Over the past 60 years Labor Day weekend has become synonymous with drag racing. Obviously the most famous is NHRA’S US Nationals. Yet another enduring event takes place this very same weekend, the Time Machine Nationals at Great Lakes Dragaway.
Known for many decades as the “Labor Day Spectacular”, GLD co-owner and track historian Randy Henning pointed out that for decades these two iconic events were closely intertwined, as many of the top touring pros would race both events on the same weekend! This was affirmed by Hall of Fame photojournalist Jon Asher, who shared the followed “I remember the days when Chris “The Greek” Karamesines,” TV” Tommy Ivo and others would roll into Indy on Friday morning, get in as many runs as they could, usually no more than two, then load up and head to The Grove, returning to Indy on Sunday night to race Monday.”
While the championship format of today’s “Big Show” prevents this type of cross participation, today’s Time Machine Nationals is still a very significant event to many racers and fans across the Midwest. Participants included the 1320 Legends, Chicago Wise Guys, the Midwest Gassers and Doorslammers, Pro E85, local nitro and jet car legends, and of course the Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association. We are extremely proud to be a part this iconic two day event and Great Lakes Dragaway.
Under a bright morning sky the teams set up front and center in the pits. Those teams consisted of consisted of Bob Cattelino, Kelly Dill, Hannah Fleischman, Dan Manesis, Mike Morrill, John Sylos, Bob Unger and Arlee Williams III. And joining us for the first time since “Summer Thunder in 2016, was Sal and Al Petrulis. Thanks for making the tow from Michigan with your “Lightning Colt” guys!
Just before Saturday’s first round of racing, the Williams and Hanna “Doc Holliday” team, including new crewman Marquise Lewis, got together to honor Crew Chief Lamont Hanna with a sincere token of their appreciation. Lamont’s skill with a race car, leadership among the team, and most of all friendship to all, is truly worthy of everyone’s recognition.
As our teams made their way to the staging lanes, we made our way to the top end of the track. The first pair out was Arlee Williams III and Tyler Shenuk. From that distance, we noted their huge burnouts completely hid the tower. And their run was incredibly close, with the STP Pontiac crossing the stripe just ahead of the “Doc Holliday” Plymouth. Hannah Fleischman got the jump on Mike Morrill, but he and the “Iaconio & Allen” Monza caught her blue Vega. Sal Petrulis knew his hands would be full with Kelly Dill in the other lane. He took a shot at the tree which resulted in a red light. Meanwhile the “Cotton Pony” was on a run, carding a 8.242 ET. The two drivers with the most powerful cars were next. Dan Manesis in the “Sam Brown Dodge” Colt got the starting line advantage over John Sylos’ “Team Strange” Firebird and held off Sylos’ top end charge to win on a holeshot. Manesis 7.657 at 181 MPH. Sylos 7.519 at 182.11 MPH. Rounding the session out was Bob “Night Moves” Cattelino and Bob “Unger-Taker” Unger. Both posted stellar reaction times with Cattelino grabbing a .009 advantage. It held at the stripe, with Cattelino’s Camaro crossing first.
With first round complete the sky began to darken as we made our way back to the pits. It wasn’t long before rain, predicted for the overnight hours, made an early, and unwelcome appearance. Its on/off/on persistence forced the logical decision by track operations to call the rest of the day’s action. Before leaving the track, it was extremely gratifying to have so many fans stop by to ask if we would be returning on Sunday, as they were planning to return, taking advantage of the raincheck. “Of course!” we said. “Please do come back tomorrow!” And many in fact did.
Sunday began much like Saturday, under clear and bright skies. Fortunately for the spectators and racers, it would stay that way throughout.
And what a start to the day on the track! One of Saturday’s features was GLD announcer Mike “Red Baron” Gould in his red (what else!) Camaro, match racing “Downtown” Sarah Brown. Sarah was not able to return on Sunday, so the Red Baron sought a worthy opponent. Well, he found it in our Tyler Shenuk. Mike chose the right lane, with none other than Tuff Enuff guiding him into the beams. This put Shenuk in the left. After a huge burnout by Tyler, dad Chris guided the young star in. Both cars left the moment the final yellow came on, with Shenuk taking a .003 advantage, and by 200’ Tyler was a car length ahead of Gould. At that point, the Red Chevy began to pour it on. At that it looked like anyone’s race, but the win light came up for Tyler in the STP Firebird with a 8.934 ET at 150.27 MPH to Gould’s 8.938/152.54. Wow! That was close! Great race guys!
That exciting match set the stage for the rest of the day. With Bob Cattelino off due to a prior commitment, the rest of our teams did return and were anxious to make up for lost time. In preparing for the 1st round, Bob Unger determined that his Vega would not make the call due to mechanical failure and would be out for the day.
First up in Round 1 was a rematch, Arlee versus Tyler. Having been nipped by very small margins at both ends at the hands of Tyler on Saturday, Arlee was on mission. And it bit him because he was too early on the gas, which gave a late leaving Shenuk the win.
Dan Manesis and John Sylos paired up again. Manesis and his Colt left clean and cleared the traps first with a 7.886 at 180. Sylos was left at the starting line, but once he got going he posted a 7.528/181.
Two ponies. One a Colt. One a Pinto. Kelly Dill was uncharacteristically late on the tree which allowed Sal Petrulis a substantial early lead. But Ms. Dill and the Pinto went around the Lightning Colt and tripped the beams with a 8.307/160.9 to Petrulis’ 9.525/140.
Our final pair for this round was Hannah Fleischman and Mike Morrill. Mike’s Monza had a slight advantage on the tree, then held the lead throughout recording a 10.064/ 132 to Fleischman’s 10.563/124.8.
In customary formation on the return road to greet the fans, the group, with Tyler Shenuk’s bright blue Firebird in the lead, suddenly stopped in front of the grandstands. Tyler leapt from his car carrying a sign. It was a proposal to his girlfriend Mikayla Wassell to accompany him to their high school’s Homecoming! Of course she accepted….Have fun you two!
Our drivers, particularly the younger ones, have developed quite a following. Yet everyone was struck by the enthusiasm these fans showed on this day. One persistent young lady insisted on having a seat in each and every car, and even received the treat of a warm-up by John Sylos’ crew. Come back and visit!
Less than two hours later the group was back in the staging lanes, set for round 2. Tyler and Arlee again drew each other. The “Doc Holliday” car appeared to have a slight starting line advantage, but the red light shone again. Williams was .011 early, negating a quicker ET of 8.807/154 to Shenuk’s 8.938/151.
Kelly Dill would then race the Boss, Dan Manesis. Kelly proceeded to strap a .009 light on Dan, but guess what? His reaction times are improving! Not far behind with an .044 light both cars slowed slightly from the previous round. Manesis turned on the win light though, running 8.044/177.3 to Dill’s 8.321/161.6.
Mike Morrill and his super cool “Iaconio & Allen” Monza then drew John Sylos. Morrill leaves clean and straight. In fact may have this as Sylos is still on the line! Nearly a second later Sylos’ Team Strange leaps off the line, tracks Morrill down, then crosses the stripe first.
Sal Petrulis and Hannah Fleischman round it out with the final pairing. Both appeared to leave clean but both turned on the red. No reaction times recorded, and the ET’s seemed quite a bit off, but Sal and his Colt did cross the finish line first.
With the setting sun setting creating its own show behind GLD’S grandstands, the teams prepared to close out it’s show in front of them.
Leading the finale was Kelly Dill and John Sylos. As she demonstrates time and again, Kelly has proven to be an excellent leaver. We’re not sure if John was dazzled by the sight of that pink Pinto or if he had mechanical problems that kept him from leaving alongside Kelly, but his weekend leading 7.499/182 was not enough to catch Kelly and the 8.274/162.5 she posted.
Hannah Fleishman versus Dan Manesis next. Hannah does her burnout first, followed by Dan. He then can’t keep the car fired on the back-up. Manesis is pushed off while Hannah takes a single running 10.493/123.9.
Tyler and Arlee for our third pair. These guys can’t get enough of each other! Both leave close together with Williams Plymouth appearing to have the early lead. But no win light comes on for either driver, no RT’s are recorded and the ET’s do not correspond to speed. Run sheet shows Arlee Williams with the win.
Our final pair. Wisconsin’s Mike Morrill, and Michigan’s Sal Petrulis. The Lightning Colt records a great .033 RT, streaking away to a winning ET of 9.336/140.3. Morrill and the Monza gave it all they had but came up short with a 9.974/131.61.
Thank you to our racers and fans that came out to support us and Great Lakes Dragaway.
If you’re following us from the East Coast, come out to Maryland International Raceway on Saturday Sept 16th for “Legends at Budds Creek”. As honored guests of Carol “Bunny” Burkett and MDIR, Kelly Dill will match race Dan Manesis, as well as meet and greet with fans together with Bunny
Our next race will be the Big Walker Memorial Race at GLD on Sunday September 17th.
Our closing race of the season will be Saturday September 23rd at Great Lakes Dragaway’s Nitrous Street Car Brawl.
We invite you to make the trip to Union Grove, WI to see some great racing and continue your support of this classic drag race facility.
Visit the Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association webpage to view our full schedule, news, driver profiles, galleries and more. And please visit and “Like” our Facebook Page for chat and the latest information.
Story and Photos by Bill Swanson