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Monday, March 4, 1968

Roar Of Monster Engines Ring In Drag Season


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.


The preceding article is Copyright The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN.  
Thanks to David Rubenstein for supplying this article.

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