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This time Chad Head won on horsepower and not on a technicality.
In only his third race in the cockpit of his dad’s nostalgia nitro Firebird Funny Car, Head was crowned class champion late Saturday night as he beat Peter Gallen and the Poverty Stricken Monza to the finish line.
“I had a great time,” said Head, who also set a track speed record in his first run of the day. “It was a great race in front of great people.”
Maple Grove Raceway’s 50th Anniversary Spectacular entertained several thousand fans that came out for great weather. The day started with local racers in Super, Pro and Junior Dragster classes competing in a bracket race and that was followed by the main event that featured the Auto-Plus Cavalcade of Funny Cars, Danny O’Day’s Wheelstander, the Winged Express fuel altered and five jet cars.
The jets gave a great show. K.C. Jones’ Team Steam, Al Hanna’s Funny Cars and Bob Motz’s jet truck lit up the night sky. Motz also provided an unforgettable finale as the flame took out some of the signs behind the starting line. The truck then crossed the finish line at an incredible 209 mph to begin a fireworks show.
Fans were also treated to a car show and the appearance of Don “The Snake” Prudhomme who served as grand marshal. Prudhomme was also inducted into the Maple Grove Walk of Fame along with Dale Pulde, Frank Hawley, Raymond Beadle and the Eastern Custom Car Association.
Pulde, Hawley and Beadle took part in the Cavalcade and were on hand to receive their awards with Prudhomme. Pulde and Hawley were there to drive the War Eagle and Chi-Town Hustler, respectively, while Beadle was there with his old Blue Max that was driven by Ronnie Young.
The ECCA was also honored during prerace ceremonies. Surviving members Carl Ruth, Ernie Musser, George Weiler and Lee Crupi were on hand. The group was being honored for its contributions in helping Alfred Stauffer build Maple Grove Park Drag-O-Way in 1962.
“None of us would be here today without you guys,” said former MGR general manager Mike Lewis, who served as a master of ceremony for the Walk of Fame induction. Lewis himself was a participant in the racing with the Brand X nitro Funny Car.
Prudhomme was also in the car show, awarding his top 25 picks and signing autographs with Beadle and Weiler. The winning cars were then paraded down the track.
The racing took place in two stages. Earlier in the day, regional bracket racers – the bread and butter of Maple Grove’s racing program for decades – had a special race. The Super and Pro races were not completed because of time constraints, while Eddie McBride (Glenolden, Pa.) won Junior Dragsters.
In the final, McBride and his ’04 Halfscale defeated Brittany Boltz (Lancaster, Pa.) with a pass of 7.937 seconds at 81.33 mph, using a better reaction time to his advantage.
The Cavalcade of Funny Cars were split between nitro and alcohol classes and run in a Chicago-style format; the two cars with the quickest elapsed times after the first run were paired in the second session for the championship..
In the first round of nitros, Head quickly established himself as the favorite by taking his car to a pass of 5.889 at 248.61. The speed was a track record, bettering the 248.25 mark set by Gallen in 2010.
Fittingly, Head (Avon, Ind.) and Gallen (Broomall, Pa.) were paired for the final. The second run wasn’t as fast, but Head was able to get across the line first as Gallen lost some power toward the end. The winning pass was 6.648 at 194.77.
Head, son of NHRA Full Throttle Series veteran Jim Head and chief of operations for Alan Johnson and Al-Anabi Racing, was thrilled to be racing with legends like Pulde and Hawley.
“I never thought I’d race people like Dale Pulde and Ronnie Young,” Head said, “people I watched match race as a kid. That was pretty special and just as neat as a win.”
Head, who debuted in the car last fall, was declared the winner at Bakersfield, Calif., in March after NHRA disqualified Tom Boychuk for using an illegal fuel pump.
In the alcohol class, Ron Haegli and the Tiki Warrior ’76 Monza came cross-country to win that race.
Haegli (West Linn, Ore.) defeated Scott Ringwood (Mechanicville, N.Y.) and the Mascott Racing ’78 Corvette with a holeshot of 6.779 at 203.71.
Ringwood had the best run in the first round, 6.902 at 190.30, while Tiki Warrior made the final by going 7.096 at 193.60.
“The guys gave me a weapon,” Haegli said. “They had to work on it and we saved the best for last.”
Racing returns Friday night with Auto Locator Grudge Racing. Saturday and Sunday will be two more rounds of the Sunoco Race Fuels Money Trail.
For more information, contact Maple Grove Raceway at (610) 856-9200 or visit www.maplegroveraceway.com.