Like many outdoor activities, the affects of weather on drag racing cannot be overstated. From the tuning of the race car, to added stress on the human body to track preparation, extreme weather conditions affect and guides every aspect of life at the drag strip.
The June Saturday of the recently completed Nitrous Street Car Brawl at Great Lakes Dragaway would be a perfect example of overcoming adverse weather. GLD’s team, the Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association and fans were prepared for the hot and humid conditions. On the other hand, no one was prepared for the aftereffects of Friday’s overnight thunderstorms that knocked out the timing system.
GLD’s capable crew immediately went to work troubleshooting the system. Meanwhile, with no cars going down the track both racers and fans were becoming anxious.
It was then that Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association’s Dan Manesis recalled that the sport of drag racing predates the electronic timing systems of the past 50 years. “Why don’t we flag start?” he asked. “Sure, we can do that.” said GLD’s Randy Henning. With that a meeting of all race groups convened under the race control tower where agreement was reached on the particulars.
With groups now called to the lanes, Randy demonstrated how the flag start would work. It is important to note that in a traditional flag start it is raised by the starter, not dropped. The procedure would be as follows. Pre-Stage and Staging lights were operational & would be implemented. Once both lanes were staged, the starter would point the rolled flag at each driver, who would acknowledge. The starter would then touch the tip of the flag staff to the A-Board. He would then raise the flag to signal the start of the race. Track personnel would be stationed at the finish to determine the winner and radio the result back to race control.
Randy then turned the starter duties over to track crewman Joe.
The call to the lanes brought Bob Cattelino, Kelly Dill, Jerry Douglas, Hannah Fleischman, Bob Haapakoski, Dan Manesis, Mike Morrill, Jim Parks, Barry O’Sullivan, Tyler Shenuk and Bob Unger.
The nature of the starting procedure promised to produce some interesting results. Leading off was Tyler Shenuk in the STP Pontiac against the ‘lil Cotton Pony of Kelly Dill. Remembering the race starts the moment flag tip leaves the A-Board, Ty gets a big jump on Kelly, but she and her Pinto finish ahead of Shenuk.
Some might consider this next pairing a bit of a mismatch. Not Hillbilly Racing’s Jerry Douglas. With Dan Manesis in the other lane with his quick Colt, Douglas knew it would be tall order to win. Was he bothered by that? Nope. Said Douglas, “I’m here to race, against anyone as hard as I can. I’ll gladly take on a faster guy because anything can happen out there and I might beat him.” Yes it can happen and Jerry showed he was determined by immediately taking a two car length lead. By 300’ Manesis erased that margin and steamed around Douglas for the win.
The Mike Morrill versus Bob Cattelino match promised to be close, but Mike moved off the flag first and finished by several car lengths over Bob’s Night Moves Camaro.
“Hot Rod” Hannah Fleischman and Bob Haapakoski would be next into the waterbox. Bob’s burnouts are typically crowd-pleasing affairs and he did not disappoint here. Both left at the flag raise with a slight advantage to Fleischman. They were then locked side by side before Haapakoski’s pure bred AMC would take the lead just before the finish line and win by a car.
Bob Unger and Barry O’Sullivan would then line up in front of the starter. Both drivers showed no hesitation when the flag came up, but O’Sullivan’s “Run Tuff” got a slight advantage. He led end to end in this match to win by a car length. Say Barry! It looks like you’ve done this before!
With 11 cars in the MNPSA Pits, Jim Parks drew the single this round. His leave on this A to B run showed that he may have done this “flag start” thing once or twice in the distant past.
How about these fans! From the fence to the pits they showed their enthusiasm. Thank You!
While the track crew continued their work on the timing system, racing carried on into Round 2.
In this pairing Jerry Douglas and the Hillbilly Racing team drew Jim Parks in the Red Rat Vega. Both cars left the flag starter’s signal simultaneously with Jerry’s Camaro carrying the front end high and long. This gave Parks the opportunity to put a gap on Douglas, who after landing the front of the car flirted with the centerline beyond 330’. Parks for the win in an exciting race.
Two of our Young Guns rematched as well. After impressively smoky side by side burnouts, Tyler Shenuk again got a car length starting line advantage on Kelly Dill. Dill caught Shenuk by the 660′ mark and won the round by two car lengths.
Cattelino’s Night Moves again paired with Morrill in the Iaconio & Allen Monza. Bob caught a much better “flag” in this round but Mike was a little better and won the race.
Hannah drew a rematch with Haapakoski. This time she put a car length on Bob’s AMX at the flag. As Haapakoski gave chase it looked to be very close at the finish line. It was with Bob declared the winner by half car length.
Barry O’Sullivan again had The UngerTaker of Bob Unger in the left lane. Barry’s exuberance put him in front as the flag was about to fly, which Bob patiently took as it flew. The finish line crew called six car lengths for Barry, which track announcer Mike “The Red Baron” Gould described as “sheer trickery”.
Dan Manesis brought a finale to the round my running a single. He left as soon as the flag moved and ran the Colt hard. This was a sign of things to come for a final round opponent.
As we moved into the third and final round it was evident that this unusual situation brought an unpredictable nature to what can be routine. And as this round would be under the lights, the unpredictability would intensify.
Morrill and Cattelino would again go head to head. Both drivers left together when the flag moved and Morrill and the Monza would go 3 for 3 against his friend.
Dill, O’Sullivan, and Unger would all take singles. All ran well and looked good under the setting sun.
Haapakoski and Fleischman would match up once again. Bob put a fender on Hannah when the flag came up and legged it out to a three-car length win.
A score needed to be settled from the previous round with Douglas and Parks. Jerry put the Camaro out front early with another wheels up launch, but Jim’s Vega powered around him at the top end for the win.
This final pair certainly would not settle the question of youth & enthusiasm versus maturity and cunning for all time but it sure left an impression. Racing each other for the first time ever, Tyler Shenuk and Dan Manesis did long side by side burnouts. Once staged, Manesis had the Colt out of the hole the moment Joe began to lift the flag and immediately put at least a car length on Tyler. Powering through the traps Manesis stretched it to a three-car length win.
So how about that? In the immortal words of track announcer Mike Gould, “When your apples get smashed you make apple sauce.” Our Thanks to you and Mark Dietrich for your enthusiasm in calling the action. And thanks to Great Lakes Dragaway, our teams and your dedicated families and team members, our support crew and most of all, our enthusiastic fans for coming out.
Our next race is the Night of Fire Jet Spectacular on Saturday June 30 at Great Lakes Dragaway. This race was extremely well attended last year, and the Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association is once again proud to be a part of it. Be There!