Okay, that’s an awesome Hurst Olds I’m seeing before my eyes. Not far away is Miss Hurst herself, Linda Vaughn. Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick’s tiger-schemed Pontiac GTO is in the pit area. There can only be two possibilities that fit these surroundings. Either Rod Serling is going to step out from the tower and tell me I’ve been transported through the Twilight Zone back to the 60’s or it’s business as usual at the 11th annual York Nostalgia Nationals at Beaver Springs Dragway. Anyone that ever saw an event at the old York US30 Dragway would feel right at home for this event. I could almost feel the spirit of Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins at my side as Mike Strickler came to the line in his tribute Camaro that honors his legendary father and Jenkins associate, Dave Strickler to face the equally impressive “Sweet Justice” Camaro of Jim Haislip in a match race. I’m sure “The Grump” would have been proud of the Jenkins Competition name on these cars.
Of course, no nostalgic glimpse into the past would be complete without funny cars and Bruce Larson and Rocky Pirrone supplied the thrills those ground-thumping nitro burners give to the fans. Just a few weeks earlier, I had watched Rocky race his immaculate Willys gassers and I jokingly asked him if he thought he had too many cars. Rocky just looked at me, laughed and replied, “is there such a thing?” Rocky brought two funny cars, the Frantic Ford Mustang and the War Eagle Firebird, while Bruce Larson was at the wheel of John Worm’s USA-1 Larson tribute Camaro. Those cars also included fan-pleasing back up girls just like the old days as well. In a twist that’s not seen every day, the lovely and talented Audrey Worm, who backed up Bruce Larson, was herself backed up by Bruce when she brought her front-engine dragster to the line.
A trip to the early days of drag racing would not be complete without a few rounds of old-time Super Stockers coming to the ling to face a flagman instead of the now familiar lighted christmas tree. George Nye, the voice of York US30 Dragway performed the honor of manning the flag and sending a number of pristine Ford, Chevys, and Mopars down the 1320 just the way it started out back in the day.
Of course, our beloved gassers were well represented by the 38 Special of Rick Osburn and the wheelstanding Willys of Mike Etchberger. Being around Osburn, and Etchberger, I’ve always been impressed with the way their wives support their drag racing habit. I was equally impressed with the duo of Chris and Debby Toth, who were racing their Fiat altered. It looked to me like the fun they were having together was something every couple should try to have together. Chris told me his dream was to have his picture taken with one of the trophies at the end of the day. His dreams were realized by hoisting his runner-up trophy high at the end of the event!
Did I mention that Al Gore was even on hand at this event? No, not that one, the “good” Al Gore (as he was quick to point out) was in attendance. Al was an integral part of Old Dominion Speedway, the first officially-sanctioned drag strip on the East Coast, and he’s still sharp as a tack at age 94. If that’s not a sure sign that drag racing keeps us all young, I don’t know what is. It’s quite possible the popularity of these nostalgia events may last longer than the era they celebrate. This world will be a better place if they do.