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Utah
Drag Strips

Miscellaneous photos ,proof sheets, track schedules, racer business cards, and a time slip kept in a drag race scrapbook, from years working at Bonneville Raceway. Courtesy of Mel Bashore

Magna

  • Bonneville Raceway, 1970s and 1980s
     
    For about a dozen years, I worked as a tech man at the drag strip located about a mile northeast of Magna. Bob Ipsen was the owner and Ron Craft was the track manager. During my years there, I worked all the Wednesday night grudge races and all the big weekend races. I enjoyed inspecting the cars, but I really enjoyed helping conduct the races. That involved putting the index times on the bracket cars and getting them paired up in the staging lanes. I got my teenage daughter a job in the time shack. I also got my wife a job as the track photographer. She did it for two years. Our young children had the run of the race track. Mostly they played under the stands, looking for discarded treasures. My wife loved being on the starting line, taking photos of the race cars. She had her own darkroom to develop black & white photos. It was fun for her. Our involvement together gave her an understanding of the interest I had in the sport. I don't know how many times racers would tell me that their wives had given them an ultimatum: choose either marriage or racing. Too many times they chose the latter--and generally ended up losing the wife and the race car.  My wife got to know the racers. Many visiting racers gave her their business cards and addresses. She sent them photos of their cars. She was a favorite with Dave Uyehara and the "Good, Bad, & Ugly" fuel dragster bunch. They wanted to take her on tour with them. She and I teamed up to produce articles for National Dragster. She supplied the photos for articles that I wrote. Once she hitched a ride from Salt Lake out to the track with Don Garlits. When I first started, a few of the other tech guys ruled in what I thought was an unnecessarily stern manner. That was not my way. I didn't see any reason to treat a racer with disdain if maybe their car was lacking in some safety feature, e.g., a missing catch can, driveline loop, inadequate safety helmet or seat belts, etc. I tried to educate them in a friendly way. But after only a year or two, the tough tech men weren't there any more. I recommended guys who were hired to replace them who I thought would treat racers in a more kindly fashion. It changed the whole culture of our inspections and our relations with the racers. In other words, we made it fun. Just a few memories that stick out. I became the guy who squirted water on the asphalt behind the jet cars on the line. We did this to try to keep the asphalt intact, essentially to keep it whole and not get sloughed off. The afterburner flames were 3,000 degrees at the tip.  The first time I did that, I got caught too far back between two jet dragsters. I ducked behind a 50-gallon drum of water with the flames shooting on either side of me. I kept squirting the water above my head to keep me from catching on fire. My hair, eyebrows, and hair on my arms was all singed. My daughter was up in the tower and thought I had been burned to a crisp. Fron then on, I knew where I could safely stand to avoid the flames. I didn't like working around the rocket cars. They caused my eyes to water uncontrollably for several minutes afterwards. During the big divisional meets (or AHRA national events), they supplied their own tech men. At those times, I generally worked down on the top end to help racers get out of their shoulder harnesses, or out of their cars, or out of the sand trap if they couldn't slow in time to make the turn onto the return road. I helped get John Force out of his funny car once when he got into the sand trap. All he asked was, "What did I turn? What did I turn?" Others often were mad when they ended up in the sand, but not John. What a competitor. Once when Shirley Muldowney won an AHRA national meet at Bonneville, I rode back to the starting line with she and her crew. She told them to watch their language. She said that Utah people and Mormons didn't like that kind of talk.  So many memories.
Mel Bashore
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Mel Bashore's official shirts from various years. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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Mel Bashore, Bonneville Raceway tech official, ca. 1976-88. Courtesy of Karen Bashore
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Kurt Lindorff's Pro Stock Vega, Bonneville Raceway time slip, Aug. 8, 1979, ride-along passenger with his sister, Karen. Courtesy of Karen Bashore
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Mel Bashore, hosing down asphalt between two jet dragsters, 1983. Courtesy of Karen Bashore
Kurt Lindorff's B/G Vega, about 1978, Bonneville Raceway. Courtesy of Karen Bashore
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Glenn Pearmain's BAD, Bonneville Raceway. Courtesy of Karen Bashore
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Bracket racer, "Green 'n Mean,", Bonneville Raceway. Courtesy of Karen Bashore
  • Bonneville Raceway, 1960s-70s
     
    My dad used to be well known at the Bonneville Raceway back in the 1960s-1970s. I have many fond memories of growing up out at the track myself although I was very young.
Kay Therkelsen
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Otto Therkelsen. Courtesy of Kay Therkelsen
  • Bonneville Raceway
     
    I went to school with Harry Allen. He later almost got killed at Bonneville Raceway, where the Rocky Mountain Raceway track is now. His driveline broke. I'd always been at the starting line, so me and this gal I was dating and my buddy and his girl friend, we went to the end of the quarter mile. I always wanted to see these guys come through fast. He was racing the "Want Bird." He came fllying down and his driveline broke. The U-joint broke and it just spun inside that car. It basically tore his leg off. When they put his leg back together, there's an inch or two missing. He walks really bad. I saw "President Lincoln" there. I met Connie Kalitta. It sure was a lot of fun in those days. I remember seeing Shirley Muldowney. John Force was driving a car sponsored by Mountain Dew. He couldn't beat his mother in those days. He was terrible.
Dennis Trayner
  • Bonneville Raceway, 1970s
     
    We had a match race in 1974 against Garlits. The background on that was, the week before, we'd gone to the IHRA Spring Nationals in Denver.  And we beat him. He was pissed. They used to have that Chicago style qualivying. On Friday and Saturday night, the two low-ET cars would come back and run for like a $1000.  We went over there and qualified number one and Garlits was number two.  He was in his push truck. He was the big shot of IHRA at this time. This was the only IHRA race we'd ever been to. It was at Thunder Valley. We'd been running the old front-engine car over at Continental Divide Raceway, CDR.  Every time that we'd go over there, Johnny Abbott and a lot of those Denver guys, the Kaiser Brothers, and all those guys--I mean I won't say we were super good, but we were super lucky. Damn near every time we went over there, we won. They got so they didn't want to see us come in. All the cars then smoked the tires the full quarter. If you won, you were kind of lucky and good, I guess. If your car stayed together, usually, if you smoked the tires at the end and did not blow out, you were OK. At the IHRA race, that's when the car was brand new.  We had it running good. We had the Donovan and Long made a good car.  It could really hook up. On the front end, it had suspension.  A lot of the cars then kind of had a friction suspension. You could tighten some of the arms that went out to the front axle. This one actually had a torsion bar in the front end.  It would transfer the weight pretty good.  When we went and qualified number one at night and raced Garlits for the thousand and beat him, he wasn't too happy.  We both ended up in the final, we beat him again there.  He said, "Nobody leaves on me like that!"  He had a Crower Glide in it. We'd been working with Schaeffer a lot. Had a real good Schaeffer clutch and Dan was really good on setting it up. We;d just be out on everybody. We never did have really, really good top end. We would run average. We weren't running faster than anybody, but we were sure ET-ing good. Anyway, we won the race. They came back, before they'd give us the money. They said, "You've got to roll your car through the lights. We think you leave because it's too long."  It had that torsion front end.  The reality is, when you took off, it raised up. It didn't get lower. So they pushed down the front end, push it through the clocks, it showed a red light. To Garlits' credit, he said, "Well, I guess you are that good leaving on me." He thought for sure, our car was too low. But Dan was getting a car length head start on him. Anyway, Garlits called Dick Godfrey up. Usually you got about three grand for a match race. He said he would come to Bonneville and race for half that if we won. But he would get the three grand if he won.  He came out. They made a big deal . We all went downtown to one of the clubs. A newspaper guy invited everybody out. They made a big deal out of it. The first run we went out--Garlits had put that great big blower on--a real big bodied blower that he tried for awhile.  I think that blower was called a 153 because one of the diesel engines that GM was using was 153 cubic inch per cylinder. They had like a six cylinder, 153 cube instead of just 71. The blower was a big, fat one. The blower was much wider. Garlits had that on and he thought he was king of the mountain. Godfrey was the one that set the race up between us and Godfrey, but Bob Ipsen owned the track. Godfrey managed it. We went out there and we beat Garlits the first round. In the second round, we'd been running the engine kind of dry. We didn't have water in it. The Donovan block did not take water. When we went with the 392 heads on it, we'd just run water in the heads to keep the upper fire rings and the pistons together better. Most of the time, we wouldn't run water in it. When we run Garlits in the first round, Dan kind of thought he was trying to burn us down a little, so we put water in it. We didn't have the overflow out of the heads, how you put the water into the headers. If you run water, they didn't have pressure caps on them, you'd just have a little tube going into the headers so overflow water would go into the header and just spray it out. For some reason, we just put a small amount of water in the heads. We didn't have he caps that would screw onto the end of the head on there. When Dan did a burnout and went to stop, the water rushed down the head and got on the tires. We tried to clean it up, but we had terrible traction on the second run and he beat us. So on the third run, we come up and run it dry, no water in it. We beat him pretty bad. Hell, at the end of the run, he was pretty pissed. He threw his helmet down. He was racing for a living. It cost him $1500 because we won. He was very upset. We just flat outrun him. There was no excuses from either one of us. An intertesting side note on that. Mike Papadakis set up a wagering board, ten down and ten across. You had Garlits and "Horse." You could choose the numbers, what we were using was the third digit. Say you went a 6.23, the "3" would be the number you would use. The board was set up so that if Garlits's best run was a 6.19, the "9" would be the number. If our best time was a 6.03, it would be the "3."  So you'd go across the board. So for Garlits, you'd go over nine spaces and ours you'd go down three spaces. That was the winner. We were selling each square for 100 bucks. Everybody was interested in it. I was the one that had it set up. I made the board.  There were three numbers left and I hadn't done anything on it. I got tired trying to sell them to people so I took those three numbers.  It turned out that our best ET and Garlits's best made me the winner. When we won the race and we got paid, everybody was happy. But I knew already that I'd won the board.  Papadakis was half drunk and he came up to me and said, "You crooked S.O.B." I just told him, "Listen Mike, if I'm good enough to control his thousandth number and mine, I deserve to win." It was just luck. But it was one of those days when I was lucky. I won more on the wagering board than I did in the race.  I think we got $2,000 from the match race.  It cost Garlits $1500 because he didn't win.  We ran until the financing got hard. We'd been real lucky selling rotors to different blower builders. We had some good friends--Marvin Riskin, M&H Racemaster liked us and would give us tires. We never did have any big sponsors. Valvoline would sponsor us. Colonial Ford here locally would. Even then, they'd give us a truck or a station wagon if we wanted it for a push car. With the original "Horse," they were still pushing them. Before everybody went starters, at the Supernationals in '72 or '73, they put some rollers behind the starting line. Had a Chevy engine on some rollers. Two cars would go up on the rollers and start them. When we first built the front-engine car, we had to have a push bar on it. You'd push start them then. Then they mandated starters.  The old front-engine car never had a starter on it. . . . To put it in perspective, just like racing Garlits, we had a high-altitude combination. Garlits and most of those guys, when they were running 392s or they had the Elephants, they didn't run that high of a compression. When it was the Donovan engines or the 392s, we would run what we called Flat-Top engine--the piston would come clear to the top of the bore, of the block. Everybody running sea level, would run 300 thousands down. Well, hell, that made such a horsepower difference. The first time Kuhl & Olson came up to run here at a points race. I went over and talked to them a little bit. We kind of told them kind of how to run up here at high altitude. In those days, you could make all the qualifying passes you wanted in a dragster. The drag strips were smart enough by keeping all the fast cars out there, keeping people happy.  They were't running the higher compression and wouldn't know what to do. Two interesting things happened at Bonneville. If you remember when Jim Dunn had that multi-colored car, it had like orange stripes around it, well anyway, Dunn come up here once. He said he'd out-qualify us. He came over and said, "Well, if I'd run it here long enough, I could, but I'm not going to burn up a drum of fuel trying to out-qualivy you." But anyway, Kuhl & Olson were up here back to back. We went and told them a little bit because we both run Donovans.  We told them where to set the timing and what overdrive on the blower because they'd never been up here before. I'd watch them go make a run. It was just lumbering, waaahhhh, waaaahhh. Finally they made a pretty good run. Carl Olson came up to me and he said, "Well, I got to apologize to you guys." "Why?" He said, "Well, I went and told  Kuhl, "Those 'Iron Horse' guys are ass holes. They want us to burn it up." He said, "Hell, if we'd have set it up at sea level where you told us . . . ." See at sea level, they'd run maybe 40% overdrive on the blowers. Up here, we'd run like 70% overdrive. Down at sea level, you'd maybe run 92 or 94% nitro. We'd run 100%. All you could buy in the drum was 98% because 2% is a stabilizer they put in there so they can tell if a fuel gets bad. There's a little sticker that says if it turns blue--it's yellowish color normally--if it turns blue, the sticker said to dump it out in porous ground immediately. It could be a bomb. We made a charcoal filter because the 2% additive they had in it was an oil base and it caused a little detonation in the fuel. But by filtering it out of the drum of fuel, we'd actually come up with 100% nitro. When you start using nitro, a couple per cent makes a difference. That stuff is amazing. Look at them now, they're getting 11,000 horsepower. The nitro is why they're getting the power. You know how nitro works? It's got its oxygen internally. If you run gasoline, it takes 14.4 molecules of oxygen per one molecule of gasoline to get full power out of the gas. Alcohol is probably somewhere arund 8 or 9 to 1. Nitro is 1 to 1. Nitro would burn on the moon.  It wouldn't be efficient.  That's why your fuel lines are like three inches around because most of the oxygen doesn't have to get through the valves and the cams. It's right in the nitro. That's why you can get these tremendous horsepowers. Anyway, we'd tell Kuhl and those guys, "Just put a straight can in." Which would be 98%. Because nitro is a slow-burning fuel, that's where you get a lot of power out of it. . . . The first time in the old front-engine cars, I mentioned the "Want Bird," well what we did was, we didn't have big semis and crews, you had little trailers. Some of them were open trailers. There wasn't crew chiefs. We went over on the "Want Bird" and took the parachute out and put a whole bunch of feathers in there, and put the chute back together.  Of course, the only people that saw it were the ones at the end of the strip. So when they pulled it, all of these feathers come out. Then the next thing I knew, I caught Paul Schoefeld trying to put some horse turds in ours. He never got them in there. I caught him. . . . I think one time, it was Larry Dixon, Sr.--they run over the nose ot their dragster with their push car turning around at the end. We'd push down the strip, then make a U turn. I don't know if they run over their own car or somebody else's push car did. They'd come up for a points race and run over their front end.  

Rex Pearmain, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, August 14, 2017

St. George

  • Dixie Elks Dragstrip, 1960s
     

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Trophy won by Dennis Trayner at Dixie Elks Dragstrip. Courtesy of Dennis Trayner

Salt Lake City

  • Bonneville Drag Strip, 1965
 
In 1965, I was going to college in Salt Lake City. I learned that a new drag strip was opening shortly before I was to leave for summer break. My college friend, Fred, and I got a job at the entrance gate for the racers. We only worked a couple of races before we had to leave to return to our homes in California. There was another older drag strip, Salt Lake Raceway,  only a mile further west on the same 2100 South road. The two strips were in direct competition with each other for racers and spectators. The newer strip, where I worked, won out. Part of our job was to help racers get their cars on the scale near the entrance gate. Mostly our job amounted to a lot of standing around, but I did get a racing jacket with the name of the strip on the back. At one of the races that we worked, John Mazmanian faced a local A/GS racer, Rex Crane. 
Mel Bashore







Idaho-based dragster on scales in pit area, Bonneville Drag Strip, opening day, May 1965. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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Dick Bourgeois, driver of Big John Mazmanian's A/GS Willys, after beating Rex Crane's A/G coupe in a match race, Bonneville Drag Strip, June 6, 1965. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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Pit area, Bonneville Drag Strip, opening day first race, May 2, 1965. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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1965 Bonneville Drag Strip official's jacket.. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
  • Salt Lake Raceway, 1961
     
    I raced at the SLC drag strip in August of 1961. The reason I remember it was August was because we were towing the car back from racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I changed the rear end gears and made 1 or 2 passes until the track people asked me to leave because the car was dropping salt at the starting line. I have no idea how fast I went that day. Running at Bonneville and then the strip was my first time racing.  I only ran the Chev one time. It was my daily driver until it became a Bonneville car. When I got back from the flats I took the engine out of the Chev and put it into a 1953 Studebaker which then became my flats car (the Stude at the time was my go to work car)  and my '58 then went back to being my daily driver.  I went on to drive unlimited hydros and still go to the flats. We started a company that makes all the data recorders for the top fuel class in drag racing.
Ron Armstrong
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Ron Armstrong's 1958 Chevy at Bonneville Salt Flats, August 1961, prior to returning to Salt Lake City and then making a couple of runs at Salt Lake Raceway (below). Courtesy of Ron Armstrong
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Ron Armstrong running his 1958 Chevy at Salt Lake Raceway, August 1961. Courtesy of Ron Armstrong
  • Salt Lake Raceway, 1961-64
     
    I worked at the old Salt Lake Raceway. We didn't have any lights as far as starting stuff goes. The closest to an electronic we ever had was a semaphore. I still have my flags. That had to be around '61, '62. We didn't have a Christmas tree. Just a flag starter. I think we had some sort of communication to tell us who won at the end. I raced myself. I never got beat. I was undefeated. I was racing and working there. I started off as the announcer. I knew Terry Dickerson. He was a heating guy. He worked for a company that was doing the heating for my brother. My brother was a contractor. I can't remember how it come up. He said, "We need an announcer." I said, "Hell, I'll do it." The next thing I knew, it was Gary Nielsen--he owned the strip. He and his dad. I went to school with his sister. In fact I took one of those TV guys through in a '62 Corvette. He sat on the back. I almost threw him right off the back. He wanted to have pictures of what it was like to drive down the strip. I worked there until those guys started up the Bonneville Drag Strip, at the old airport up there. Dick Godfrey. I was friends with his brother, Kenny. Kenny and I were good friends at the time. I was running two times a week. It was great. Gary's brother--he worked with us. Dallas Ferguson. They had "Dodge Fever." He and his wife both worked there. Manny Hassup. He worked there. I was there when Bill Leon got killed. I was the one that had to announce it. That was primitive, primitive days. The only ambulance that Gary had was an old ambulance with a mattress in the back. And there was nobody there that knew anything about first aid. I drove my brother's pickup truck. I wasn't racing that night. I took that dragster, his motor home. He hist a telephone pole that Gary had up there. I remember it like it was yesterday. He just got off the edge of the track. I had information on everybody's car. I had like a Rolodex so I could sound like I knew what I was talking about. Bill Leon had a blown Pontiac. Of all the damn motors to have, he had a blown Pontiac. Home-made everything. Gary used to make his own frames. I thnk Noorda was the only one that ever bought a manufactured frame. The Evans Brothers had their twin-engined Buick. The Bonneville Drag Strip was open on Fridays and we were open on Saturdays. We had the lights. We could run nights. They didn't have lights.  One time a guy came in the track with a race trailer that had "Green Monster" painted on the side. It was Arfons. He was racing on the Salt Flats. He stopped in a Saturday night when we were racing and said to Gary, "Don't you have a big holiday in July?" Gary said, "Yes." But the Pioneer Day holiday that year was on a Thursday night and we didn't run on Thursdays. Arfons said, "I'll make one pass for free tonight. If you like it, I'll come back on your holiday and make three passes for $1,000." Gary agreed and that gave him time to advertise for it. When he ran, it blew all the paper and stuff all the way back to the fence on 21st South. It cleaned it off better than we did. When we'd first get to the track to work on a race night, Gary would have all of us sweep the track down. Keep us busy and get his money's worth out of us. We got paid $8 a night for working there.
Dennis Trayner
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An entry slip from 1965 and the first trophy won by Dennis Trayner in his Austin Healey at Salt Lake Raceway, dated June 10, 1962 in D Sports class. Courtesy of Dennis Trayner
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Dennis Trayner at the wheel of his Austin Healey at Salt Lake Raceway. Courtesy of Dennis Trayner
  • Bonneville Drag Strip, 1960s
     
    When I went to Bonneville, I ran H Gas. The gassers had a special lane that you got to go to out to run. It was faster. You didn't have to stand in line with all the rest of them. I was right behind Gas Ronda and his T-Bird. I thought, how fun is this! Then they brought in that MP Volkswagon from California. I knew he'd kick my ass. So I wouldn't race him. I retired undefeated. That car was in Hot Rod Magazine and all that stuff. It was really fast. I watched Don Prudhomme race there. The cars would park along the strip. Sit on your hood. Bring your chairs. And that was my pits. I always parked the car by some friends of mine. I remember seeing Prudhomme drive by. Wild Bill Madsen used to race his gas supercharged coupe. They were fun days.
Dennis Trayner
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Trophy won by Dennis Trayner in his Austin Healey at Bonneville Drag Strip in the 1960s. Courtesy of Dennis Trayner
  • Salt Lake Raceway, 1960s
     
    About that time [late 1950s], I had a '28 T bucket. I had a flathead Merc in it. I run it on nitro. It had three carburetors. You'd just have to take the jets out of the carbs. I had a little Moon tank with a pump on it, right inside the driver's compartment. It was an open top on the roadster. As you're driving, you're pumping. It was kind of a pump like you used to check radiator pressure caps. It had a guage on it. You'd have to keep it at 5 or 6 pounds of pressure all the time. If you put 10 in there, the needle and seat  wouldn't hold it at idle, but once you were making a run, it didn't matter because you're trying to get fuel in there. You could only put about 40% nitro in there. Even with the jets out, you didn't have enough openings to let enough fuel in. That would go around a 100 in the quarter. I'l bet it didn't weigh much over 1400-1500 pounds. I had a Ford truck tranny in it, but I just used two gears--just 3rd and 4th.   In about 1960, Gary Nielsen, he and his dad started Salt Lake Raceway. It was on the north side of 2100 South. So we'd run out there a little bit. Then I moved to Vegas in '59. I had a service station down there. I wasn't old enough to legally have it. I had to have a partner sign for it. He and I went in it together. He was a fireman in North Vegas. He worked every other day. He wasn't married. He took over the service station, but I ran it. We were partners until he screwed me out of it. I moved back to Salt Lake for good. Then Ross Schoenfeld, Paul Schoenfeld's brother--Paul used to drive the "Want Bird," Larry Aiello's top fuel car--Ross and I built a junior fuel dragster. We just bought a stock 327 fuel injected short block. We used Mondello heads and Hilborn injection on it. We just run straight nitro. That thing was pretty fast. We'd get going 170s which we thought was real fast then.  But right away, Dan Richins and Al Pehrson had a 354 in a homemade dragster that they got from Gary Nielsen, who owned Salt Lake Raceway. I think he built the chassis for it. It was nothing great. Al Pehrson was getting divorced. He couldn't afford to keep the race car. I bought him out. Dan and I bought a Woody car. About that time, Mike Reynolds, he worked for me. Both he and Paul Schoenfeld worked for me in my service station. I got in with some guys here that were doing a lot of repair work for Kennecott. They had 671 diesel engines in a lot of their equipment. That old mining equipment, hell, they'd only run them at 1800 RPM. When they're  overhauling them, the repair kit had rotors for 671 blowers. They never used them because there's were good.  One day I was down there. I saw they had all these rotors so I made a deal with them and bought them real cheap. There was a guy named Mark Danakis and a guy named Capps. They started a blower company called DanCapp. They made a lot of blowers. This was probably before Bowers or Hampton or any of those got going. They made a pretty good blower. So I made a deal with them on rotors.  I always had a new blower on my car, which in those days, made a hell of a difference.  When we'd take the old blowers and anodize the rotors and put them in a 671 case, they were pretty ill efficient. You had to start putting the teflon strips in them. So I always had a new blower.  We put a new one on about every week. When we raced in those days, when we put the 392 in it, I always had a real good magneto, a real good fuel pump, and a real good blower.  I found out, it didn't make a hell of a lot of difference what you had in it, you'd burn them or they'd come out anyways. As long as you kept the good heads and good blowers. Paul Schoenfeld was real good at doing heads. You'd take the old 392 head, knock the exhaust and intake seats out of them, put 2-inch intakes and 2-inch exhaust, port them out, that's all we did on heads. We started running pretty good in the west. We were pretty successful. Al Pehrson drove that car. Then when Al quit, he didn't want to drive any more.
Rex Pearmain, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, August 14, 2017

  • Bonneville Drag Strip

This was the old one that was on the south side of 2100 South.  Right at the end of that strip, there was a brick building. If you didn't stop, there was a big building there.  One hundred feet off the asphalt at the end. The shutdown was adequate for the speeds we were runnng in those days.  Dick Godfrey's sister, I think her name was Karen Godfrey. She was dating Mike Reynolds. They arranged for a match race with Dick Landy's altered '63 Plymouth, one of those Maximum Wedge cars. Landy took one of those and put a Hemi in it and then moved the rear end forward.  In reality, it was one of the first funny cars.  That's the one that Landy was running. In fact, a guy locally bought that car. Robert Runyan bought that car from Landy.  He brought it up here to match race and just thought they were going to have another super stocker here to run him. Mike Reynolds had a bright orange '56 Chev that was called "The Wild Thing." It was bright metalflake orange. He was going to race Landy.  Landy was probably a 10 or 11 second car at the time. Reynolds was lucky if he got out of the 14s.  He might have run 13.9s or something.  I had the junior fuel dragster then. I said, "Let's take the Hilborn injection off it." We jerked the radiator off it. It had a tunnel ram on it. He took the radiator right out of the car. He took the bumpers off it, trying to make it lighter.  He took the rear seat out of it. We put the injection on it. Up where the radiator was normally, we had a Moon tank, like a 3-gallon fuel tank, that was in my junior fuel car. So the injection there was on it. So he goes up there and raced him in this match race.  Hell, the difference between horsepower between gas and nitro, even though he probably lightened the car up 500 pounds by taking the radiator and bumpers and that off.  Here's Landy with basically a funny car.  We just went out there and just killed Landy.  just ran away from him.  But it didn't have disc brakes, just drum brakes.  His first run, he had those teeny tiny tires on the front like everybody used to run.  In a way, it was kind of stupid because it gave you less of a run-out on the clock. But we all did it anyway. He had to make the turn down at the end, but his car wasn't stopping. We didn't have parachutes on it. It had been a car that had been going a hundred in the quarter and all of a sudden it was going 125 or 130.  Hell, the tires about scuffed off making that turn about 35 miles an hour. We didn't have the rear brakes too tight because they used to have that line lock on the front wheels. You had a line lock to stage, then you have your rear wheels almost turning.  Sometimes they would in those old days. You'd see the front wheels locked up and the rear wheels kind of going slow because they had the line lock holding it on the line trying to launch.  We adjusted the brakes up on it. He decided that if he was ahead down toward the end, he would just let up on it. After he beat him the first time,, Landy was pissed.  He said, "I come up here to match race, not run some damn fuel car." Landy was the one with a cigar in his face all the time. When he made the turn on that first run, those little front tires, they were tubeless. Hell, I don't think they lost any air, but they scuffed them all up making that fast turn at the end. When we put the injection on in my service station, we just took it out on 3300 South about midnight. Hell, he run it through first and second gear and he came back with the biggest smile in the world. Holy smoke! That nitro really brings it to life because it triples your horsepower. We were running straight nitro on that. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that 327 engine wasn't putting out a thousand horsepower on nitro. 
Rex Pearmain, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, August 14, 2017

West Jordan

  • Copper Raceway Park, 1965
     
    I raced the one and only night that I recall at Copper Raceway, somewhere out where Airport No. 2 was. I got a trophy from that. I also road raced. I had an Austin Healy. I blew it up and I didn't get it going until the last year that Gary Nielsen was in business at Salt Lake Raceway.  When we all went out to see that Copper Raceway, every track shut down that weekend. We wanted to go out to see that. They didn't have lights. They had two searchlights. They just aimed searchlights down the strip. You could really see where the hell you were going, but coming back up the other way, it was pretty ugly. Shining in your eyes. I don't know if they kept going for more than one night. I know that Horsepower Engineering, a big rail from California, came in for that opening night. I read about them. Heard about them. We all took National Dragster. Every once in a while, you'd see a little blurb about what's going on in Salt Lake. Mostly it was Southern California. 
Dennis Trayner
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Trophy won by Dennis Trayner in his Austin Healey at Copper Raceway. Courtesy of Dennis Trayner
  • Copper Raceway Park, 1965-66

 I was one of the owners of Copper Raceway in West Jordan, Utah. We only lasted a couple of years is all. I guess the most notable racers we had was Horsepower Engineering, which was Doug Robinson out of Pasadena, California. Then we had Dave Crower of Crower Cams. He come up and raced. He ended up crashing and wrecking his rail. We had Melrose Missile, the hot Plymouth. We had that jet car. Then we had a lot of other cars, most of them not as notable. That was the main ones that I remember now. I mean, it has been 50 years!  I was 25 years old when I started the strip. I had been involved with my father clear back into the early to middle 1950s in racing. He was an old racer. He was an Intermountain midget champion in 1940. He was also the first person to go over Widowmaker when it was up at Ogden. That was put on by bhe Ogden and the Salt Lake motorcycle clubs. Regarding how I started Copper Raceway, I was selling real estate. I happened to be in the barber shop with Harry Carleson, Jr. Back then it was Fred A. Carleson Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac downtown. I just happened to know him just a little bit. He was starting to get interested in racing. He said, "I ran into a couple of guys that were up here looking to build a drag strip." He said, "Here's their card." He said, "Why don't you contact them. You're selling real estate." So I contacted them. They had the San Diego Raceway in Ramona, California. A fellow named Ray Richards was the fellow I ended up dealing with. He became one of my partners in the race track out here. They asked me if I'd be a partner in it. I was immediately interested. We put together what funds we could and gathered in a couple of other partners. We had a little bit of money, not much. Paul Darrow and Ray were partners in San Diego. Paul Darrow ended up dropping out. It became mostly Ray Richards and I. We basically built the track ourselves. We got his dad-in-law involved with us. He had construction equipment and we had to rent stuff. So we ended up literally building the drag strip ourselves. We did everything we could. We paid to have the strip prepared to airport specs, what they called it. We met NHRA specs which was 60 feet wide. I think we were 3500 feet long. Something like that. Then we had a lot of runout after that which was dirt. That was how we got started. We had a lot of fun, but didn't make any money. That's the way it was. We were competing at the time with Bonneville Drag Strip. They pulled a couple shenaniguns on us. That's the way it is. Salt Lake Raceway was about at the end of their operation. I knew Gary Nielsen  I had known Gary since I was twelve years old. He lived up in Holladay and that's where we lived for awhile. I got to know him up there. At Copper, we had a timing tower. I do not have a single picture of that place. And my brother was the photographer out there! It would have been nice if we could have kept going, but we were unable to sustain it like we wanted to. We had bleachers for maybe a thousand people or something. We had fences up and down both sides of course. We had a nice paved pit area. The location of the strip was . . . the west side of our property is 5600 West. That was the west side of our property. The drag strip was located about 5500 West. Later there were houses built on it. I don't know if it's part of that subdivision that's out there now. We ran night-time too. We never did run on Sundays at all. We ran Saturday night. That was our whole thing, right from the start. We wanted lights. We put them up. That part worked out very, very well. We had a searchlight come out there for advertising. I think there was one time we did have him pull his unit down towards the end of the track and point straight down the track. I'm not sure why now, because we had it well lighted. I thought we did. That was the only time. They had the old arc ligthts from World War II is what they were. They had about a six-foot lens on them. They would twirl them around and use them for advertising. We had trophies. I can't remember what the cash payouts were. A few hundred dollars here and there is what I remember. I don't know who won it or how much. We used Horsepower Engineering as a reward to race against the fastest local racer. The exhibition with the jet car worked really well. That was exciting to watch. When he hit that afterburner at the starting line, why, it bent our fence out front. The fence was a chain-link. It had a 100 feet of sign on it that said Copper Raceway.The sign was made out of 4x8 plywood wired to the chain-link and when he hit the afterburner, it caught that sign and it bent the poles a little bit that were holding the fence up. It was a little strange. There was a lot of thrust to it. Ray Richards tried to get a number of other big racers to come, but it just didn't happen. We tried to get Gas Ronda. He agreed to it, but it never did come about. He had the big Ford, sponsored by Downtown Ford, I think, in San Francisco. And Don Garlits. Here again, scheduling with some of these big guys was impossible. They would be scheduled a year or two in advance. At some of these big events, they would get in a championship round and that would use them up. We didn't get everybody that we wanted, but we did get some. Like I say, we had the Melrose Missile for several weeks and Horsepower Engineering all summer. Dave Crower, I think, was here for three races. We booked them in for more than a single night. Gary Nielsen was always good. He came out after he had closed Salt Lake Raceway, he came out and raced on our track. It was good that we had Ray. He had a lot of contacts and knew a lot of people from down there in California. We switched from NHRA sanction to AHRA. They didn't use the Christmas tree. We used a starter, a guy with a flag. They used a little different system. When you raced different classes of cars together, instead of having a delay on a Christmas tree from one side to the other, they used car lengths. You'd have one car pull up a car length or so. We had that marked on the strip. We had win lights to tell which lane won. The announcer would give the time and the speed. I had originally hired Bob Welti to be the announcer. He came out and he was here for a week or two. He said, "I am just really too busy." He said, "But I've got a good friend at a radio station who would love to do it." He brought  him out, but you know, I don't even remember his name. But he was very good. Our flagman was normally a kid named Dwayne Wideman. We had limited concessions. Coca Cola came out and brought a bunch of stuff. A concessionaire brought out a trailer for hot dogs and hamburgers.  I can't remember who it was. We had pit passes printed. We had a place where they drove in to park, coming in off 7800 South, both for the pits and the spectators. Of course, we didn't charge for parking. I don't remember how much we charged to come in to spectate. At that time, there was no houses in the area. There was nothing out there but farm land. When you got to the old airport, from there, out, there was absolutely nothing north of you or south of you but farm land. We had leased the property. I think a 20-year lease. And who from, I don't even remember. It was farm land, but the farmers did not own the property. There had already been an investment company there and bought all the farm land out there and leased back to the farmers. We had a quarter of a section. It was a quarter mile wide by a mile long. For advertising, we used some radio. We got some free radio. We did some TV spots. I did spots with Paul James and Bill Marcroft. I did several spots with Marcroft and several with Paul James. We were doing live TV. Everything was live. Nothing was taped back then. We'd have a car there and interview the driver. I would talk. Paul James or Marcroft would ask questions. We had a minute or a minute and a half spots. Doug Robinson and Dave Crower said our track was the smoothest track they had ever raced on. They said they had never been on asphalt that was that smooth ever. They really liked it. It was brand new. They really did like it, but like I say, we just really weren't that successful.
Ron Winegar, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, June 26, 2017
  • Salt Lake City Airport No. 2, 1950s​​​

For drag racing, the Salt Lake Timing Association. They rented the old Number 2 Salt Lake Airport on 7800 South. They rented that every other weekend on Sunday during the summer only. After going through the clocks, you could almost coast to a stop. It was so long. Every;body raced there and I raced there a little bit there as I became eligible to drive. My dad built an engine for me and my brother. We both raced out there some.
Ron Winegar, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, June 26, 2017
  • Salt Lake City Airport No. 2, 1950s​​​​​

How I got started in cars, one of my neighbors was a mechanic. My dad or mother had no interest in cars. They drove slower than heck. That's where I got my speed desire. They would go down to Fairview every weekend during the war. They had an old '39 Plymouth that they'd take the back seat out of. They had gas ration cards and the neighbors would save them and give it to them so they could buy gas. They'd go down to the farm. If they killed a pig, they'd bring back half a pig or something. If potatoes were in season, or corn, they bring it back. My sister and I would have to lay up on top of the stuff in the back seat. Up through Spanish Fork Canyon, they had coal trucks running through all the time. . . . when my dad was driving, he'd never pass one. If they went five miles an hour, he went five. But my mother would go a little faster. I blame that on any speed things that I got interested in. The first car that I ever had was a '47 Ford. I got it when I was 14. On the farm, I'd driven tractors and that. I knew how to drive in my old farm trucks just on the farm. I lived right by Westminster College [in Salt Lake]. They had alleys behind every home where the garages were. I'd drive it up and down the alleys until I could finally get a license. Some of the neighbor kids that were neighbors to me there, they started putting Tri-Power, dual carbs, Edmunds heads on the flatheads. By the time I got a driver's license, I had that all done to mine. The neighbor had a garage down there by me and I'd go clean the garage if he'd help me do some of the work. That was my early start. That old Ford--my bishop had a wrecking yard. He owned a place called Taurus Auto here in Salt Lake. I got tired of the flathead so I got a '49 Cadillac that had been wrecked. I put the engine in there, put a LaSalle tranny in it. It ran pretty good, tut then in '55, the Chevs came out. I couldn't beat them so one of my family members worked for a Chrysler dealer. I got a V8 Chrysler from him and he helped me a little bit with it. I tried running the Chevys but I gave up on that. In '58 I bought a 348 Tri-Power Chevy and started racing it. We raced at Salt Lake Airport No. 2. The airport was real rough and it had terrible traction. We used to use a Moshley tire. That was a recap tire. They're pretty soft rubber. Everybody'd use them. This was before Mickey Thompson started building slicks.  I had a service station at that time and AMOCO, American Oil Company, came out with a tire. Bucron, they called it. Real soft rubber. Real good traction. But they wouldn't wear worth a damn. If you sold them to your customers, they were mad because they wore out. But they were a pretty good race tire. We'd make all different kinds of things on that '58 Chev. You couldn't buy wheels. Well, Crager started coming out with wheels later, but we'd kind of have to make our own.  Go to the machine shop and have them make one wide wheel out of two. It was harder than hell to mount tires on because you had the different uneven planes. You'd have to get it over two uneven layers in there. But you could put a pretty wide tire on. About that time, I had a '28 T bucket. I had a flathead Merc in it. I run it on nitro. It had three carburetors. You'd just have to take the jets out of the carbs. I had a little Moon tank with a pump on it, right inside the driver's compartment. It was an open top on the roadster. As you're driving, you're pumping. It was kind of a pump like you used to check radiator pressure caps. It had a guage on it. You'd have to keep it at 5 or 6 pounds of pressure all the time. If you put 10 in there, the needle and seat  wouldn't hold it at idle, but once you were making a run, it didn't matter because you're trying to get fuel in there. You could only put about 40% nitro in there. Even with the jets out, you didn't have enough openings to let enough fuel in. That would go around a 100 in the quarter. I'l bet it didn't weigh much over 1400-1500 pounds. I had a Ford truck tranny in it, but I just used two gears-- just 3rd and 4th. In that same car when I got that 348 Tri-Power    In '58, it might have been a year or two earlier, Gary Nielsen, he and his dad started Salt Lake Raceway. It was on the north side of 2100 South. So we'd run out there a little bit. Then I moved to Vegas in '59. I had a service station down there. I wasn't old enough to legally have it. I had to have a partner sign for it. He and I went in it together. He was a fireman in North Vegas. He worked every other day. He wasn't married. He took over the service station, but I ran it. We were partners until he screwed me out of it.
Rex Pearmain, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, August 14, 2017
  • Copper Raceway Park​​​

I raced at Copper Raceway.  I ran my junior fuel car there when that was running.  In fact, that's before I was with Dan Richins.  The track was really good.  It went a little up hill. It had a good shutdown, a little like Bandimere.  You're going uphill so it shut down easy.  I liked it, but they never got it really set up very good for bleachers and the crowd and that. It was only open that one season.  They were competing with several of the drag strips then. Bonneville was still running. I know that at least two of them were running.  There might have been three.  It was a pretty good track, but it didn't make it.
Rex Pearmain, telephone interview
with Mel Bashore, August 14, 2017
  • Copper Raceway Park​​, 1967

I was at Copper Raceway one day when a short front-engine dragster with a SBC and fuel injectors broke the drive shaft at the starting line during launch for the run. The car barely moved forward and the engine was running wide open and several guys were trying to figure out how to shut it off. Finally one guy jerked the coil wire off which killed the engine. It seemed like an eternity before it got shut off. It was a real scary situation. As far as I remember, the driver lost his right leg below the knee and it messed up his other ankle. I have recently asked other friends of that era if they were there or knew anything about it and nobody seems to know anything at all.  [Note: Contact the site administrator if you have any information about this.]
Bill Jones