Harrop and I met in the final round of SS/A at Indy for the top spot in the eliminator. I lost that one on a quirk. At that time, my engines were being built by "Jiggs" Jenkins, who everyone now knows as "Grumpy." To reduce drag on the engine, he would trim part of the fins off the water-pump impeller. As long as the car didn't get hot, it wasn't a problem. When I hit high gear against Harrop at the Nationals, the pump broke and the car slowed down. Still, it was a great race car for the two years that I raced it.
That car gave me some of my best memories. We set the record with it at 11.15 e.t., using a Jenkins motor, and it became the first car to run quicker than 11.20. We even did it on 7-inch [wide] tires. It also became the first legal car on 7-inch tires to go in the 10-second zone, doing so at Cecil County in May 1965.
MM: Was there a reason you kept running that '65 car the following year?
JW: First of all, I liked it, and I needed something that I could really race with. The Street Hemi cars, like the one that Bill Stiles had [which won the World Championship in 1966], were relegated into A/Stock, so they were really restricted in that regard. I had good success with the A990 car, and I ran it until the end of that season.
After Richard Petty's accident in his Barracuda, the factory no longer wanted any liability. The suit had cost them millions of dollars. So, I bought my car. We were also banned from running any unsanctioned racetracks. Of course, we still did because that was where the money was. NHRA racing paid pretty poorly.
The factory sent us all paperwork on a proposed '66 Super Stock package, but that didn't materialize until the following model year. They never had any appropriations to make it happen during the first year of the street Hemi.
MM: Who were some of the people you remember from Super Stock racing at that time?
JW: Arlen Vanke comes to mind, primarily because we had the same cars through a lot of that time period, and he and I raced each other quite a bit. He was always a good racer, and we were very good friends. Bill Stiles is another, and I met Jerry Stein during that time as well. Now, Jerry was running Stock with his Max Wedge cars, but he was a good racer, and we became good friends also.
Jenkins, who used to call me "Worry Werst," built my motors, and they were the best as far as I was concerned. They made more horsepower then anybody else's. In fact, Dick Housey, who owned the car that Ted Spehar tuned, would often come out and race the Jenkins' cars. We would match-race them and, in most cases, beat them three straight. Then the factory guys would go back to Detroit and call me and tell me to find out what Jenkins was doing. I'd ask him, but he would never tell me, or anybody for that matter. They never liked the guy, and I got stuck in the middle because I was working for the factory at the time. At any rate, that ruffled some feathers, and Jenkins went to Chevrolets the following year. We are still good friends.