You Build It and They Will Come


The success of the inaugural Nitro Revival, which grew out of a shared love for the sport of drag racing and the desire to honor those responsible for laying its foundation, turned bittersweet 10 days after the event's completion with the passing of Ron Johnson without whose passion and vision the celebration never would have occurred.

Johnson, who collaborated with Steve Gibbs in creating a companion event to the popular and already-established Nitro Night in Escondido, was diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few weeks prior to the Revival and succumbed on Oct. 10.

If there was anything positive Ron's friends and family could take away from his loss, it was that he was able to play an active role, first in making the event a reality and then in insuring its success. Future events will be dedicated to his memory.

Although the Nitro Revival was more social than competitive, it attracted more than 50 premium Cackle Cars from as far away as Connecticut and Canada, most with period-correct push vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s.

Hopefully, we lived up to your expectations. We could not have put something like this together in just six months without the help of so many people, all of whom volunteered their time and expertise. On the planning side, we had Ron and his daughter Connie Braun, Don Ewald, Steve Gibbs and his daughter Cindy. And once we got things rolling, so many other people jumped on board.

Thanks especially to Randy Gregg, Alan "Mole" Miller, Don Irvin, Joe Rode, Bill Schneider, Darielle Moody Wiederrich, Vic Cunningham and the Cal Rods Car Club, Mike Lemus, Debby Gibbs, Troy and Stephanie Gibbs Kinder, Ann Rey, John Sousa, Jeff and Cathy Crower, Ken and Marcy Naccarato, Kathy Said and everyone else who played a role no matter how seemingly minor.

The honorary staff was composed of individuals as legendary as the vehicles themselves: Jon "Thunderlungs" Lundberg (announcer), Gene Gastelum and Harley (race control), Art "the Dart" Hayward (scoring and timing) and Mel Deyo (flagman).

While the bulk of the activity involved static starts, push starts and burnouts, there were exhibition runs by the Neal and White nostalgia Top Fuel dragster, Jason Rupert's championship-winning nostalgia Funny Car, Stormy Byrd's "Revelation" roadster and the AA/Fuel Altererds of George Doty ("Godzilla" driven by Rodney Flournoy), Hughie Callen ("High Heaven") and Dave Hix and Todd Miller ("Wild Fire").

Nevertheless, the high point of the day in the estimation of most of those in attendance was the push start of "TV Tommy" Ivo's "Barnstormer" (driven by Kol Johnson) and Chris "the Greek" Karamesines' "Chizler" (driven by Mark McCormick). Both executed starting line turnarounds, just like the old days, before photo burnouts. Fittingly, both cars were restored by Ron Johnson.

A special thanks to Barona track operators Daryl Rustin and Rick Reynolds and their staff, to Jerry and Pat Baltes for providing the awards, to Crower Equipment for donating the hospitality tent and to the many members of the media, old and new, who saw fit to provide a historic record of the festivities.

Hopefully, we did justice to those inducted into the Greater San Diego Drag Racers Walk of Fame including "Watchdog" Tommy Allen, Emery Cook and Cliff Bedwell, Bruce Crower, Ted Cyr, Bill Hopper, Larry Huff, Jack Jones, Jim Nelson, Dick Lechien, motorsports writer Johnny McDonald, Dode Martin, Jim Nelson, Jess VanDeventer and the original Bean Bandits.

Biographies of all the inductees are accessible on the web at:
Greater San Diego Racers Hall of Fame

We were honored to be able to visit with inductees Crower, Allen, Jones, Lechien, VanDeventer and Martin and with those who accepted the awards for the honorees no longer with us - Yvonne Cyr Scott, Ernie Cook, Tom and Dirk Nelson and Vi Arnett, widow of leader of the Bean Bandits, Joaquin Arnett.

Last, but certainly not least, a big shout out to all of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Members and NHRA Champions who joined us: Jon Asher, Gary Beck, Rob Bruins, Jim Brissette, Gary Densham, David Densmore, Larry Dixon Sr., Jim Fox, Steve Gibbs, Gerry "the Hunter" Glenn, Marvin "Who" Graham, Red Greth, Harry Hibler, Dennis Holding, "TV Tommy" Ivo, Tom Jobe, Mike Kuhl, Roland Leong, Don Long, Tom Prock, Simon Menzies and Jon Lundberg.

Also, Dode Martin, Bob McClurg, Ed "the Ace" McCulloch, Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen, Bob Muravez, Carl Olson, Spider Razon, Del Reath, "Wild Bill" Shrewsberry, Joe Schubeck, Bill Schultz, Walt Stevens, Richard Tharp, Linda Vaughn and Dave Wallace Jr.

In summary, we were humbled by the attendance of so many of the sport's stars and we are enthusiastically looking forward to our first anniversary event in 2018. Thank you.



Sadly, Ron Johnson passed away on Wednesday, October 10, 2017, just 9 days after the event. He was 83 years old. It's hard to comprehend how fast it all happened. Until about six weeks before the event, Ron was going strong working hard on Nitro Night in Escondido, and the inaugural Nitro Revival at Barona. He began to complain about some "muscle aches" or possibly a broken rib before deciding to consult with doctors. A scan revealed the devastating news of advanced cancer.

It was such a blessing that he was able to get to the Escondido and Barona events and enjoy them. He was extremely pleased. Steve Gibbs visited him the Friday before his passing, and found him in bed wearing his orange Nitro Revival staff uniform shirt. Ron faced his situation head-on, and should be an inspiration to us all. His family did all they could to make him comfortable to the end.

Not enough can be said about Ron’s contributions to the "Cacklecar" movement. We are all having a hard time imagining things without him.

That said, we will carry on as Ron wished, celebrating his life and this event that was so much a part of his final 8 months of his time on earth.


Ron seen here with Joel Gruzen, his daughter Connie and wife Linda in the back. It was Ron who secured Barona as our site when it seemed no other venue could accommodate us. We are so thankful he was able to see his last dream come to fruition.



As a Post Script to the release of our Nitro Revival coverage, on October 20th at the 26th California Hot Rod Reunion Honorees Ceremony Ron was honored with the rarely presented Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum Board of Directors Award. Introduced by Bob Frey, accepting for their late father were son Kol and daughter Connie.




The best place to start is at the beginning. I will try to share this magical day in chronicle order giving those who did contribute photos representation. If you think there are too many photos here, no apologies. This was an historical crap shoot that proved to be a royal flush. It is also a memorial to Ron Johnson which changed its tone. For those who where there, like me, I'm sure you missed a lot. For those who couldn't make it, this is what you missed.




It was great to have Bill Pitts back in the mix after a two year absence due to family matters.




The rarely seen Horsepower Engineering fueler of Doug Robinson.







One of the first camps to set up was the Cardoza & Lear Little Blue Coupe B/C owned by Fred Lear with the Gruzen Families Newhouse Special AFMR.






Joe Schubeck, Tommy Allen and Jerry Bivens were early arrivals.




Custom Body Enterprises AA/FC of Ross Howard who came out from Oklahoma.













The day started with all kinds of Nitro Revival gear including logo T's, event T's, NR hats, posters and other goodies. The inventory was vastly under estimated as everything was gone by 3pm.

Cindy Gibbs put together the great team to make all this happen.

Kathy Said
Ann Rey and John Sousa
Cathy & Jeff Crowther
Debby Gibbs
Stephanie Gibbs Kinder

Marcy and Jeff Naccarato manned the golf cart shuttles

Gina Bruno staff support



Cindy and Maureen Fairbairn who traveled all the way from New Zealand to be here. She is a well known Kiwi drag racer...for years she was considered the fastest woman in their country. "Devil Woman" was the name of the car.



One would be hard pressed to find a closer father daughter relationship than Cindy and Steve Gibbs.



Harry Hibler, Bill Pitts and Dan Broussard,



We had this dynamic duo in the announcers booth and on track. Jon Lundburg doing his last race after 50+ years of his "Thunder Lungs" reign, and Mike English who is far from doing his last event including the Fox News Big Show appearances.




Although Bob Higginson (center) ran out of time to get the spot on recreation of the Skinner, Jobe & Crosser AA/FD he did have his work in process on display. Kudos for the project came from all directions.




Justin Arias getting a close look at this beauty.



Vintage restorer/recreator Pete Eastwood was on hand with his Ed Pink Old Master fueler that was shoed by Mike Snivley.



"Gentleman Joe" Schubeck



The legendary Red Greth explains how he and Lyle Fisher's "Old Noisy" terrorized the dragster world in the late 50's. This is the real deal car from 1958.




The team from the Ash Marshall Scorcher AA/FD team with owner Dennis Young and Steve Easton in the firesuit.









Among those who were behind the scenes players of getting the Nitro Revival was Don Ewald who handled Media Relations, promotion, the website and took part in the logos and signage. This was without question, a team effort.


Photog Paul Sadler gets branded with Bob McClurg looking on.


Give me 5 large on Nitrorevival in the 5th.



The Gibbs Family was well represented. Left to right: Dr. Mike Lemus, Debby Gibbs Lemus, Cindy Gibbs, Steve Gibbs, Gloria “Gordy” Gibbs,, Stephanie Gibbs Kinder, Kamryn Rask, Troy Kinder, Kayla Rask, Jo Kinder, Soledad Lemus.



Ed McCulloch and Bill Schultz



Originally raced in Australia, the Scorcher of Ash Marshall now owned by Australian Dennis Young.




The Dailey & Johnson name is on the nose but its not the Johnson car we are used to seeing. This is Hank's last FED with 426 power. Ted Tine is the owner and came all the way from Connecticut to debut it here.




Justin Arias takes a photo op in the WCM car.



Team Burkholder Bros.





Half of Famer Bob McClurg and award winning Dave Wallace Jr.





Glenn Way's Ground Shaker Jr. AA/FA





Pitts and Company get his MagiCar ready for a static start.  Due to the fires in Nor Cal Jeep Hampshire was unable to attend. In his place was young driver John Strom. He
Is totally committed to all they do. The other three Macicrew are John Phillips who has been Bill's life long friend from 3rd Grade. Vince Yamasaki (holding the nose piece as Pitts adds the nitro. Vince is the president at least two San Diego Car clubs in San Diego County. Dennis Hespeller looks like Santa Claus, you can't miss him.
More at: MagiCar History on Cacklelfest




Although Bill Pitts is recognized as the Grandfather of the cacklecars, the Anderson family was right on his coattails. The Vagabond has been a staple from day one. It was one of the first nine cars on this page were the genesis, or the kindling if you will for Cacklefest®. The year was 2000 the event was CHRR IX. No matter how many follow, these led the way. More at: Vagabond History on Cacklelfest







Al Eshenbaugh with the restored original Steinegger & Eshenbaugh AA/FD that terrorize Arizona and California in the early 60's.



Bob Brown, Harry Hibler, Dan Kaplan and Pam Conrad.



The pits were full, parking overflowed on to the oval track.





A faction of the Dirty Ol Men's Club - Tom West, Bob McClurg and Paul Sadler.



Bill Pitts and Dennis Prater. Two cacklecar vets.



Joe Schubeck was one of the opening salvo static starts.







Original owner/driver Jerry Bivens was out with his Check Mate fueler.




Old guys with bad ears. Its a very large club.




Roger Lee making some serious noise with his Brissette & Sutherland AA/FD.








Doug Robinson's Horsepower Engineering car still sounds stout after sitting for over 50 years.



As a birthday present to his father, ex-Top Fuel and Funny Car driver Frank Rupert he purchased the restored 1966 Eagle Electric AA/FD and presented it to him at this event. Another very cool thing that showed what the Nitro Revival was about.



Dave and Joe Gruzen, Delli Reath and the Rasner's.



Howard Cams Twin Bear.




No shortage of bitchin paint jobs.



Jimmy Rossi sporting a cigar the size of a banana.



Don Ewald, Don Long and Leroy "Doc" Hales.



The man in his element.



This marked the running debut of the restored Walton Cerny & Moody RED from 1972. Hal Sanguinetti from Phoenix owns the car and can be seen here in the blue firesuit.. This is the real deal car per Don Long, who built it. It won the 1971 NHRA Supernationals at Ontario and the 1972 PRO race at Tulsa. A true piece of our history.







Several of the 29 media corps on hand.




Not sure where Jerry Bivens (center) is coming from or going to with his Check Mate AA/FD. AKA, Bivens & Fisher.




At 11am Event Producer and Ring Master Steve Gibbs held the customary drivers meeting giving a loose layout of the plan and lament, "rules, there are no rules."







Darrell and Pam Conrad took this as a chance to rest a bit from their photo tasks.




After the meeting Troy Cagle took the mic to present Gibbs the 2017 Gary Cagle Memorial Achievement Award honoring his late father.






Dave Kommel and Bob Brown



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Nitro Revival Video from NitroReports.com