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August 5, 1968
Tragedy Mars Lakeland's Big Day
- Davis Proves Fastest of Racers

                    By LARRY REA

Preston Davis had every reason to celebrate, but on such a tragic day the veteran Memphis drag racer was at a loss for words.

  Davis poured 200 points in his basket in yesterday's National Hot Rod Association World Championship Run at Lakeland with an important victory over Cliff Harris before 8,000.

  The big win for Davis, which earned him a trip to the NHRA World Series, was marred by the death of popular racer Gene McClanahan.

  McClanahan, 30, of 4242 Atwood Avenue, died after being struck while watching yesterday morning's qualifying runs.

  C.J.Kearney of New Orleans, driving a AA-Gas dragster blew a rod in his powerful engine while crossing the finish line at 175 miles per hour.

  A Lakeland spokesman said that flying oil from the engine apparently bounced off the tire of Kearney's dragster, blurring his eye goggles.  As he attempted to remove the goggles, the car slipped off the track and hit McClanahan, the spokesman said.

  Also injured in the accident was racer Billy Webb of Birmingham, who received a bad bruise.

  The death was Lakeland's first in it's history.  McClanahan was a top entry in the AA-Fuel division.  He drove a 426-Chrysler powered dragster.

  Davis, the current World Championship Series leader, has tallied 1,500 points and will be a top contender for the AA-Fuel crown at the NHRA World Finals at Tulsa, Oct. 19-20.  Tulsa's prize money will top $100,000.

  Davis, driving the Raymond Godman-sponsored dragster, turned a :07.71 elapsed time at 188.28 miles per hour.  Harris was a length back at :08.70 and 149.00 MPH.

  It was a rewarding victory for Godman, whose car had engine trouble during Saturday's trials and was a doubtful participant yesterday.

  Davis and his pit crew worked feverishly through the night to set the engine in top working order.  It meant a loss of sleep, but according to Davis "was worth it."

  Most drivers complained of the intense heat as the strip's asphalt glistened from tire spin outs.

  Ronnie Sox, driver of the Sox and Martin super stock Plymouth, got around the heat.  He soaked his powerful engine prior to race time and used a large wet towel to keep the engine's temperature down.

  An important aspect of yesterday's star-studded show was the official national record runs.  World Series meets offer the only opportunity for establishing official NHRA records.

  Cliff Smith capped a banner field in the Top Gas category with an elapsed time of :08.14 at 178.21 miles per hour.  Smith, who handles the Durel-Randazzo and Smith entry, has turned more than 190 miles per hour several times this season.  Similar in chassis design to the quick fuel cars, Smith's speed chaser burns normal pump gasoline.

.   .   .

Lakeland Winners

  TOP GAS: Won by Bill Webb of Birmingham  (:08.21);  2. Don Cain

  SUPER ELIMINATOR: Won by John Salvaggio of New Orleans  (:09.98 at 134.91);  2. Gary Morgan of Caraway, Ark.

  COMPETITION ELIMINATOR: Won by Rob Callahan of Atlanta; 2. Larry Nolan of Memphis.

  SUPER STOCK:  Won by Herb McCandless of Memphis  (:10.91 best run);  2. Larry Cooper of Little Rock.

  STREET ELIMINATOR:  Won by Robert Nanoco of Ringgold, Ga  (:11.16 at 113.78;  2. M.A. Madden.

  STOCK ELIMINATOR:  Won by Jim Waibel of Lakeland, Fla.  (:13.32 at 92.93).


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


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