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7th Goodguys Nitro Nationals at Pomona Raceway - 06/04

7th Goodguys Nitro Nationals at Pomona Raceway - 06/04


 7th Goodguys Nitro Nationals at Pomona Raceway
The 7th Goodguys Nitro Nationals was held at Pomona Raceway, in Pomona, California, on June 25 and 26. Over 400 entries competed at this premier drag racing event. I spoke to Race Director Robert Kornegay who explained that the Goodguys hold six drag races; two at the Pomona track, two at Famoso Raceway, just north of Bakersfield, one at Las Vegas Raceway, and the last one is held in Indianapolis. He says their March Meet at Famoso is huge and has been a constant since the 1950's. Dawn Bates, Registration Director, then took over and gave some background about the entries, announcers and promotion of the races. She pointed to her husband, Ken Bates, as he made a run down the track, setting that days top time. Then proudly, she pointed out her son, Ken Bates Jr, who was announcing the race. With a smooth, easy and energetic delivery, he reminded me of a young Bernie Partridge, full of enthusiasm and knowledgeable about each and every driver to pull up to the line. Quickly I could sense that not only was there great racing, good times, and lots of enthusiasm for these older race cars, but that it was becoming a family affair.
In the pits were mom and pop teams, and though it was evident that nothing was cheap, it was much more affordable than the professional teams at the big NHRA races. No one hid from you either. Drivers, mechanics, crew chiefs, family, friends and sponsors were ready to answer your questions and to talk about their favorite sport of drag racing. A/Fuel dragsters ran in the low 6 seconds, with the A/Fuel Funny cars within a tenth or two of those times. Top Fuelers were in the high 5 second ranges, and though a second slower than the Pros in NHRA, there were fewer race stoppages due to oildowns or parts breakage. Some of the familiar names were Jack "The Sheriff" Harris, Tim Beebe, Rick White, Jim Murphy, and Bob Muravez, the famous "Floyd Lippincott Jr."

Out in the lot was the vendors bazaar and a car show that had over 200 cars, from pure hot rods, to custom, antique and classic cars. There were muscle cars, trucks and plenty of old Ford roadsters and coupes. In addition there were Studebakers, Ford F-100's, Chevy cars and trucks, Mavericks, Mustangs, Camaros, Woodies and more. Joe McWilliam's drove his '47 Ford Standard Sedan down from Santa Maria, and like many of the proud owners, answered every question patiently. The bazaar offered everything the race fan could want. There were hats and T-shirts emblazoned with one's favorite race team. Heavy car lifts for the garage or shade tree mechanic. Souvenirs, metal signs, clocks, artwork, car prints, car parts, stuffed animals, nostalgic old gas pumps and more to be purchased. In the parking lot was the Monster Bus Ride. Whoever came up with this ride was truly bizarre, but the line was long and the fans couldn't wait for their turns on this careening bus with monster tires.

The cool night air magnified the noise and the flames from the headers. This was the way most of us were brought up, to attend night races, watch the action, commune with friends and ask the mechanics or racers those questions and secrets that we just had to know. During a lull in the action I had the opportunity to talk to Chuck Griffith, Stan Adams and the rest of the Pomona Raceway staff. Pleasant but quick to sense a problem and act on it before it got out of hand, one could sense a well run race course, which kept problems to a minimum and ensured that no one would get hurt. They gave me a background of the growth of the sport and what makes their jobs worth doing. It was evident that they loved this sport, and that they had been around drag racing from the very beginnings, in the 1950's. The Goodguys run more than just a drag race. There is performance as well, and the prices are very reasonable, both for spectators and for the racers. This is racing at its best, and while it may lack the big budgets, or that extra second, the fan of vintage drag racing will find everything else to be just about perfect.

Gone Racin' is at or Contact Richard parks at [email protected]