By Jim McLaurin
Here’s a good news / bad news story for you. When Pro Stock drag racer Johnny Dowey sold his “Homewrecker” Chevrolet Camaro a while back, he was motivated by pure charity. Good news.
“Another fellow wanted it worse than I did,” Dowey chuckled. “He offered me $60,000 for a two-year-old car and it was hard to turn down.”
The bad news was that it was the middle of drag racing season, and Dowey was hard-pressed to find a replacement car. He found one – good news- when Bob Glidden bought a new car and sold him his.
At first he didn’t think he would have the car ready for this weekend’s NHRA Winston Championship Series even at the Blaney Drag Strip in Elgin.
That was more bad news, because he owns the track and wouldn’t even be able to run at home.
Good news; The new car was ready in plenty of time. Time enough, in fact, for him to put in a good showing at the IHRA Northern Nationals earlier this month.
This one’s a bit of good and bad; Now that the car’s ready – and running well – he won’t have time to race this weekend.
“Since we managed to work this out to a two-day event instead of one (qualifying is set for Saturday, with eliminations on Sunday), I’m just going to be too busy to worry about driving a car,” Dowey said. “We’ve expecting the biggest crowd we’ve ever had, the biggest field . . . . I just decided that my time would be better spent taking care of that.”
We should all have such worries.
Some of the top pro stockers in the Southeast are expected for the meet, hoping to gain points towards the WCS regional title and cash from the special Florida Shopper’s Guide Pro Stock Challenge Series.
Sophia, N.C.’s Roy Hill, one of the crowd favorites wherever he races, will be touring his new Budget Rental-sponsored Mercury Capri. Hill will be entering his second Shopper’s event of the season, and apparently the new car is a good one.
Last month he turned a 7.76 second, 178.1 – m.p.h top qualifying time in at a race in West Palm Beach, Fla., before the rain washed out the elimination rounds.
Joe Lepone, driving the Palmer Brothers Pontiac Trans Am, is a strong “maybe,” according to Dowey and Durham’s Sam Carroll, Jeff Velde of Vero Beach, Fla., and Lumberton, N. C., Jeff Taylor are among the dozen cars already committed. Carroll will be one to watch, having just come off a semifinal finish at the NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J.
In addition to the pro stockers shooting for a spot in the eight-car field, champions will be crowned in the eight NHRA sportsman division as well.
Darrell Gwynn of Miami, Fla., the current NHRA Alcohol Dragster world champion, will head that field and his counterpart in the alcohol funny car world, Bogie Kell of Atalla, Ala., will lead the fiberglass-bodied racers.
As usual, Dowey has planned some pure entertainment, too. On Saturday afternoon, the Bob Russell Air Show will perform. Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, a twin engine jet truck will make exhibition runs. Side-by-side racing between a pair of wheelstanders will be part of Saturday and Sunday’s entertainment as well.
Dowey’s 18-wheel “Homewrecker” rig, the jet truck, and some other cars schedule to be running this weekend will be on exhibition at Columbia Mall all day Friday.
On the left-turn circuit, a pair of “Twin 20’s” will be featured in teh racing program at the New Columbia Speedway tonight.
Two 20-lap races in the Limited Sportsman Division are scheduled, with the finishing order of the first dictating the starting order of the second. The winner of the first race starts from the back of the pack in the second and the cars line up in inverse order of their finish.
Buster Carr of Columbia made his first trip to the Speedway a good one last week, taking honors in the Limited division.
Tim Jeffcoat beat Neil Avery in the Street class to collect a $125 bonus in addition to the winner’s purse, and Hardeeville’s Hal McGraw made it two in a row in the Late Model Sportsman Division.
A 25-lap Street division and 35-lap LMS race will also be on tonight’s card.