Just Like OLD TIMES

COOKIN’ WITH GAS AT THE SUNSET STRIP NOSTALGIA DRAGS

STORY CARLY DALE PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

COOKI N’ WITH GAS AT TH E SUNSET STR I P N OSTALG IA DRAGS ATA OSTAT LG 112

NOSTALGIA Drags – just the pairing of these words conjures up inspiring images of drag racing’s rich history. But when these words denote a real event – well, that’s the next level of inspiration entirely, so we just had to get along to Mildura’s recent Nostalgia Drags for a look-see.

In its second year at the town’s Sunset Strip eighth-mile dragway, the event attracted a 92-strong field and a heap of punters – most driving half a day from Adelaide or Melbourne. And thankfully there was sunny weather, perfect for racing.

This year, the husband-and-wife team of Kingsley and Lauren Kuchel of the Sunraysia Drag Racing Association (SDRA) put in the hard yards both organising and running the event, while Kingsley also campaigned his FED and one of their sons, Nathaniel, competed in his junior dragster. Quite a feat.

“The SDRA does all the groundwork with entries, queries, and track and race prep, but we’re supported by the Australian Nostalgia Racers, who not only promote the event but support it by bringing up most of their members to either race or watch,” Kingsley said.

Sensibly, they kept the format simple yet effective, and onlookers watched ETs plummet as the track heated up.

The 15-strong Vintage Gasser bracket had the crowd meerkating as soon as these wild rides hit the bitumen pumping out powerful threequarter- track burnouts. The gassers soon justified the spectator interest by running some impressive times – the quickest a 5.58@125mph qualifier from Damien Kemp’s Funderbolt.

The eighth-mile track was easier on the drivelines than the usual quartermile distance, and arguably offered a better spectacle for the punters, as from the grassed mound it was easy to see who won each race. Even better, the track is beside the pits – no two-storey mound here – allowing for quick and easy access and contributing to an all-inclusive atmosphere. The whole day had a relaxed vibe thanks to the welcoming volunteers and long-term know-how of the officials.

On track, the wide range of brackets on offer gave anyone keen to race with an age-appropriate ride the chance to do so. Aussie Muscle was thesewords grassedmound

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY WAS THE DUAL FULL-HEIGHT WHEELSTANDS FROM CHARLIE PITT’S HK MONARO AND DYLAN ARGENT’S CAPRI

chockers with 19 entries, while the other classes of American Muscle, Hot Rod, Junior Fuel, Top Gas, Top Eliminator and Junior Dragster were also nicely filled out.

The highlight of the day was the dual full-height wheelstands from Charlie Pitt’s HK Monaro and Dylan Argent’s Capri in the Top Gas bracket. This isn’t usual fare from a Monaro, so snapper Chris and I hunted the HK down and were blown away by the powerplant up front.

“It’s a 630-cube Merlin big-block Chev built by Darren Morgan,” Charlie said. “It should be good for about 3500hp, but we’ve backed it down to about 1000hp. It usually does small wheelstands, nothing that big; today it scraped the rear beaver panel.” Crikey!

Continuing our wander through the pits, we stumbled across the original Dirty Harry humpy of Harry White alongside its replica owned by Wayne Stevens – both sporting a trusty Holden red 202. Wayne was happy to use the go pedal too, running a healthy 7.86@79mph.

After the morning qualifiers, the arvo gave way to round-robin racing. Later, as the sun set upon the wide horizon, the chill rolled in and the drag cars dwindled in numbers as the finals wore on. Once the battles were won, drivers gathered for light-hearted presentations before heading to the club rooms for some grub, a warming fire, a live band and some bench racing.

“Everyone partied well into the night,” Kingsley laughed, “but Sunday started at 8am with breakfast before the track opened for the Funday. It is hugely popular, especially for the Vintage Gas guys, as there is no timing system, just a good old-fashioned flag-drop start. These guys go nuts for just over four hours.

“We were astounded by how many people came up and thanked us for a really enjoyable weekend. Many said it had reminded them of the good ol’ days of drag racing,” Kingsley continued. “The crowd had grown threefold from last year, so we’re confident that this could become one of the biggest and best nostalgia weekends of the year. Not bad for a small, regional track.”

And while the event was definitely nostalgia-filled, it’s the overall vibe that’s the key to its future success. Not only was it incident-free, but it was full of families with a heap of camping onsite, cheap spectator entry – 10 bucks – and a very welcoming atmosphere. It was so good I reckon we might just bring a worthy racer next year. s

THE 15-STRONG VINTAGE GASSER BRACKET HAD THE CROWD MEERKATING AS SOON AS THESE WILD RIDES HIT THE BITUMEN