March 4, 1968
Roar Of Monster Engines
Ring In Drag Season
By KYLE GRIFFIN
Flashes off shiny chrome signaled
renewed activity behind the winter-thinned woods surrounding the Lakeland
Drag Strip yesterday afternoon. Closer inspection uncovered monster engines
that roared almost unbelievably loud, filling the crisp air with gasoline
fumes and smells of oil and rubber.
At the end of the quarter mile of
blacktop, men in astronaut-looking aluminum suits were busy making last
minute checks of machinery and holding up moistened fingers to check the
direction of the north wind.
And then Eddie Schartman of
Cleveland climbed into his super-charged single-overhead cam Mercury Comet
and buckled himself into a low seat resting protectively between iron pipes.
To his right, a foot or two away,
Larry 'Pineapple' Reyes was settling into the bright red Taylor-Collins
Barracuda of Memphis. His car is powered by a supercharged 426 Hemi Chrysler
engine and is ranked No. 7 nationally.
Both men gunned motors and the cars
exploded a yards forward only to be slammed to a halt, backed into the
starting position and let loose again.
Finally, it was time for the first
of three tests matching man and machine against the clock and each other.
The go light flashed and the two cars began the incredible drag up the
course. Tires burned deep into the surface, throwing up a smokescreen.
Schartman's car began drifting to
the inside, a bit off course.
He quickly cut the power and Reyes
went on to win easily. The same problem (called power-drift from having too
much power) occurred in the second match which Reyes took in 8.22 seconds at
184.80 miles per hour. The third set went to Schartman who simply outran
Reyes with an 8.26 effort at 181.44 mph.
For the victory, the Reyes car
picked up first prize of $1,000. Schartman hauled $750 back to Cleveland.
And so the speedway located 12
miles east of Memphis opened its 1968 season - one that promises to be the
best in its history. The opening day crowd of 5,003 was the largest in the
seven years the course has been operating. This band of mechanical souls
ignored the chilling wind and watched as everything from old, bent station
wagons to the most advanced machines ripped and roared up the paved avenue.
There were 352 entries.
The little things that happen on
the first days happened. Rick Lynch, general manager of the strip, hid the
phonograph record of the national anthem when the track closed last fall and
he couldn't remember where.
A car-load of fans, not familiar
with the many pitfalls that accompany travel around the dirt and gravel
roads surrounding the strip, spent the first few races digging out. But the
roads, like the anthem are expected to be in better shape next time around.
And that comes on March 17. Lynch
said last night he had already signed Jim Liberman of San Jose, Calif., who,
in his supercharged 427 Chevelle, is one of the top draggers in the nation.
His opponent has not been selected.
Other winners yesterday included
Super Stock Eliminator, Graham and Hill 396 Chevelle, West Memphis; Street
Eliminator, Chuck Hamilton, Millington, 1966 Corvette, 110.45 mph. Stock
Eliminator, team of Tally and Cody, Memphis, 1955 Chevrolet, 91 mph; Pure
Stock Eliminator, Gene Smalley, Memphis, 1965 Mustang, 85 mph.