We pulled up alongside the guy in the Chevelle, and a guy with a flashlight flagged us off. The Chevelle immediately got a jump out of the hole, but I was used to this since almost every car I race pulls me off the line; so I counted on the top-end power of my Hemi. I grabbed the gears at 6,500, got excellent Second and Third gear changes, and blew by him about 200 feet from the finish. We pulled over and this guy was pissed. His was the fastest car out there and he was a regular at El Paso Dragstrip, almost a nonstreetable car (I learned a lot of this later). To get defeated by a Plymouth had him whipped into a lather.
He demanded a rerace; they raced here one way, then turned around and raced back. It was as flat as Phyllis Diller and had desert on both sides forever. So after watching some more cars come through, we pulled up to the line. The guy with the flashlight flagged us off and the Chevelle went up in smoke. I was going to beat him off the line! I grabbed Second, and all of a sudden, here came the highway patrol or something-lights flashing and two of them covering the road. I hit the brakes, spun around, and headed back to grab my buddy. As soon as I stopped, he jumped in, and I looked the other way up the road and a single car with lights flashing was coming. Being in the Army, I couldn't get caught up in this, so I turned into the desert and took off. After driving about a mile, I switched off the lights and went as far as I could remember the ground looking OK and stopped.
We waited and waited. We could still see the highway off in the distance and the cops seemed to have rounded up a bunch of the people. When the headers cooled off, we capped them back up. By then, the road was clearing out, so I eased back toward El Paso, knowing I would catch a side road. Luckily, the moon was out, so by that time, we could see our way pretty good.
I lost a set of wheels in the deal. I went back the next day, but they were gone. Oh, well, I was planning to put mags on my car anyway. I ran into the Chevelle many more times, but always at the dragstrip. The guy never liked me. God, I wish I had a time machine
Oklahoma City, OK
The early '80s still had a lot of machinery on the street, and the biggest haunt for regular action near my folks' house in Delaware was South Philly. There were a lot of street rats, some real serious big-money hitters, and even the beginnings of the import races. The police would run us all over the south end of town by turning on the fire hydrants at the race spots. Front Street was the best-known spot, but Delaware Avenue bordering the docks was also popular.
One night, I took my Charger and a Pontiac-addled friend up for a few hot laps. On Delaware Avenue that night, I got into a race with a guy in a Nova; both cars in primer and a little bit of original paint. The races were rarely set up; you ran whomever was in the opposite lane. On this run, somebody pulled out in front of me as the transmission went into Second, so I hit the brakes and went around the loop (railroad tracks divided the north and south lanes). I lined up again with the same guy. This time, we were able to get a little farther, but somebody pulled out on him. More than an hour had gone by, and we still hadn't gotten a good run. The guy and I looked at each other and laughed as we got back in line; this time, it was going to be flat out. At the start, we were side by side through the middle of Second when the rollers showed up to stop the evening's activities. The guy in the Nova was able to get down a side street, but I was totally busted. Exhibition of speed, drag racing, and some minor vehicle infractions added up to a nice, fat fine; luckily, the car wasn't impounded. I took it home, begged my mom not to tell my dad, and sold some of my Lionel train collection to pay the fines (more than $300). I lost my Pennsylvania driving privileges for two years as well; it cost another $150 and a trip to Harrisburg to fix that. That was the end of my street racing days, and I took up drag racing photo- graphy to make up for the loss. As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story."