It’s official. We’ve found the fountain of youth, but it’s not something you drink like the old legends go, it’s made up of hot rod iron and racing fuel. Okay, there may be a few shots of nitrous thrown in too for good measure. I offer evidence of that as one “Bones” Balough, legendary gasser pilot of days gone by. Sure, the calendar says he’s 79, and he was winning races before I was even born, but there were plenty of witnesses at the 2nd Annual PA Gasser Nationals that saw Mr. Balough acting like a youngster. He even testified to the phenomena himself. He said when people asked him if he was afraid to drive race cars at his age that “when I get in the car, I feel like I’m 19 again.” Case closed.
Bones was on hand not only to drive one of Rocky Pirrone’s beautiful AA/GS cars, the “Boss Hydro,” but to connect the gasser memories of the past with the new memories created on that day. Oh, and I believe he had a little bit of fun doing it while he was at it! Bones said at the driver’s meeting that his most memorable win was the ’62 US Nationals, although he couldn’t recall who was in the other lane. He also fondly remembered being the first in the 9’s back in ’64 and stated that his favorite of all the cars he drove was the Big John Mazmanian Willys. That was appropriate since Rocky Pirrone’s gorgeous Mazmanian tribute car was also on hand. Pirrone’s cars were just a few of the fine examples of gassers that were present. The Beaver Springs Dragway was host to just about anything the hot rodding fan could desire. I’ve seen Earl Metzler’s incredible ’37 Chevy hauler before, but the sight of it hauling in Earl’s equally incredible ’34 five-window coupe continues to leave me breathless every time I see it. Earl built an equally impressive hauler for his brother’s car that was driven by Earl’s son, Brian.
As impressive as Metzler’s machinery was, there was a car that was equally impressive on the opposite end of the spectrum. Dan White’s ’55 Ford gasser will never win a beauty contest, but what it will do is wow the crowd with its’ wicked launches off the starting line. I had the honor of seeing one of those launches up close and personal in the wheelstand competition and it was a memory I won’t soon forget. Speaking of the wheelstand competition, I had the pleasure of observing wheelstanding expert Mike Etchberger as he plotted the best way to ensure his wheels would be up higher and longer than the others. Mike had the proper formula in place as he once again captured another wheelstanding crown thanks to a spectacular wheels-up launch and Dan White’s car getting just a little bit out of shape in the final. Those two guys definitely bring the crowd to attention when those wheels go up!
Barely behind those two is Rick Osburn in his ’38 Chevy truck and Dan Bergeron in his ’63 Nova. Seeing those four guys putting on a show every time they line up at the tree is the thing hot rod memories are made of! Adding to those memories was Steve Crook and his “Blew By You” AA/GS ’56 Chevy being backed up in old school style by his lovely lady, Pamela. Steve’s car, along with the supercharged Willys cars of the Kasinski brothers and Rocky Pirrone’s cars made thunderous passes that are impossible to forget. The participants also made memories of friends, family, and good times as well. Chris Toth and his wife Debbie campaign a Fiat Altered car and had the misfortune of breaking on Friday. You’d never know that by the gleam in their eyes and the smiles on their faces. They were having the time of their lives just enjoying the camaraderie of their fellow racers and the atmosphere of the event. I saw similar smiles on the faces of Scott and Mary Hasko and their crew. Scott told me how much fun they were having and how much enjoyment they got from competing, win or lose. It was a pleasure listening to them talk of the memories they were making that weekend and others of days gone by.
I’m sure Dave Dreyer will remember his runner-up finish in the Hot Rod category, not for any of the runs, but for being able to share the spotlight with his son and father. Nothing like three generations sharing a trophy at the strip! With all the families and good people involved at the PA Gasser Nationals, it’s easy to see the hot rodding torch will be passed on for many years to come!