community leadership.  The private tour will allow the parties to engage in follow - up discussions and begin identifying tangible restoration actions.  Both groups have already identified a number of short - and long - term actions to be considered.  They include expanded brine pumping, barriers to keep the pumped brine within the racing area, and targeted dry salt laydowns.  Reaching consensus on actions to be taken will be assisted by BSF core samplings to be taken this fall and winter by geologists, and consultations with engineers and water experts.  Conveying information is also critical.  Toward that effort, the Utah Alliance is creating a website repository of photographic, film and historical documentation about the BSF available to everyone.  The website will be unveiled in the near future.  It will be an additional resource for the main website which serves to keep the public informed of day-to-day actions.
     For more information, visit Utah Alliance Leadership: Dennis Sullivan (President USFRA); Rick Vesco (founding member STS); Larry Volk (founding member USFRA); Gary Wilkinson (Save the Salt; Vice Chairman, USFRA); Hugh Coltharp (Treasurer & founding member USFRA); Tom Burkland (Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials); Russ Eyres (Save the Salt; SCTA/BNI Liaison); Roger Lessman (Nevada State Govt. Liaison).   Save the Salt Coalition Chairman: Doug Evans, Chief Operating Officer, Luken Communications Public Information Officer: Louise Ann Noeth, 805-312-0893, [email protected].  Coalition Contact: Stuart Gosswein, [email protected].  Members: ACCUS, FIA, American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC), Bonneville Nationals Inc. (BNI), Bonneville 200 MPH Club, Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, Cook’s Land Speed Events, East Coast Timing Association, FIA Land Speed Records Commission, LandSpeed Productions, Luken Communications, Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), Off­‐Road Business Association (ORBA), Performance Warehouse Association (PWA), Save the Salt Foundation, Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), Speed Demon, The Enthusiast Network (TEN), Utah Alliance, Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA), United States Automobile Club (USAC)
GUEST EDITORIAL, by Bob Small.  18 September 2015.

     There was only 22 Top Fuel teams entered at Indy this year, which doesn't sound like anything important, but, I'm old enough that I can remember when I was a kid, that C. J. Hart, who was managing the Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach at the time, would run a 64 car Top Fuel show on a Saturday night, get it all done, the stands were packed, and it was a show!

     The Fuelers now don't put on that great of a show, they run for four seconds, or less, and then there are the endless interviews with drivers and/or crew chiefs, who blather on and on about how the blah, blah, blah car ran so good today (then there is an endless list of sponsors. Nobody cares who all your sponsors are).  That goes for all eliminators, by the way.  As Jeff Burk said in his column, all the cars run now as a business, which is what they are to the teams, but the people in the stands want to be entertained, and they're not being entertained with things like wheelstands, long burnouts, dry hops, things that got spectators excited. That's all gone.

     One of the things that made John Force popular in the first place, long before he was the front runner he is now, was long smoky burnouts that went almost the entire quarter mile.  He did this for the simple reason his equipment was all pretty much junk then anyway, and he knew that there was a chance that he wasn't going to qualify, so he figured that if nothing else, he'd put on a show that everyone would remember, and it helped to make him famous.  When you have nothing to lose, you'll bet the whole farm.

     Just in case NHRA has yet to figure it out, it's the show that people sitting in the stands come to see, try to grasp the concept.  They want to see cars that look like the car that they have down in the parking lot, and we all know that the car that is going down the drag strip at the moment has absolutely nothing in common with the car parked in their own garage, but they want to think it does.  When the cars don't look anything like a car anymore, and the only identifier is a Chevrolet bowtie, a Mopar insignia, or a Ford blue oval, because the body no longer even remotely resembles any car they've ever seen, they've lost interest.  Think Funny Car.  And to compound the felony, Pro Stocks and Pro Mod cars are right behind them in the respect that they are rapidly on their way to being unidentifiable as well.

     You can paint the word "TOYOTA" down the sides of a Top Fuel car in three foot high letters, but anyone that can read knows that the Fueler has about as many Toyota parts in it as it does Edsel parts.  Like it or not, NHRA needs to come to the realization that they are in the entertainment business, and if the fans are not entertained, and that means having a clean and safe environment to use a restroom, get some food, (and that doesn't mean lukewarm beer for $12-$15 per hit, and a cold hot dog for $8-10 either), buy their kids some t-shirts, hats, etc, and come home at the end of the day saying, "We had fun!  THEY AREN'T COMING BACK!  I'll get down off of my soapbox now, thanks for taking the time to listen to my comments.  Bob Small
Jim Parkinson, written and compiled by his family.
     Jim Parkinson passed away of natural causes peacefully in his hometown of Corona Del Mar, CA August 22, 2015.  Jim was born in a small town named Willow City in North Dakota April 22, 1932. He lived on a farm and spent many hours working on the farm as well as learning some of his driving skills early on operating all sorts of different tractors.
     Jim started his career as an automobile dealer at a very young age in 1953 starting as a mechanic at a small import auto repair shop in Burbank California. When the owner decided to sell the business he pooled some money from a recent inheritance and purchased the business. This shop subsequently became one of the first MG dealerships in the country. His business Burbank Sports Car Center and Italiano Motors grew over the years as he adding a number of locations throughout Burbank and Hollywood California representing MG, Austin, Austin Healey, Morris, Jaguar, Lotus, Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Simca, Peugeot and Lincoln Mercury.
     Jim was also the West Coast Distributor of Fiat Abarth Cars. During the 50’s and early 60’s Jim honed his great skills as a racecar driver in many different types of sports cars winning many races in the Southern California Sports Car racing circuit. He took advantage of his reputation and was successful at the grassroots-marketing plan of “winning on Sunday and selling on Monday.” He had many offers to become a pro driver from some of the best sponsors but decided with a family in tow he better step aside from the dangers of racing and focus on the business. Being in Burbank and having some racing fame he was the supplier of high performance sports and racing cars to many Hollywood celebrities.
     The family moved to Orange County in 1970 to open a Volkswagen store in Placentia and shortly thereafter a Datsun store in Newport Beach. He then opened Beach Imports selling Alfa Romeo, SAAB, Peugeot and later Maserati. After moving the stores to the Tustin Auto Center in 1990 he acquired Buick, Pontiac, GMC and later Hummer.
     Jim’s hobbies included flying his own plane, golfing and playing tennis as well as sharing time with his two sons riding dirt bikes and street motorcycles. But most of all he loved to travel and for many years he would travel the country in his 45’ Prevost bus visiting many old friends and car shows all over the country.  Jim is survived by his close companion Sharon “The Teach” St. Clair, his two sons Joe and Mark Parkinson, three granddaughters and five great grandchildren, and his sister Gloria Dickey.
In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Jim Parkinson to the Orange County Rescue Mission, 1 Hope Center Drive, Tustin CA 92782 would be greatly appreciated.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  British Bloodhound LSR Technology.  Roy C. Morris


     I don't know what the solution is, or how long it'll take to have an effect. There are an awful lot of 400-500 + mph cars in the queue to have crack at their respective records, to say nothing of the hundreds in the lower speed regimes. I guess we'll visit those big guys in various museums. ​It was talked about for years without meaningful action taken. Now like many other things it is over; 2015 Bonneville Surface Measurement Trip  Bill Moeller

Gone Racin’ … Don Garlits.  Biography and photographs with captions by Don Garlits, and updated periodically.  Some editing by Richard Parks.  April 22, 2015. 

     Longevity doesn't guarantee success, but success over a long period of time can elevate a person to the top of his or her profession.  In drag racing I have been able to have a long and continued success.  My name is Donald Glenn Garlits, but an announcer gave me the name of "Big Daddy," as a way to personalize my success on the drag strips and it is an honor that I’ve kept proudly.  I won the first NHRA Drag race I’ve ever entered with the first race car I built.  Success can be defined as hard work, passion, drive and perseverance.  Success in any field and especially drag racing is difficult but not impossible.  In 1955 the NHRA Drag Safari had come to Lake City, Florida and I remember the impact that it had on the area and me.  I owned a garage and a body shop and three years later in 1958 I had become a professional drag racer with the first of 37 racecars that I would later tag the “Swamp Rats.”  It was a name that literally exploded on the drag strip, full of determination and fury.  Perhaps it wasn’t refined and gentile, but it defined me as a competitor to respect.  Nothing was going to stop me, not fierce competition, and I had that in spades, or life-threatening accidents that I used to motivate me to reach higher.  Eventually, in 1992 I was forced to stop driving due to eye trouble, the result of deceleration G forces of nearly 7 G’s, forced me from the seat of my dragsters at the age of 60.  I’m not a quitter though and I refocused my life into other fields of racing just as serious and important as winning on the drag strip.
     In the four decades that I drag raced professionally I took on all comers on any race track in the country and sometimes abroad.  I fabricated my own dragster chassis that were powered by engines I built and won 144 major open events.  Those victories gave me 17 National Championships in the sport's three major hot rod associations; National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) and the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).  I just loved every minute of racing whether I won, lost or otherwise.  I liked the idea of two cars lined up side by side, not bumping into one another.  It was one person against one person, one machine against one machine.  There was a winner and a loser.  It was real simple.  I was rated one of the best drag racers by peers and fans over the years and I am proud of that recognition because it came by way of hard work, sacrifice and all the talents that I had as a driver, fabricator, engine builder and team owner.  The NHRA, with whom I have often had a rivalry with even put me in the top 50 all time and in 2001 on the 50th anniversary of the founding of NHRA I was voted in as the all-time #1 drag racer (from 1951 through 2001) and that was a very special honor.
     I’ve held my own and succeeded on many grounds.  I’ve had championships, wins on the dragstrip, technological breakthroughs, popularity, innovations, and I helped bring popularity to drag racing.  Even the NHRA admitted that having me on their drag strips increased their popularity.  Mention drag racing to the average man on the street and if he knows only one name, it surely is "Big Daddy" Don Garlits.  I came from Sulfur Springs Florida, considered the wrong side of the tracks by many people, in the early 1950’s.   I certainly wasn't rich, famous, nor did I have a college education.  My success came from my desire, zeal, intelligence, confidence, strong work ethic and the will to succeed which propelled me past those liabilities of my birth to the top of the drag racing sport as quickly as I blew off the sport's early hotshots from Southern California.  They were a brash bunch of drag racers and tough and we southern, eastern and midwestern drag racers wanted to beat them as often as we could.  We had some thrilling races with those guys.
     Following my first win in 1955 with what was my first, rather crude race car by modern standards, I made constant improvements.  That first race car was a highly modified 12.1-second, 108-mph, flathead-powered '27-T roadster-like slingshot dragster.  I next built my first Swamp Rat dragster built on a '31 Chevy frame rail and I raced that car for six years all over the country and in many incarnations or rebuilds of that car.  A race car isn’t built and then just stays the same; a racer modifies it constantly and replaces parts and improves upon it constantly in order to get better performance at each race.  I earned my first appearance money and won my first big events with that car.  Drag strip promoters offer you “appearance money” just to show up and race, whether you win the race or not.  They do that when the crowds increase because of your name and recognition value.  If you win races or excite the crowds with your innovation and personality you can get appearance money and that helps you stay on the race circuit and compete.  It also makes you feel special when you can get that kind of money and other racers are trying to get where you’re at.  That day when I got my first appearance money was when I won the Florida State Championships in 1956.  I turned a 10.9 second elapsed time (ET) at 135 mph.
     By 1961 and with the retirement of Swamp Rat I, the eight Stromberg carburetors on the car had been replaced by a supercharger, the gasoline by nitromethane, and the ETs were in the low eights, (8.21).  That was fast in those days, record breaking fast and people were saying, even scientists and engineers said it, that we couldn’t go much lower from a standing start on the drag strip.  In 1957, I was the first to exceed 170 mph, (176.40) and my name was established.  The next year (1958) I was the first drag racer to go over 180 (180.00) miles per hour (mph). By the time I built Swamp Rat III, I had won the AHRA Nationals, the Texas State Championship in 1958 and most drag racers would have considered that a good career and quit.  It’s tough being a drag racer and having to travel and work long hours.  It’s even tougher on families of drag racers, but drag racing is in my blood and I wasn’t through by a long shot. 
     In 1959 I won the Northern California championship, the Arizona State championship.  Then with Art Malone driving while I recovered from nearly fatal burns that I suffered in a match race in Chester, South Carolina, Art won The Riverside Invitational in California in my car.  Malone was one of my best friends, but oh, how I wanted to be in the seat of my car.  I’m happy for him though.  In 1960 I was healed from my injuries and returned to driving, but in the Swamp Rat II, a gas-powered dragster, and in this car I won the first NHRA/NASCAR Winter Nationals in Daytona, Florida.  I have the story detailed in my book ‘BIG DADDY; The Autobiography of Don Garlits.’   This event morphed into the NHRA Winternationals the following year. 
     It was an event I didn't win that convinced me to devote my life to drag racing.  The hottest car in the country in 1957 was the 160-plus-mph Cook & Bedwell car in California.  The best fuel dragsters in the country were going to be racing in the World Series of Drag Racing, held in Cordova, Illinois.  That summer event was sanctioned by the Automobile Timing Association of America.  My self-confidence was flagging when I arrived and realized that my competitors were more than two seconds faster than me. Emery Cook, World Champion driver of the Cook & Bedwell car, showed me how to modify my Stromberg carburetors to run 98% nitromethane, far more than the 25 percent that I had been using.  The advice picked up my performance to competitive times, and I beat Cook in eliminations before losing in the final to Serop Postoian.  They were my heroes.  I had their picture nailed up on the wall of my shop.  When I outran them, I thought this is what I want to do. I want to be in their company, I want to be a drag racing champion.
     It was NHRA announcer Bernie Partridge who tagged me with the famous and unforgettable "Big Daddy" nickname at the 1962 U.S. Nationals.   Prior to that time in the 1950’s, when I broke speed barriers and whipped the Southern California boys with my crude Swamp Rat I, they called me "Tampa Dan," or "Don Garbage," and "Swamp Rat."  It wasn’t meant as praise.  Neither Partridge nor anyone at the time could have known that 39 years later, in the second week of November 2001, the nickname “Big Daddy” would also connote my final ranking in the sport as the #1 all-time drag racer by racing fans.   I advanced to my first of 43 career NHRA national event final rounds in Indianapolis in 1962.  I lost in the Top Gas final to Jack Chrisman.   We had to use gasoline at that time because of a ban on nitromethane by the NHRA.  The following year the NHRA lifted its seven-year-old nitromethane ban for the 1963 Winternationals, before dropping it forever at both national events in 1964.  
     In 1963 I won the first of 35 NHRA national event titles, the Winternationals at Pomona CA.  With a wing mounted over the engine, the first on a Top Fuel dragster, I beat my good friend Art Malone with an 8.26 ET at 186 mph.  Good friend or not I was out to win the race.  I achieved the first of my three greatest accomplishments in the sport in 1964.  With nitromethane now legal at all NHRA events, in August of 1964, at Great Meadows, New Jersey I became the first to record an official backed-up 200-mph speed (201.34) record.  The next month, in September, I drove Swamp Rat VI to the first of my eight US Nationals titles, defeating Jack Williams in the final with a 7.67 ET at 198 mph.  Three years later, with a dragster I built in 72 hours, the Swamp Rat 11, after failing to qualify at the Winternationals and Springnationals, in Swamp Rat 10, I became the first two-time winner of the most prestigious drag race in the world with an ET of 6.77 seconds at the NHRA US Nationals.  If I had any thought that this would be the pinnacle of my career that would be a mistake.  I was just getting started in this sport and some mighty big battles awaited me in the future.
     The next year, in September 1968, with Swamp Rat 12, I was the first to win two straight NHRA US Nationals titles.  By the close of the 1960’s, when NHRA hosted only two national events a year from 1961 to 1965 and four a year from 1965 to 1969, I had won six titles.  People often wonder and argue how many more I could have won had there been the modern day schedule of 24 national titles a year.  I have no doubt I would have won a good share of them.  I had also won four AHRA national events and the first of five US Fuel & Gas Championships in seven career final rounds.  Driving two different Swamp Rat dragsters each day of the two-day Fuel & Gas runoffs in 1965, I won Saturday and again Sunday over teammate Marvin Schwartz.  The event had been created in 1959 specifically to lure me out to California to race against the powerful west coast guys.  I wanted so badly to beat them and I know I had many fans in the east that were rooting me on.  They were the high and mighty and had earned their reputations and to beat them was a drag racer’s dream.
     The 1970s opened badly for me when a transmission explosion in the fatefully tagged Swamp Rat 13 in the final round of an AHRA national event at Lions drag strip in Long Beach, California, cut my car in half and took a portion of my right foot with it.  That was the last straw for me with that type of front-engined dragster.  Like everyone else I had been sitting behind the oil- and fire-spewing supercharged, nitro-burning engines for more than 10 years.  I had already reached a speed of 240 mph two years before and I was faced with quitting the sport or making the novel rear-engine dragster design competitive.  I’m not a quitter though and chose the latter, resulting in my second major accomplishment.  Exactly one year later at the race at Lions drag strip where I was severely injured, I took my rear-engined new Swamp Rat XIV to the finals of that race again.  Several weeks later I became the first to win an NHRA national event with a rear-engined dragster when I set the Top Fuel class on a new course by winning the Winternationals, in Pomona, California.  The following weekend I won the prestigious US Fuel and Gas Championships at Bakersfield California. 
     Within two years the front-engined dragster was extinct as a viable contender, to be used in nostalgia racing leagues.  My first rear-engined dragster not only rejuvenated "the Old Man's" career, I was 39 after all, but revived the Top Fuel class at a time when the danger of the diggers and the surging popularity of the new Funny Cars had Top Fuel on the ropes.  I take great pride in being an innovator in the sport of drag racing.  Swamp Rat XXX, the first successful streamlined Top Fuel dragster, took me to my third Winston Top Fuel championship in 1986.  In 1987, I took Swamp Rat XXX and my reputation in the sport of drag racing to Washington, D.C., for the car's installation at the Smithsonian Institution.  In the 1970’s, driving a succession of Swamp Rat dragsters, I became the first to run in the 6.3 ETs and the first to exceed 250 mph.  I ran the first 250-mph speed at the 1975 NHRA World Finals to win my first Winston NHRA World Championship and the first awarded by Winston.  That speed would not be eclipsed for seven years.  My ET on the run at 5.63 seconds was a tenth and a half quicker than the record I had set two years earlier.
     Richard Parks told me this, “In 1975 I was in the suites at the old Ontario Motor Speedway and we were talking to some people when a huge roar was heard, even through the glass, as a burn-out caught our attention.  Someone said, ‘Quiet, Garlits is running.’  We went outside on the veranda, high above the drag strip as Don Garlits backed up and staged.  Don took off in a roar of horsepower as the Christmas tree turned green and the roar of that sound reverberated through, up and over the stands shaking us and he won the round in such a convincing fashion that we all just stood there gaping with mouths open.  I’d seen all sorts of races, fast ones, slow ones, tragic accidents, exciting side by side finishes and boringly slow ones.  This drag race was different.  We all knew we were in the presence of a great and memorable event.  It was a once in your lifetime event that you remember and tell your children about.  I can’t even recall who the other driver was or if it was somewhat of a competitive race.  All that I can remember was that it was Don Garlits; just Don Garlits.  It was as if he was in a universe all of his own making with not a drag racing competitor in sight.  It was a solo performance of one of the greatest runs I have ever, or will ever see again.  We all knew it was a record and a big one, but when the announcer screamed ‘Don Garlits has gone 5.63 at 250.69 the reaction of everyone was, ‘It has to be a faulty clock.’  It wasn’t.  We knew it for what it was, a performance by man and car for the ages.  It was the quintessential run and no matter how fast drag racers can go today the one race that will be remembered forever belonged to Don Garlits and the Swamp Rat and I was there to see it.” 
     By the end of the decade, I had won 16 of 20 NHRA national event final rounds, including two more US Nationals, all four of my IHRA championships (26 national event wins), and six of my 10 AHRA titles.  I had been thinking about preserving the history and heritage of drag racing for some time and in 1976 I opened the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Seffner, Florida and then moved it to Ocala Florida in 1983, where it remains today.  The museum has grown over the years and has hosted many events and fans from all over the world come to admire the cars in the collection and the history that is preserved there.
     In 1982, I experimented with two different methods of locomotion that were reminiscent of the earliest days of the sport. In 1982, with Swamp Rat 27, I mounted the engine sideways in the chassis in an effort to gain more traction from engine torque.  The next year I installed a 2,000-horsepower T58-10 turbine engine in the 1,000-pound Swamp Rat 28. Both attempts at building a better drag racing mousetrap proved unworthy, but they were evidence of my determination and innovative skills.  By the summer of 1984 and with the approach of the US Nationals, I had been mostly absent from the NHRA tour for four years and hadn't built a conventional car during that time. With the urging and financial backing of old friend and schoolmate, Art Malone, I arrived unannounced in Indianapolis and repeated my come-from-behind US Nationals to win the event in Top Fuel, just as I had come from behind in 1967.   I followed that win with another win at the World Finals in Pomona to close out a successful 1984 season, and I was stoked for a return to full-time NHRA competition.
     My 1984 Indy win and subsequent return to NHRA competition was the second time my performance and name alone had breathed new life into Top Fuel.  In 1982, my friend, nemesis, and match race partner, Shirley Muldowney, had become the first to win three NHRA national Top Fuel championships.  By 1986, I had also become a three-time NHRA national champion, along the way repeating my 1984 win at the US Nationals in 1985 and 1986 to become the event's only winner for three years in a row. In my effort to win the 1986 Winston NHRA World Championship Top Fuel title, I was the first to reach 270 mph, (272.56) at the Gatornationals in my home state of Florida and in front of my loyal fans.  I accomplished both with the sport's only successful streamlined car, Swamp Rat XXX, my third great accomplishment. 
     On October 20, 1987, my homebuilt dragster was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution, which also houses The Spirit of St. Louis, the first plane to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean (by aviator Charles Lindbergh) and the first manned space capsule.  What a thrilling moment that was for me.  In 1987, after my second blowover, I retired again.  The term blowover was invented to describe my over-backward wheelie in Swamp Rat XXX at the 1986 Summernationals in Spokane, Washington.   While I was recuperating, NBC hired me to work at the NHRA National events they were televising.  This started my television career which I enjoyed until I retired from broadcasting in December, 2006.  I also worked for TNN on the NHRA drag racing shows, produced by Diamond “P” Sports and “NHRA Today.”  I have hosted numerous shows such as “Nitro Warriors,” “Road Test Magazine”,  “Top Fuel”,  and of course many shows for Master’s Entertainment in Bristol TN. 
     I returned to racing once again in 1992 with Swamp Rat 32, equipped with a monostrut rear wing, and of course an enclosed cockpit, like I had on Swamp Rat XXX in 1986, in an effort to become the first to exceed 300 mph, but I didn't debut the car until the Southern Nationals, one month after Kenny Bernstein ran the first 300-mph speed at the Gatornationals.  I retired again and had Bruce Larson drive for me for several years, building Swamp
Rat 34 along the way. I didn’t like Crew Chiefing as much as driving, so I returned to television and put Swamp Rat 34 into mothballs. I was badgered back into the driver’s seat by Chris Karamesines and my fans in 2001 at the US Nationals and drove Gary Clapshaw's car.   My fans gave me a roaring cheer as they stood for my time run, and I responded with my first four-second ET and 300-mph speed in Sunday qualifying at  4.720 ET and 303.37 mph.  I was just four months shy of my 70th birthday, and I had announced my intention of finding a sponsor and resuming my racing career.  MATCO Tools stepped up to the plate and sponsored Swamp Rat 34 for 2002 and I raised my all time best to 318.54 MPH in 4.763 seconds at the 2002 US Nationals.  Then the following year Summit Racing took over the sponsorship and I pushed the #34 to 323.04 MPH in 4.761 seconds at the 2003 Gatornationals.  At 71 years of age I was doing what most 20 year olds were dreaming of, instead of thinking about what pills a septuagenarian was supposed to take to stay healthy.  My medication was a good dose of adrenaline and the smell of nitromethane.
     Swamp Rat #35 and #36 were Super Stock Dodge Drag Pak cars that I raced for several years while my beloved wife, Pat Garlits was very sick.  She eventually passed away.  She was the love of my life.  Then in 2012, I teamed up with Mike Gerry and we put together the Electric Dragster known as Swamp Rat #37.  After several outings I finally held the World Record for Electric Dragsters, a blistering 185.60 MPH in 7.274 seconds.  My quest is not over as I intend to surpass the magic 200 mph record for this class sometime in 2015.  Call me what you will, "Big Daddy," "Swamp Rat," "the Old Man," but with my status as the top driver in NHRA's first 50 years affirmed by the fans of the sport, you’d better call me "The Best," as well.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]
Gone Racin’…The Eddie Miller Family.  Story by Richard Parks, photographs and documentation by Jim Miller, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.   9 December 2010. 

     The Miller family is one of racing’s blue bloods. They have been involved in auto racing since 1915. Eddie Miller Sr began his racing career during World War I and raced up through 1922 with the Duesenberg factory.  Eddie Miller Sr was born in 1895 in Somonauk, Illinois, on the family farm.  His father had emigrated from Germany in the 1880’s and married a lady by the last name of Turk.  Eddie Miller Sr had one older brother named John. He went to work for Elcar motor car company in Indiana around 1912.  Elcar used a Duesenberg designed motor in their car and Eddie transferred to the Duesenberg Company in 1915. He started as a mechanic and then became a riding mechanic for the company and rode with Wilbur D’Alene in the 1916 Indy 500 and finished second in the race.  In his first race he was in an accident.  Riding mechanics at the time would take the car out and warm it up before a race and do the tune-ups on the car.
     When World War I broke out the Duesenberg Company moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey and did Research and Development on engines on their dyno machine for the war effort. Eddie was still racing during the war. They would use the R&D equipment in their race cars. In 1921 Eddie began driving, and continued to build race cars for Duesenberg, including the Double Duesy that ran at Daytona Beach in 1921. That was the first car to exceed 150 mph, but did not receive a record from the FIA. Eddie was the riding mechanic for anyone who drove a Duesenberg race care, including; Jimmy Murphy, O’Donnell, Eddie Pullen, etal. In 1921 Duesenberg company was reorganized and the drivers had to rent the cars to race at $1000 per month. Eddie finished fourth at the 1921 Indy 500 race; he drove three different cars in the race. At that time drivers would switch cars for various reasons such as a broken part, fatigue or points racing and the drivers raced for a certain manufacturing team.
     After the Indy 500 race in 1921, Eddie married Elizabeth Curry. Eddie met his future wife in Elizabeth, New Jersey where he was currently working. Eddie was the development engineer for the Model-A Duesenberg, the first passenger car developed under the Duesenberg name, during 1920. He would take Elizabeth out on dates in a body-less car, with only the chassis with wooden box as seats. He not only had a date with his fiancé, but he also got to test drive the car at the same time. Their first child was Eddie Miller Jr and he was born on May 30, 1922. When his first son was born he had promised Elizabeth that he wouldn’t drive any more.

     Eddie moved his family to Los Angeles in 1922. He had toured the country in his racing days and liked Southern California the best. He noticed that a lot of the best race cars were being built in this area, especially the Harry Miller cars. He opened his hot rod shop in Hollywood and was a dealer for Schebler carburetors. He built intake and exhaust manifolds for high end cars owned by movie stars such as Gary Cooper. Eddie was an AAA observer in 1926 when Frank Lockhart took his Miller and set records at Muroc dry lake. This gave Lockhart the idea for the Black Hawk land speed racing car. Eddie built race cars and cars for the movie industry. In the late 1920’s E. L. Cord brought out a car under his own name and had purchased many car and plane names including Duesenberg, Auburn, Lycoming, Stinson Aircraft and other companies.
     Eddie Miller went back to Indiana to work on the R&D for the front drive Cord and the Duesenberg SJ.  Eddie worked in Indiana until around 1930 and then returned to Los Angeles and worked for Auburn as a technical rep for the company. In 1932 he set 85 land speed records at Muroc in an Auburn automobile for advertising purposes for the sales department.  Phil Berg asked Eddie to prepare and drive Berg’s car against Harpo Marx’s supercharged Mercedes in a match race. This race was held at Muroc dry lake in October 1932. A great amount of money was wagered on the race and movie stars were bused out to the dry lake for the event. Harry Miller was the flag man for the race.

     Eddie Miller Jr married Eva May Ivey in 1944.  Eva was born in Hermitage, Arkansas.  Junior raced at the dry lakes in the Mojave Desert and took his young son, James (Jim) Miller with him.  His beautiful lakes roadster was later restored and won many prestigious awards, including the Pebble Beach Concours.
     Jim Miller went for land speed racing in a huge way.  He never had a family of his own, but racing was his passion and his friends were his extended family.  An easy going and friendly man he volunteered to help others wherever he could.  He has been a club representative, SCTA board member and land speed racing inspector.  Besides his volunteerism he is also a land speed racer and has the Red Hat that he earned at Bonneville which allowed him to join a select few men and women who have set a record above 200 miles per hour.  It isn’t an easy record to get, because you can’t just go 200 miles per hour; you have to set a record in your racing class over 200 miles per hour.  If the record is 299 you have to exceed that speed to get the Red Hat.  Jim’s record was 212.842 mph.  He has it memorized and he will not let you forget that .842 either.
     He is also the pre-eminent Historian among land speed history fans and was honored by the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame for his work as a historian.  He was elected to become the first President of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians (SLSRH) in 2007 and has held that position ever since.  His home in Burbank, California is a racing museum with records and memorabilia collected from three generations of the Miller family.  He is the heir of the Julian Doty historical records.  He is also the chief researcher, historian and curator of the American Hot Rod Foundation and continuously adds historical content, photographs and captions to their website at
     He is a tireless worker in the preservation of land speed racing and has a large collection of other types of auto racing.  He developed a system of state license plate identification that allows him to identify when and where a car raced.  Jim is constantly answering questions from the general public and works tirelessly to save photographs and artifacts from destruction.  He goes to a racer’s home to interview in the field, borrows photograph albums and scans them into his computer, creates a thorough caption and then returns them to the owner of the material.  In addition he gives them a copy of everything that he has done so they will have a quick record and inventory of their photographs. 
     As the President of the SLSRH he is aware of the annual destruction of precious historical documents and seeks to find museums and historical societies who will receive these valuable historical records and maintain them for our future generations to come.  He adds to his collections on a constant basis and eventually will turn them over to an institution he trusts to preserve them for future historians to use.  He is also a very honest man; if he says he will get your photographs back to you then you can count on him to fulfill his word.  That is not true with some historians.  In addition he exercises good sense and sound advice and people come to him for his opinion.  Land speed racing like all auto racing can get heated and defamatory as one group or person contests the decisions and opinions of other groups.  Jim Miller balances out reason with his stands on land speed racing.  He has earned the respect of his fellow racers.

Gone Racin' is at [email protected]

Gone Racin' ... William Ray (Bill) Summers.  Story written by Maggie Peace, edited by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  9 March 2012.

     Bill Summers was born to Sherman and Mary Summers on December 18, 1935 in Omaha Nebraska.  Bill had two siblings; a brother Robert, known as Bob to the racing world and Butch to the family, and a sister Susan.  Sherman was a salesman in the Omaha area and during the Great Depression in the late 1930's moved the family to Washington State where he felt there was more opportunity.  From there the family moved to Ontario, just east of Los Angeles in the area of the Pomona valley, which was developing orchards and farms.  Bill attended the local schools and graduated from Chaffey Union High School, Ontario, California, in the class of 1953.  While in high school, the two brothers found old cars and fixed them up to see how fast their hot rods could go. 
     After graduating, Bill found employment at a Ford dealership and through this he met Dawson Hadley who was a well-known hot rodder and land speed racer who had driven at Bonneville and at the dry lakes.  Hadley had an instant impact on the young man and Bill eagerly introduced the older man to his brother, who encouraged them to try their hand at land speed racing.  Sherman bought Bill his first automobile, a '35 Ford coupe, but could never understand the interest that his two sons had in speed.  Bob graduated a year later in the class of 1954, and by this time Bill had purchased his second car, a '32 Ford coupe. 
     The brothers decided to try their hand at racing at Bonneville and Bill bought a '36 Ford coupe and found an old early model of the Chrysler Hemi V8.  The brothers built up the motor with parts that they could afford from a Chrysler dealership.  In August of 1954 they headed for SpeedWeek at the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah.  Their first taste for high speed ended with a time of 136 mph, a creditable enough time based on the quality of their equipment, but it disappointed them.  They camped out with a lot of other young men, near the entrance to the lakebed, near a bend in the road.  In 1955 they came back to Bonneville with a new car; a '29 Ford body with a '32 frame and the same Hemi and went 178 mph which was good enough to get the high speed for the C/Roadster class. 
     For most people 178 mph is very fast and in 1955 it was fast.  Speed was now in their blood and what they lacked in professional training they more than made up for in ingenuity and enthusiasm.  Their new car for the 1956 SpeedWeek meet was a Model-T roadster run in the modified class with a Hemi engine.  Bob was now doing the driving and went over 200 mph using alcohol as a fuel.  They were back with the roadster in 1957 and improved on the times from the previous year and now the name Summers Brothers was becoming a common name on the Salt Flats.  Like so many other young men of that era, they decided to try a little drag racing and helped a friend build a coupe that they ran in the Gasser category on the drag strips.  The brothers formed Summers Brothers Racing while they were drag racing and built forged axles, spools and geared camshaft drives for their own use and then to sell to other racers in drag and oval track racing.  The Summers brothers’ reputation for high quality racing equipment is still with us today in the company that they founded. 
     Drag racing wasn't the only thing keeping the Summers Brothers from the Salt Flats.  Bill entered the Army in 1959 and served until 1961, and then he was recalled for the Berlin Crisis in 1961.  He was honorably discharged in 1962.  His military duties also involved truck driving.     
     On leave from the service, Bob and Bill returned to the Salt Flats in 1960 to set another record.  It's a long drive from Southern California to Utah and back and many land speed racing teams hatch some frightful ideas with that much time on their hands.  The Summers Brothers decided to build a big streamliner and go for the unlimited wheel driven record.  At that time jet engined land speed cars were just starting to become a fad and had not quite broken any of the wheel driven records, but they could go fast.  All that the wheels had to do was spin, there was no power delivered to the wheels by the motor as in wheel driven cars.  The record at that time was set by John Cobb way back in 1947 at 394 mph.  Mickey Thompson had run over 400, but could not back that up with a second run, so in the minds of Bill and Bob they only had to coax a reasonable 150 mph out of a car to set the record.  Now it's one thing to get up to 250 mph, but to get another 150 mph to break the record, was considered beyond anyone except the professionals who were backed by major sponsors and perhaps their government.  The Summers Brothers never bothered to think about what couldn't be done; they were too interested in what they could do.
     By 1963 Bill was free from serving in the Army and the brothers had returned to Bonneville and upped their record in their class to an astounding 327 mph.  This was the front drive streamliner with that old Hemi engine that they had used since 1954.  They were close and they knew it, but they also knew that they probably wouldn't set the record with the set-up and car that they had.  It was going to take something far bigger and more powerful for them to break Cobb's record.  Although Bill was deeply involved in racing, his interest was on the mechanical side and he left the driving to his brother Bob Summers. 
     The new streamliner, which they called GOLDENROD after the gold paint that they used, was built in Southern California and they had plenty of help, including a young man named James Crosby.  Before construction Bill and Bob sought out Tony Capanna, who was a well-known land speed racer from the 1930's and owner of Wilcap, located in Torrance, California.  Tony had helped Wally Parks and Ray Brock with the engine of SUDDENLY, which set the stock car record at Daytona Beach in 1957.  The brothers were following the example of Mickey Thompson who had four engines side by side in the Challenger I, when he went 400 mph in 1960.  Capanna, who was one of the most brilliant land speed racers of his time, suggested that they lengthen the car and put the engines in-line and streamline the car even further.  He also advised them to seek out the advice of a Northrop engineer who specialized in aerodynamics and wind tunnel testing. 
     The brothers redesigned the streamliner into a cigar-like shape with engines in-line from front to back, making the car 32 feet long and only 9 square feet of frontal resistance.  The car weighed three tons and had four unblown 426 cubic inch Hemi engines that produced 2400 horsepower at 7000 rpm.  They built the car not far from their house in an old abandoned vegetable shed.  Their ideas established the model for future land speed cars.  The GOLDENROD was only 48 inches wide by 42 inches high and relatively light in comparison to today's unlimited land speed cars.  There was very little drag resistance to the shape of the car.
     It took about a year to build the aluminum sided streamliner and then it was off to Utah.  On November 12, 1965, which was very late in the season to go land speed racing, the GOLDENROD with Bob driving made two runs, up the course and back down again within an hour.  The two way average was 409.277 mph and that broke Donald Campbell's record of 403.135 set on July 17, 1964.  Campbell was the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell who had set and reset the land speed record at Bonneville during the 1930's.  Donald Campbell had broken John Cobb's record of 394.196 that was set on September 16, 1947. 
     For decades land speed's unlimited wheel driven record had belonged to the British and now two, almost unknown, American hot rodders had taken the record back and would keep it for more than a quarter century.  Campbell died attempting to set an unlimited water speed record and it would be two decades before the Brits would contend for the record again and this time they by-passed the Summers brothers wheel driven record.  Bob and Bill should have received more praise than they got, but this was the time when jet cars that are not wheel driven were able to post higher speeds.  It would be Craig Breedlove, Art Arfons and Gary Gabelich who would steal all the publicity with their jet propelled vehicles.
     They had done this remarkable thing on a limited budget and few people thought they could do it.  They had no great training or experience to speak of and here they were with the wheel-driven world record that was recognized by the FIA in Paris.  The official timer handed the timing slip to Bob, and that was about the amount of praise they would get.  But they had shown an ingenuity that would outlive their lives.  True land speed fans would never forget their names.  Their prior experience with drag racing and sling-shot dragsters had pushed them over the top.  The use of Cal Tech's wind tunnel would urge other racers to do the same.  The drag coefficient of 0.117 would inspire others to use their designs and the handling turned out to be flawless.  The brothers had worked out the power and weight to exactly what they achieved at Bonneville.  The GOLDENROD never raced again, but visited Europe six different times, where crowds mobbed the groundbreaking record car. 
     The brothers considered racing the car and then decided against it.  The record and their quality of work brought them support from Hurst, Firestone, Chrysler and others, but it was now time for the brothers to get back to their new business and make a success out of that.  Bill continued to build Lakester cars and set records with 10 of the 11 cars that he owned/built.  Bill Married Joy Young Summers Green in 1974.  Bill and Bob sold Summers Brothers Racing to their employees in the mid-1980's.  Bill Started work as a truck driver for Chet Base Transportation in Pomona California and drove routes across the United States.  He also continued his Rent-a-Ride program with his yellow lakester car.  Bob became a welder by trade.
     In 1991 Al Teague went faster than the Summers Brothers record with a speed of 409.986 two way average in Al's supercharged Hemi powered streamliner, but this was for the Class AI-I-11 class and therefore did not beat GOLDENROD's unsupercharged record in the AI-II-11 class.  Since then Don Vesco has increased the record to 458.440 mph, which he set on October 18, 2001.  The Summers Brothers record had lasted for 36 years.
     Bob passed away from a massive heart attack in 1992.  The GOLDENROD went on display across the United States and Europe and in 2000 was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.  The car was sold to the Henry Ford museum in 2002 and restored by John Baechtel of Landspeed Restorations and Mike Cook of Cook Motorsports. His wife, Joy Young Summers Green, died in 2002.  The employees who owned Summer Brothers Racing sold the company to Jose Pontifes in 2006, who expanded the line and customer base to include jeep, vintage and sand rails among his drag racing customers.  Jose said that the Summers Brothers name has gotten him a lot of good public relations and publicity and he no longer has to advertise.  People remember the company as producing high quality parts.
     Bill Married Likivai Mena in 2010.  Bill was in the process of building a new lakester at the time of his passing.  Bill’s hobbies included racing, riding motorcycles or trikes, and traveled as often as he could.  He always stayed in close contact with his family and friends. He loved to eat.  On May 12, 2011 Bill Summers passed away at his home in Ontario, California. 
     Bill’s family and friends gave him a private funeral, followed by a memorial service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints in Ontario, California, on June 18, 2011. To give those racing friends a chance to say their goodbyes, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum held a Celebration of Life on June 24, 2011 in the museum located in Pomona, California. The following family friends were in attendance; Sisaua Tuokoi, Levita Lafuia, the Mooney family, Ron Kato, Al Antonucci, John Saltsman, Kris Tsachiro, Kie Vaitai, Elenora Vaitai, Elisa Vaitia, Dan E. Woody, Royce McClintick, Dennis Wood. Family members in attendance were; Bill and Betty Young (Joy's brother and wife), Ben Green (Grandson), Samie Green (great granddaughter), Lily Green (great granddaughter), Rick Green (stepson), Millie Cooper Green (granddaughter), Joel Cooper Green (great grandson), David Peace (son-in-law), Maggie Green Summers Peace (daughter), Faith Cretty Green (daughter in law), Chris Cooper Lefevre (daughter).
     Those from the racing fraternity who came to pay their respects included; John Kilroy (editor of Performance Racing Magazine), Bob Casey (Henry Ford Museum Transportation Curator), Dan Warner (200 mph club), Jim Miller (SCTA Historian), Zachary Secor and his father "Rapid" Ron Secor (Rent a Ride), Jose Manuel Pontifes (current owner of Summers Brothers Racing), Ken Freund (writer, photographer and editor), Al and Jane Teague (land speed record setter), Charles Nearburg (current wheel driven land speed record holder), Revan Miller (friend of Charles Nearburg), Waldo Stakes (Bonneville land speed racer), Mickey Banuelos (current driver of the #51 Lakester), Steve Gibbs (past director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum), Pastor Pete Kinney (Racers for Christ), and Marion Deist (owner of Deist Safety Equipment Company), Richard Parks and Roger Rohrdanz.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].
Gone Racin' ... Jon Wennerberg.  Written by Jon Wennerberg with Richard Parks, who interviewed Jon at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California.  Notes and quotes from many sources were used.  Steve Brownlee, sports writer for THE MINING JOURNAL is quoted verbatim in an article that he did on Jon and Nancy and finally there are several non-credited sources that I will credit as soon as I find the authors.  Photographic consultant is Roger Rohrdanz.  December 2012. 

     Jon Wennerberg was born on March 17, 1948 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in the southwest corner of the state along the Indiana state border.  Benton Harbor was located in Berrien County and to the north was the picturesque town of Holland, to the south were Gary, South Bend and Elkhart, to the east was Kalamazoo and to the west were Lake Michigan and the mighty heart of the mid-west region, Chicago.  Jon goes by the nickname Seldom Seen Slim, but more on that later.  I grew up within a hundred miles of Benton Harbor -- moving into Chicago (across Lake Michigan) and back out to SW Michigan and around there, eventually to central Ohio for two years and then once again back to SW Michigan until our family moved back into northwest suburban Chicagoland where I lived 'til I moved out to go to college in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  I graduated from Michigan Technological University in 1970.    
     Jon has that special Mid-western personality that loves to poke fun at himself and others.  It could be his Scandinavian upbringing that never takes anything too seriously unless it is serious.  It takes a while to separate out the humor and I have to admit that I could listen to Jon's colloquialisms for hours, but there was a story to tell.  "I love to do engraving stuff, like a knife blade.  I did one earlier today, in plain English, and this next one is in Olde English font and the other day one in the funky-looking style of J. R. R. Tolkien's stuff.  Oh, and also doing the nameplate for the box that'll hold the ashes for a lady once she's died.  I do these cremains boxes now and then -- but this is the first time I've done one before the person has had the courtesy to die.  Now I've got to make her happy - rather than figuring that she won't care 'cause she's already gone," Jon said with a twinkle in his eye.                   
     Jon prefers to use the second person and sometimes even the third person to speak of himself.  The following statement is not attributed but explains Jon Wennerberg very well.  "Nancy and Jon Wennerberg and their team are called 'Seldom Seen Slim Land Speed Racing.'  The couple is successful land speed racers from Skandia and recently attended the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Buellton, California. They entered the Hall of Fame as acknowledgement of the historical value of their racing website,  They received a plaque recognizing their achievement as well as the congratulations of all of those attending; and others from all over the world.        serves not only as a gathering place for land speed racers from all over the world, but also as a repository of more than 30,000 photos and many hundreds of technical articles and even build diaries related to their sport.  Land speed racing, by the way, is building and racing a vehicle to its ultimate top speed.  The vehicles are sent down the race course one at a time and given 5 miles to reach that top speed, so not only must the vehicle be built to withstand the tremendous forces of high speed, but also to be able to not blow up from running at absolute maximum for much longer than might a drag race vehicle.   is a twelve year old website, and home to about 5,000 racers and interested folks that want to know about traveling on land at speeds that seem incredible to many outside the sport.  For instance, last year the Wennerbergs' saw one car, powered by a single V-8 engine; record a top speed of 462 miles per hour.  The couple’s Kawasaki ZX14 motorcycle was timed at just a bit over 200 miles per hour (mph), because the traction of the pure salt surface was not good enough to allow the tires to “hook up;” that is, get full traction.  Nancy has ridden the bike at over 204 mph in the past (when traction was better), and hopes to exceed 210 mph at the August 2012 event; called appropriately SpeedWeek.  At least 500 cars and motorcycles will be entered in the event. not only archives the history of LSR but also provides live on-line streaming of audio from most of the sport’s events across America.  That allows everyone (including Marquette, Michigan area residents) to hear the astounding speeds and other information about land speed racing as they’re happening.  The website is open to all and is free; so you can visit and see some of the fastest drivers in history," stated the unknown writer.     
     Additionally, Steve Brownlee, sports writer for THE MINING JOURNAL wrote this about Jon and Nancy Wennerberg and titled it, "Skandia couple head to Utah desert in wife’s quest for records."      
     "Jon and Nancy Wennerberg run in some fast company, but only on the salt flats of the Utah desert for a couple weeks each August.  This Skandia, Michigan couple is already on their way nearly 2,000 miles west for the annual SpeedWeek held on the Bonneville Salt Flats near the Nevada state line, famous as the site of numerous world land-speed records having been set there for decades.      
     Nancy Wennerberg is a relative newcomer to the sport at the age of 51, and she will attempt to set a world record for the fastest speed clocked for a stock motorcycle of the two sizes she will ride while there.  These are not records set specifically for men or for women or for a particular age group.  These speeds would be the fastest anyone has been clocked on a stock motorcycle; one that has had only very restricted changes from the way it’s normally sold to the public.  Her larger bike, a 2008 Kawasaki ZX14, is in the 1,352 to 1,530 cubic-centimeter class.  She previously set a record with it, going 201.913 mph, the average of two runs on the salt flats measured over consecutive days.      
     'We're hoping we get to 205 mph this year,' said Jon Wennerberg, 63, who proudly displays the '200 mph club' hat he's gotten in the past for setting records over that speed.  To put it into perspective, 200 mph means covering a mile in 18 seconds, or the length of a football field in one second.  The other motorcycle, with much less power, has gone as fast as about 115 mph.  With safety inspections scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday, attempts at making records go on from Saturday through Friday ... at a specially selected portion of the salt flats that cover hundreds of square miles in desert.  'I suspect the temperatures will be around 95 degrees with around 15 or 20 percent humidity,' Jon Wennerberg said.      
     During the first few days, prospective record breakers may have to wait five or six hours between runs because of the usual 500 to 550 people attempting to make runs.  'Probably about two-thirds of the vehicles are cars and remaining one-third are motorcycles,' Nancy said, with both Jon and Nancy adding with a laugh that some people really stretch the definitions of those vehicles.  'But as you get toward the end of the week, the waiting time becomes a lot shorter,' Jon Wennerberg said.  'Some people have already set their records, or they've blown out their vehicles and are done.'  He figures Nancy could get in 35 to 40 attempts if needed during the week.      
     The couple has been profiled in shorts segments on several cable TV shows about motorcycle racing speed records and the Bonneville flats.  'We went out to watch them in 2000 for the first time, and Jon tried racing in 2001,' Nancy Wennerberg said.  'I wasn't too sure about it at first, and for awhile, my excuse was that my legs were too short to reach the ground on a (stock) bike.   Then Jon had me try sitting on one, and I could just reach.  So I didn't have excuse anymore.'  And she gave it a try as a test.  'It didn't seem so hard,' she said about approaching or breaking 100 mph.  And the rest has become family racing history.      
     Since many of the attendees to SpeedWeek return year after year, a camaraderie, a sort of family atmosphere, has built up among racers.  The Wennerbergs host a big picnic every year, one recently serving the Upper Peninsula specialty of pasties to around 400 people.  This year they've planned fried chicken as the main dish of their picnic.  'It was a lot of work to keep the pasties frozen until we were ready for them,' Jon Wennerberg said.  They also took over a website dedicated to SpeedWeek,, which joins their own Seldom Seen Slim Racing website,   And the couple owns their own business in Harvey, Kudos Laser Engraving.  Strangely enough, while they have their own motorcycles for around town and road trips, they're not overly avid cyclists.  'It's completely different riding around town than it is attempting speed records,' Nancy Wennerberg said.  
     Here is another unattributable source that I found recently on Jon and Nancy Wennerberg.      Nancy and Jon Wennerberg, land speed racers from Skandia, traveled to the Maxton Monster Mile in southeastern North Carolina this past weekend (May 22-23) for another outing on their Kawasaki racing motorcycle.  The Wennerbergs compete in top speed trials both at Maxton and the better-known Bonneville Salt Flats (which are west of Salt Lake City, Utah) at least a half-dozen times each year.  This past weekend they were once again concentrating on getting Jon’s ZX12R nitrous oxide motorcycle tuned and readied for an assault on a 36-year-old record, of 232.597 mph, at Bonneville later this summer.  Jon was the rider this past weekend, as he was a month ago – when he took the bike to a best standing-mile speed of 185.8 mph.  The bike was “naked” at that meet – that is, there was no streamlining, not even a windscreen, on the bike. 
     This past weekend the Seldom Seen Slim crew chief, Todd Dross, of Twin Jugs Racing in Fredericksburg, Virginia, chose to outfit the bike with the custom bodywork that Jon and Nancy had built for the bike a few years ago.  The bodywork makes quite a difference, allowing Jon to race to a best speed of 196.714 miles per hour.  “I probably could have found at least four or five miles per hour more”, Jon said, “If the crosswind from the left Sunday noon wasn’t so strong.  I was cautious and therefore not as aggressive as I could have been toward the end of that run.”  He said that because of the wind he was tilted hard to the left as he was approaching the timing lights – and still was only about 6 or 7 feet from them as he blasted through the 132 foot timed stretched in less than a half-second – while leaned over about 10 degrees to the left. 
     Even at that speed Wennerberg was well below the existing record in his class, but since the goal for the event was testing and tuning the motor – not setting a record wasn’t a big disappointment.  The next event at Maxton is in late June, and then Todd will have the bike set to run with the nitrous system operating – giving the bike a big extra horsepower boost at the touch of a button (well, really, when the on-board sensors tell the computer that all programmed parameters are met and the tuner wants the extra power to begin). 
     The bike has gone 217 mph using nitrous oxide at Bonneville – but with a much smaller motor than it runs now, so the tuning at Maxton is giving Seldom Seen Slim not only plenty of “seat time” to help Jon become more familiar with the high-powered bike, but also to get the bike setup and engine tune up right – to avoid damaging the engine when running flat out for five miles at Bonneville this August. 
     Nancy, by the way, is patiently awaiting the completion of major engine improvements on her Kawasaki ZX14 – the bike she rode to a best mile speed of 204 mph last September at Bonneville.  She’s hoping for a record well over 205 mph this summer.  Last year the engine was tested and found to have about 207 horsepower, and the new work should bump that amount to around 225 hp. 
     For more information about Seldom Seen Slim Land Speed Racing you may visit their websites – and  The Wennerbergs are supported in their top speed endeavors by Signs Unlimited, Zambon’s Kawasaki, Public Service Garage, CarQuest of Marquette, and their own business – Kudos Laser Engraving. 
Gone Racin' is at [email protected].  **************************************************************************************