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OCIR After Dark

Night Terror

By Ro McGonegal, Photography by Car Craft Archives

Arguably, there is no finer display of pyrotechnics and marrow-deep racket than two Funny Cars spewing 6 feet of burning nitro after the sun goes down. In the day, Orange County International Raceway hosted the largest gathering of floppers anywhere on the planet at its all-inclusive Manufacturer's Meets, contests that packed the slats and enticed photographers from neighboring states. In the hierarchy, in the pecking order, you were there, ace, or you kept your yap shut. It was a convention of crazies in a weird time-space continuum, fueled by the fire and ultimately consumed by the smoke. Yup, you had to be there.


Show Us The Money

There is racing for glory…and there is racing for money. That trio of Chicago leprechauns, aka John Farkonas (the bank), Austin Coil (the wrench), and Pat Minick (the loud pedal) were decidedly in favor of the cash. While they appeared at a few national events, their reason for life was match racing—where the money was—and doing the coolest, longest, smokiest burnouts more than anyone else in the known world. To paraphrase, if the motor was runnin', someone was payin'. Minick had ripped some 6-second rants in 1969 behind the Chi-Town Hustler Charger, but these times were not publicized for fear of the "popcorn" onus. Suffice that F-C-M usually had the field covered by a couple of tenths. Their new Challenger had Elephant ammo and was driven by Minick until the end of 1971. Note Feature Editor (and Nikon-wielder) Fred M.H. Gregory in the yellow Car Craft rags.


Smoke and (at Least) One Mirror

This vignette was snapped at Indy during a Saturday rain-out (circa 1972). While some of us were grogged and seduced by the vapors in the motorhome, Richard Tharpe was outside doing sloppy figure-eights in the soggy sod pits with the Blue Max on the back of his ramp truck. The guy is CC publisher Sal Fish. The companion to his right is unknown, but that's Jungle Bobbi trying to escape his tentacles.


Et Tu, Lew?

Lew Arrington was a Funny Car pioneer. After racing the Sampson and later Brutus GTOs with an aspiring Jim Liberman, who left the operation to campaign his own career, Arrington struck out on his own, campaigning a series of flip-tops, the most popular of which was this Mustang. Its wild paint included a rendition of a nitromethane molecule on the hood. Arrington ran match races all over the country and at a select few NHRA national events. He was one of the original Wacky Racers. Though his Fords were powered by early and late Hemis, Arrington fabbed rocker covers that looked like SOHC cam covers to trick the fans into thinking it was a Ford powerplant.


On the Record

Immensely popular Dave Braskett and Gary Burgin's Vega represented the leading edge in Funny Car construction in 1972. A working vision of a master craftsman, the late John Buttera, it sported an independent front suspension, acknowledged as a first for the insane legion. In January 1972, Dave and Gary ran a 6.72 elapsed time, setting the F/C record at the Lions Grand Premiere race. Here, they don't haze 'em at OCIR.

By Ro McGonegal
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1 comments
Jaybird
Jaybird

I spent my youth loitering around OCIR and an enjoyed some of my most memorable years watching real floppers, short wheebase altereds, and front-engined diggers.  It was also during an era of experimentation, open-face helmets with masks, and creative paint jobs... not the boring cookie-cutter/corporate-wrapped cars of today.

Never again have I been to a race track that came even close to replicating both the lighting and ambiance that spectators enjoyed at OCIR.  It will always be a cherished memory close to my heart.

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