1966 Monthly Headlines
Mike Sorokin, driver for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Top Fuel team Skinner, Jobe, and Sorokin (a.k.a. the Surfers) was 1966's first big winner, taking top honors at the Pro-Circuit meet at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. ... Midwest Super Stock standout Wes Koogle of Mansfield, Ohio, died Jan. 8. Koogle, who was diagnosed with cancer in October 1964 and in November had his left leg amputated above the knee, won the 1965 Gold Cup meet in Muncie, Ind., where he set an S/SA record in his Original Dependable III Dodge Charger, and was runner-up at the 1965 Nationals in Indianapolis. He was 29.
A record-breaking three-day crowd of more than 90,000 attended the sixth annual Winternationals at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, where 22-year-old Mike Snively drove Roland Leong's Hawaiian Top Fueler to an impressive win. Snively ran a 7.54, at 209.78 mph in the final to defeat Jim Dunn's 7.59, 207.84. It was the second straight Winternationals win for Leong's Hawaiian, which Don Prudhomme drove to victory in 1965. Gordon Collett collected what would be the first of three straight Winternationals titles in Top Gas, and Shirley Shahan scored a popular victory in Top Stock, outlasting a star-studded field. The 27-year-old housewife and mother of three drove her S/SA '65 Plymouth past Ken Heinemann in the final.
Mike Sorokin drove the famed Surfers Top Fueler to a record-setting 7.34 en route to his win at the U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships at Famoso Raceway. Sorokin, who also ran a 7.41, defeated Jim Warren in the final. Competition in Top Gas was highlighted by 17-year-old Bill Scott Jr.'s record run of 7.99. Scott also had top speed at 192.70 but was defeated in round one by Winternationals winner Gordon Collett. ... NHRA President Wally Parks named Carroll Shelby to the NHRA Board of Directors.
NHRA added five new Funny Car classes, known as Experimental Stock (XS), to its 1966 competition rules. ... At the NHRA World Championship Series opener at Southern California's Carlsbad Raceway, Top Fuel runner-up Tommy Allen eclipsed Jimmy Nix's long-standing national speed record of 208.32 with a 212.76-mph blast, and Top Gas runner-up Tommy Larkin ran an 8.17 to reset the AA/D e.t. mark. ... Southwest Division Director Bernie Partridge announced that Southern California's Irwindale Raceway will operate under NHRA sanction, bringing the number of NHRA sanctioned dragstrips in California to 19, more than any other state. ... Ramstein, Germany was the site of the first international event to be sanctioned by NHRA.
Tommy Larkin bettered his own AA/GD e.t. record with an 8.11 en route to a final-round victory over Gary Murphy in Top Gas at the World Championship Series event at Northern California's Half Moon Bay Dragstrip. Larkin's record was one of 23 set during the two-day meet. ... "Big Daddy" Don Garlits defeated Don "the Snake" Prudhomme in two straight in their match race at Detroit Dragway. Prudhomme red-lighted twice. ... Jimmy Nix set low e.t. (7.40) and top speed (208.32) and captured the Top Fuel title at the Division 4 World Championship Series opener in Oklahoma City at the new Willow Run Raceway.
Jimmy Nix scored a decisive Top Fuel victory at the second annual Springnationals at Tennessee's Bristol Int'l Raceway. Nix, who had low e.t. with a 7.38, defeated Ray Marsh in the final with a 7.46, 213.88 run. Joe Shubeck, driving the Ramchargers entry, had top speed at 214.78 mph. In the Top Gas final, Mark Pieri red-lighted but was declared the winner when his opponent, Dick Vest, was disqualified for loose ballast and placed second. One of the highlights of the event, which attracted more than 500 entries and more than 50,000 spectators, was an exhibition run by Jack Chrisman's famed Comet, which ran an 8.82 at 182 mph, the fastest run ever recorded at a national meet by a stock-bodied car. ... NHRA introduced a new Funny Car class called Super Stock Experimental (S/XS). ... Jim Minnick reset the AA/GD national record at 8.07 en route to his Top Gas win at the World Series meet in Sanford, Maine.
Gene Snow, driving his Rambunctious Dodge Dart, lowered both ends of the CF/D record with a 9.33 at 153.58 mph at the Division 4 World Series meet at Austin Raceway Park in Austin, Texas. ... NHRA Executive Director Jack Hart was appointed chairman of the ACCUS safety committee. ... Don Garlits' controversial Dart Funny Car, driven by Emery Cook, made a problem-plagued debut at a match race at Houston Drag Raceway in Dickinson, Texas, where Cook lost two straight to hometown favorite Don Gay. A week later at Southwest Raceway in Tulsa, Okla., Cook defeated Ted Detar in two straight, running a 9.31 best and 143.76 mph. ... Ron Rivero, driving his Frantic Four B/Fuel Dragster, set the unofficial speed record with an all-time best 221.66-mph blast during the Hot Rod magazine event at Riverside Int'l Raceway.
"Dyno Don" Nicholson drove his Eliminator I Mercury Comet to an 8.29 at 170.12 mph, the quickest and fastest run by a stock-bodied car, at a match race against Maynard Rupp at National Trail Raceway in Columbus. ... Some of the sport's biggest names tuned up for the NHRA Nationals at the Pre-National Fuel and Funny Car Championships at Amarillo Dragway in Amarillo, Texas. The event featured a series of Top Fuel and Funny Car match races with drivers Jimmy Nix, Bobby Langley, Bob Creitz, Eddie Hill, Don Gay, and Gene Snow, among others.
Winternationals Top Fuel winner Snively, driving Roland Leong's Hawaiian, captured his second national event title of the season with a win at the 12th annual Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Snively ran a 7.32, low e.t., in the final against a red-lighting Danny Ongais. Nick Marshall had top speed with a 218.46-mph run, and Jim Minnick won the Top Gas title when John Reed red-lighted in the final. Springnationals winner Jere Stahl won his second straight national event in Top Stock, and Joe Luanti won his second Nationals title in three years in Street. More than 1,300 competitors took part in drag racing's premiere event, which drew a five-day crowd of more than 100,000. ... Vic Brown drove the Creitz & Greer Top Fueler to victory and a national record 7.26 at the Division 2 World Series finale at Bristol Int'l Dragway. Brown, who also ran an all-time best 7.22, shaved more than two-tenths off the existing record, a 7.47 set in July of 1965. ... That same weekend at Irwindale Raceway, Top Fuel winner Rick Stewart, driving the Crossley & Stewart dragster, also eclipsed the existing national e.t. mark with a 7.38 at the season's final Division 7 World Championship Series. Also at that event, Tommy Allen, in the Allen & Huff Top Fueler, reset the national speed mark with a 213.76-mph blast.
Jerry "the King" Ruth reset the national speed record with a 218.44-mph blast en route to his Top Fuel victory at the Division 6 World Championship Series finale at Arlington Dragstrip in Arlington, Wash. ... John "the Zookeeper" Mulligan, driving the famed Adams & Warye dragster, recorded the first six-second e.t., a 6.95 at 221.12 mph, in the first round of his match race against Tommy Allen at Carlsbad Raceway. In the second round, Mulligan backed it up with a shutoff 7.17. ... Pete Robinson won Top Fuel at the second annual World Championship Finals in Tulsa, Okla. Robinson ran a 7.19, low e.t., in the semifinals, and in the final he defeated Dave Beebe with a 7.27. Ed Schartman, driving Roy Steffy's S/XS Mercury Comet, became Funny Car's first world champ when he defeated Don Nicholson. Schartman set both ends of the S/XS national record at 8.61 and 172.72 mph. Dick Padar won Top Gas, defeating three-time national event winner Gordon Collett, and in Top Stock Jere Stahl won his third major event title of 1966 with a final-round victory over Bill Jenkins. Other world champs were John Kenderesi (Super), Terry Fritsch (Competition), Deloy Naeb (Street), and Jay Hamilton (Jr. Stock).
NHRA President Parks met with representatives of Orange County Int'l Raceway to announce plans for the construction of a projected $5 million drag racing complex located on historic Irvine Ranch in Irvine, Calif. The 120-acre complex would eventually include permanent stadium-style concrete grandstands, a unique electronic scoreboard system that would instantly display a contestant's time and speed, display and working space for manufacturers and retailers totaling more than 100,000 square feet, a four-story glass enclosed control tower and press facility, and paved parking for thousands.
NHRA competition rules for 1967 changed Top Stock to Super Stock and Jr. Stock to Stock, with Super Stock expanded from four classes to 10 — five for cars with manual transmissions and five for automatics. ... Former NHRA public relations director and editor of National DRAGSTER Dan Roulston was appointed editor of Car Craft magazine, replacing Alex Xydias. ... Virgil Boyd succeeded Lynn Townsend as president of Chrysler Corp. ... Eddie Hill retired.
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