For Immediate Release 01.30.2020
RIVERO, LUKENS AMONG HONOREES
AT NITRO REVIVAL 4
Four Other Irwindale and
San Gabriel Racing Icons to Share the Spotlight
Rivero and the late "Stormin'
Norman" Weekly joined forces with Dennis Holding and Jim
Fox in 1963 to form the original "Frantic Four," no
one could have anticipated the impact the collaboration would
have on Top Fuel drag racing. After setting the NHRA national
speed record at 221.66 miles per hour as runners-up to Tom McEwen
at the 1966 Hot Rod Magazine Championships in Riverside, Rivero
and Fox moved east and began a new racing alliance with Bob Keough
and Chris Gans that would pay even bigger dividends.
With Rivero at the wheel of the
"Frantic Fueler," the K&G Speed Shop team won the
NASCAR Top Fuel championship two of the four years it was contested
(1967 and 1968). Furthermore, Rivero was honored as the series'
Driver of the Year while Fox accepted the P.A. Sturtevant award
as the top mechanic.
During their domination of the
only NASCAR series requiring no left turns, Rivero and Fox won
the Pennsylvania State Championship at Maple Grove, the NASCAR
Nationals at Niagara Falls, N.Y., the All-American Fuel Championships
at Pittsburgh and the Canadian Fuel Championship at Desirado,
Ontario before returning to California where they earned their
biggest victory in the 1968 March Meet at Bakersfield.
The "Frantic Fueler"
was No. 1 on the Drag News Top 10 longer than any other during
the era and Rivero even drove it to an Hawaiian land speed record
of 226.55 mph during a match race with Roland Leong. The car,
which has been restored by John Neas of Tulsa, Okla., will be
part of the cackle program at Nitro Revival 4 on May 15-16.
The award will be shared by long
time partners Dennis Holding and Jim Fox.
Phil Lukens was a prominent member of California's "gasser
gang" in the 1960s and '70s. Starting with a '48 Anglia
he raced with Mel Marrs, Lukens was a fixture at Southern California
tracks in an era in which gas coupes and sedans had the same
level of celebrity as today's fuel cars.
As foreman of the chassis shop
at Blair's Speed Shop in Pasadena, Lukens' fingerprints were
all over the many special projects that moved through that iconic
facility including the potent Blair's Speed Shop '68 Anglia in
which he was the Competition Eliminator runner-up to Steve Woods
at the 1972 NHRA Winternationals.
Licensed in Top Fuel and briefly
retained as driver of Keith Martin's alcohol-burning Corvette
in the early days of Pro Comp, Lukens never strayed far from
the gassers and altereds he loved.
He didn't stray far from Blair's
Speed Shop, either, buying the business from founder Don Blair
in 1975. It remains active today at its original Foothill Boulevard
location in Pasadena, originally the site of a candy factory.
Among his current rides is a 1948 Fiat Topolino that races in
the Goodguys nostalgia series and the NHRA's Hot Rod Heritage
Before they partnered in M&S
Welding, Mike Hoag and Sherm Gunn already had established themselves independently
as two masters of race car design and fabrication. Hoag, who
honed his skills as the chief fabricator at Blair's Speed Shop
in Pasadena, was a key player in the build-up of the late Steve
Bovan's first two Funny Cars which, coincidentally, were two
of the first Chevy Funny Cars on the West Coast.
Bovan and Hoag collaborated in
1964 on a blown 396-powered Chevy II to oppose Jack Chrisman's
nitro-burning Mercury Comet on the budding match race circuit.
Their success with that car compelled an upgrade to an even more
successful flip-top Camaro to race the new AFX class.
Gunn, meanwhile, dabbled in gassers
and altereds before also opting to focus on the increasingly
popular Funny Car. Together for almost 20 years, Hoag and Gunn
transformed M&S into a go-to destination for San Gabriel
racers, particularly those who frequented Irwindale.
Despite his skill as a craftsman,
Gunn is best known for pulling off one of the biggest upsets
in Funny Car history by winning the 1984 World Finals at Pomona.
After qualifying only 11th, he mowed down NHRA tour regulars
Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Billy Meyer and Mark Oswald to
claim his first and only national event title.
Although they were attracted by the excitement of drag racing,
fans who attended events at Irwindale Raceway in the 1960s also
came away with an unexpected appreciation for the track's food
service, especially its hamburgers.
Turns out that while they never
were openly identified as such, Irwindale's burgers were vintage
In-N-Outs, minus the tomato, with a touch of nitro. Harry Snyder,
the founder of the In-N-Out chain, also was the controlling partner
of the racetrack when it opened in 1965.
Fifty-five years later, the Snyder
family still strongly supports the sport and those in it through
the leadership of Harry's only grandchild, Lynsi
father, Guy, and uncle Rich, both now deceased, worked at Irwindale
as youngsters, developing their own ties to the sport that resulted
in sponsorship of several pro drivers including Don Garlits,
Dale Pulde, Mark Oswald and Melanie Troxel.
An NHRA member and licensed racer
herself, Lynsi, as sole owner of In-N-Out, funds a host of charitable
causes including Healing Hearts and Nations, a non-profit active
in India and Africa, and the In-N-Out Burger Foundation, which
supports abused and neglected children. The company also continues
to lend its name to events like thee 2018 In-N-Out/Hot Rod Magazine
Championships contested at Pomona.
Although the second coming of
San Gabriel Drag Strip lasted just three years, they were remarkable
seasons for those Southern Californians starved for the pop,
smell and burn of nitromethane during the NHRA's fuel ban of
the early 1960s.
and Will Tice, who by
day ran a meat market, served up regular fuel shows at "San
Gabe" that attracted the biggest stars in the sport including
Don Garlits, "TV Tommy" Ivo, Chris Karamesines, Ted
Cyr, Vance Hunt and J.L Payne, Masters and Richter, Don "The
Snake" Prudhomme, Kenny Safford and Norm Weekly and Ron
The brothers, who proved to be
more than competent promoters, took advantage of the proximity
of a local paving company to keep the racing surface fresh which
is one of the things that brought the big names back again and
When the track closed, Jack Tice,
who was a B-29 bomber pilot in World War II, briefly ran the
track at Fontana while his brother became involved with 605 Speedway.
Although surveys indicate that
Americans are keeping their cars longer than ever before, an
average of 11 years, one would be hard pressed to find anyone
who has driven the same vehicle longer than Covina tire dealer
Tucker bought a stock 1957 Ford
Ranchero powered by a 292 Ford with 200 horsepower way back in
1962. He was 16. Three years later, having upgraded to an injected,
406 Ford, he raced in the opening event at the old Irwindale
Raceway, now the site of the Miller Brewery.
When that track closed in 1977,
Tucker and the vehicle widely recognized as "Tucker's Truck"
were among those providing the sendoff, this time with 427 power.
"I'd be surprised," Tucker said, "if anyone made
more passes down the original Irwindale dragstrip than I did."
Fast forward 33 years when Tucker,
having raised a family, pulled the tarp off the moth-balled Ranchero
and began a resuscitation. With the help of his then nine-year-old
granddaughter, Maya, he completely rebuilt the 427 engine in
his garage at home, set it up to accommodate a 6:71 blower, updated
the suspension and, in 2011, went back racing at the new Irwindale
where he's been a regular the last eight years.
On Saturday, May 16, these
six racing legends will be recognized at Nitro Revival 4 at the
Irwindale Speedway complex for contributions to drag racing during
an era in which the San Gabriel Valley was ground zero in the
sport's development. Each honoree will be presented a special
plaque courtesy of Nitro Revival supporters Jerry and Pat Baltes.