Classic Gear Jammers, Carolina Gassers, Fun Ford Series, PTRA Share Billing

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. – If you’re one of those gear heads who longs for drag racing “the way it used to be,” when shifting gears was an art form and bumper-dragging wheelstands were part of the competition instead of just a staged exhibition, then Rockingham Dragway should be your destination this weekend.

The 21st annual SRI Performance Spring Sportsman Wars, the event known to locals as the Spring Civil Wars, assures a little something for everyone with the Fun Ford Series and its all-Ford car and truck show among the attractions along with the PTRA (Pro Tree Racers Association) Series, the Classic Door Jammers and the Carolina Gassers.

The Gear Jammers, whose rides are full-bodied, American-built cars and trucks using manually-shifted four-and-five speed transmissions, have become one of the most popular features of the SRI Series, which also includes a race in the fall. With delay boxes, electronic clutch release mechanisms and ET-killing electronics banned, it’s like a trip back in time to the heyday of the real American muscle cars.

Among the “jammers” expected to compete at The Rock are defending series champion Tommy Lumley of Charlotte in his “Old School” 1940 Chevy, current point leader Andy Walker of Roxboro at the wheel of his ’85 Mustang, Lexington’s Tom Talmon in his 1955 Chevy Bel Air, and David Crosswhite of Clemmons in a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere.

Also, Ken Regenthal of Glade Spring, Va., in the his 1963 Corvette, Jeff Smith of Orlando, Fla., in the 2014 Cobra Jet Mustang in which he won the inaugural Tremec Stick Shift Shootout at Bradenton, Fla., in 2014, and, last but not least, Mike Boyles of King at the wheel of “Good ‘Ol Charlie Brown,” the 1957 Chevy Bel Air wagon in which he won IHRA World Super Stock Championships in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1990, 1991 and 1992.

If the Gear Jammers aren’t enough to satisfy one’s craving for “old school” drag racing, the Carolina Gassers should be in their Sportsman Wars debut.

In addition, champions will be crowned in all the standard “Civil Wars” classes including ATI Pro Tree Doorslammer, Network Distributors Open Comp and the PTRA’s 5.30, 6.0 and 7.0 Index classes. The ATI winners will earn $1,500, as will the winner of the Rock Batteries Footbrake class. A thousand dollar winner’s share is up for grabs in Open Comp with $1,200 to the winner of the 5.30 Index, $1,000 to the 6.0 champion and $800 to the winner in 7.0.

A Pro Tree Jr. Dragster champion and a Trophy Eliminator champion also will be determined in Saturday eliminations.

Defending champions include Willie Lytch of Southern Pines in ATI Pro Tree Doorslammer, Dallas Glenn of Mooresville, who won Open Comp last year in his 1968 Chevy El Camino; Jamie Carroll of Clayton in Footbrake and Robert Anderson of Cassatt, S.C., in the 5.30 Index class.

The track will be open from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Friday for open testing and the weekly test-and-tune event.

Adult admission is $30 for Friday and Saturday or $20 Saturday only. Children under 12 are free with a ticketed adult and, as always, parking is free in Rockingham’s main lot.
Featured at This Week’s 21st SRI Spring Sportsman Wars at Rockingham Dragway

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. – A visit to Rockingham Dragway for this week’s 21st annual SRI Spring Sportsman Wars is likely to bring back memories for old-time drag racing fans and elicit questioning looks from newcomers.

If you were born after 1970, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever seen race cars like those campaigned by the Carolina Gassers, who will make their Rockingham debut in an event that also features the popular Classic Gear Jammers, the PTRA Series and the Fun Ford Series.

In fact, there’s a better-than-average chance you haven’t even heard of them. But, long before there were Funny Cars and mountain motor Pro Stocks and Pro Modifieds, there were gas coupes and sedans and for those who raced in that popular category, the vehicles of choice were Henry Js and Willys.

They were so popular among racers because they were small and light. In drag racing, that made them perfect receptacles for what at the time were the biggest engines on the planet. Small, short-wheelbase, lightweight cars with supercharged Chrysler hemi engines. What could go wrong?

That question will be answered to some extent this week in a competition involving two 1933 Willys coupes, a 1940 Willys Truck, a 1934 Willys sedan, a Henry J and a 1973 Plymouth, all of them stuffed full of supercharged V8 engines ranging from early model hemis to late model big block Chevrolets and even a couple of small block Chevies.

If there is a single star it is the “Junkyard Dog” Willys sedan driven by J.R. Ward but owned and tuned by 1972 NHRA U.S. Nationals Comp Eliminator champion Jim Oddy, who later owned and tuned the Pro Modified car that Fred Hahn drove to 12 victories and the 2000 IHRA world championship.

The challenges are Tom Fritz, whose “Goin’ Broke II” Willys truck is powered by a supercharged small block Chevrolet; “Double-A Al” Nedpodzinski, driver of the “Caged Heat” Willys powered by a 354 cubic inch Chrysler hemi; Justus Daniel, whose Chevy-powered Henry J may be the most unique in a unique group; Derrick Childress, who uses supercharged hemi power in his “Classical Gas” Willys and Danny Porter, whose “Flipper” early model Plymouth is outfitted with a massive, supercharged 427 Chevy.

Those cars and drivers will go head-to-head on Saturday following open testing from 4 p.m. to 10pm on Friday. Two day admission for adults is $35, $20 Saturday only. Kids 12 and under are free.

In addition to the gassers and the gear jammers, the event will include a Ford car-and-truck show, the “Up on the Hill” swap meet and racing for cash in the PTRA’s 5.30, 6.0 and 7.0 Index classes, the ATI Pro Tree Doorslammer and Pro Tree Eliminator classes, Network Distributors Open Comp and Rock Batteries Footbrake classes.
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