From The Pits - by "Stormin Normin" Weekly
Date, 12-08-63. Place. Pomona,
CA. Race for the #1 spot
on the Drag News Mr. Eliminator list between Chris "The
Greek" Karamesines and "The Frantic Four". First
I would like to explain how the "Mr.
Eliminator deal worked for the people that don`t know. If you
were going to challenge for the #1 spot you had to be one of
the cars on the top 10 list. You would send your challenge in
to Doris Herbert at Drag News and the holder of the spot had
30 days to name the track the race would be held at. At the time
"The Frantic Four held the # 3 spot and "The Greek"
held the #1 spot . If we won we got the # 1 spot and "The
Greek" took over our # 3 spot. Also, since "The Greek"
held the # 1 spot he got all the money for the match race. That
might seem unfair, but it did work out for everybody in the long
run. In this instance it was $1000.00 and that was very good
money in those days. That is the fee "The Greek" worked
out with Pomona. Why Pomona? We were the home town boys and we
felt it was a natural for the track. We approached Chuck Griffith,
who ran the track and Stan Adams, who was the announcer and P.R.
man for the track about getting the race there. A little side
light here. Garlits had already put in a challenge to the winner.
Chuck said fine as long as the winner of our race agreed to defend
it at Pomona for the same price against Garlits. Done deal (
Don if you happen to read this, if I spelled your name wrong
I am truly sorry, We have been such good friends. <wide evil
nasty grin> Just a little inside joke as anybody in the game
knows we were never friends, but that is another story.
"The race and mind games" -- First at this time all
cars usually made a warm up run before a match
race. "The Greek" shows up and does not make a warm
up run. I would like to say at this time I new it was going to
be along day. "The Master" in my mind was playing with
the kid. Another thing I should bring up at this time is with
our 354, she was a little weak out of the gate. You could not
bring her out at and idle like a 392, but she would make it up
on the big end. To get around this I would stage at about 4,000
RPM and she would leave fine, because of this I would never stage
first. I got burned down once staging first and learned my lesson.
First round. I got "The Greek" to stage first I staged
counted to one and left and got away with it. Well "The
Greek" is no dummy. Second round. I pull up wait for "The
Greek" to stage and when I stage, I realize he has not staged.
I sitting there at 4000 RPM and I can`t bring the RPM down, because
I know when I do he will stage and I will not get the RPM back
up in time and she will bog on me. I could almost hear him laughing
in his car. He let`s me sit there for a while and then decides
he has made his point. I figure the second he stages the starter
will throw the flag. I leave and get the big red. By the time
I get out of the car at the big end I am hotter than the engine.
I tell the crew to get the car back to the pits.
As soon as we are there I send one of our crew
men over to the concessions to get 50 pounds of ice. "The
Greek" wants to play game. O.K. After we get the motor cooled
down I start putting ice water in it. 3rd round. I wait to the
last minute to fire the car because I figure it is big time burn
down time. What does "The Greek" do ? He stages right
away and here I am with a cold motor and the starter Mel Dale
is looking at me like stage or he is going on a single. I stage,
nail it, she back fire`s tosses a blower belt and goodbye # 1,
only "The Greek" is not through about 200 feet out
he takes one hand off the wheel raises his arm and gives me the
finger. When he brought is hand back down he hits the steering
wheel and crosses the center line and we win. We are out of the
cars at the big end and he comes walking over to me and I am
thinking O shit I am in deep shit. He walks up and shakes my
hand and says take good care of the #1 spot Kid. What a class
act and that was the day he became my "HERO" Not because
I was lucky enough to walk away with the spot, but I was the
one that was playing mind games too and he understood. Norm.
Second story through my eyes
as a driver: Around the
time we won the #1 spot from "The Greek", I started
driving a second car "The O.C.M.P. Special". When I
first got into
the car I did not realize the people that were doing the engine
work were not too sharp, but I had been spoiled by Demar Ray,
Jim Fox and Dennis Holding.
To explain, we broke parts in
"The Frantic Four" car, but they were not being tossed
at me as they were in "The O.C.M.P" car. I never went
for "The sitting low deal", sorry Pat (Foster). After
the first week in the car I went to the owner and told him some
changes needed to be made if I was going to continue to drive
the car, like new engine people. He said O.K. who? I told him
Fox and Holding. He got together with Dennis and worked out a
deal. We got the car over to Fox and Holding`s shop and they
got the engine straighten out.
We then challenge "Waterman
and Goodsell" for the #8 spot and won. Now I hope you understand
this is not and ego trip, but we were feeling pretty good about
ourselves. We had the # 1 spot with the orange car and the #8
with the O.C.M.P. car. I could be wrong but I think the only
other person to hold two spots at the same time was Vance Hunt.
We are at the shop one night and I will be honest with you, pretty
full of ourselves, at least I was, and wondering what we could
do to top what we had done. Somebody said let`s race both cars
at Pomona next weekend. It could have been me. I have never been
shy. So that is what we did with me driving both cars. I want
to make this very clear, I don't think any of us thought we would
get both cars to the final round. Reason being, the O.C.M.P.
was not in the same class as the orange car performance wise.
I think I should know about that.
Well as they say when you hot
you hot. We were lucky enough to get both cars to the final round. Now the fun begins. Since I am
under contract to O.C.M.P. I have to drive that car in the final
round. Ron Rivero our partner was there, but he had never driven
the car before. However he did have good experience in other
cars in Texas when he was in the service. We put him in the orange
car. Now back to the fun part. At the time Ronnie weight about
140 pounds and I weight 175, so I told Ronnie to pull 10 pounds
off the front of the orange car. I don`t like to ever lose a
race, but I wanted the orange car to win. We go to the line,
I leave and keep waiting for Ronnie to go by me. I get in the
lights and still no Ronnie. I knew then something had to happen
to the orange car. He did a giant wheel stand and when it came
back down it broke the left front wheel. To this day he thinks
I set him up by pulling the weight off the front end. Not me
<grin> and really Ronnie knows better. I just guessed wrong.
Next story. How I lost all confidence
in my driving ability after "The Rat" blew me off two
straight and I ran quicker and faster both runs for the # 1 spot
and it was the beginning of the end for the orange car, or how
to get humble real fast! Norm.
Jan 26th 1964. Defending the # 1 spot
against Garlits. First I would like to say there will be some
personal things in this story. That is the only way I can tell
it. I am not trying to make excuses or sugar coat it. Another
reason is since we held the # 1 spot and the # 8 spot at the
same time with the two cars most people would think we had the
world by the tail. Things are not always what they seem to be.
Also, whatever was going on in my personal life did not affect
me when I was in the car. The minute I hit the mag switch and
the car lit I was in another world.
When Garlits was in SoCal he
kept his at Bud`s mufflers in West Covina. I was friends with
Bud. When Bud found out we would be racing Garlits, every time
I would see him he would tell me I was going to lose two straight.
Me being me, I would tell him, "In
your Dreams". I should also explain that I had three different
leaves I use with the car because I hated red lights. If I had
a guy covered I would not push it at all on the starting line.
I would rather look bad as a driver and drive around them than
red light. This was because of the good motors Fox and Holding
put in the car. If it was a car that was running close to us
E. T. wise I would semi push it on the starting line. If a guy
had us covered, and that did not happen to often, it was called
hang it all out. 1st round. I left with a good leave (I thought),
but got beat even though I ran quicker and faster. 2nd round.
I went with my #1 leave and still got beat and ran quicker and
faster again. I have no excuses, Garlits out drove me and I felt
like I'd our whole team down. To top this off, when the crew
took the car back to the shop and pulled the motor out the car
broke in half. The motor was holding the car together. That is
not and excuse either, just a side light of a very bad day at
the office. That was the beginning of the end for the orange
car, with all the wheel stands and runs it had made, the car
was worn out.
Dan Whitz who owned Airline Auto Sales
wanted to build a new car and would pay for everything if I would
let Bobby Edmonson build it. Bobby built and drove The Airline
Auto Sales sprint car and that is how that car came about. As
far as the personal side. I was married to my child hood sweetheart
and our marriage was going down the toilet because she had become
jealous of the race cars. I will leave that right there. The
only reason I brought it up is like I said, not every thing is
like it seems to be. By the way she served me with divorce papers
the night before we left on our 1st tour.
I also got Garlits back with
the Airline Car, but that is another story. <grin>. Norm.
1964 Winternationals. I would like to preface this story again
by saying it is through my eyes and I am not trying to make any
excuses. In my eyes there is no excuse for losing, but we all
do and we take our lumps and go on from there.
Again we are running two cars.
O.C.M.P and the Orange car. I would like to say this was
not and easy job for Jim Fox and Dennis Holding and our crew.
They did not have a crew of 20 people for each car like the big
boys or girls have now, plus the two cars were very different.
The Orange car had the 354 and the O.C.M.P. car had a 392. Although
both chassis were built by Rod Pepmuller. Now back in 1964 NHRA
did things different. On Saturday they ran class elimination`s.
A/FD and AA/FD. A/FD got a trophy. AA/FD got to sit out elimination`s
and ran the winner of the low 8 cars on Sunday. I won A/FD on
Saturday, beating Logge, Steffy and Marsh in the final round.
In AA/FD in the O.C.M.P. I lost to Bobby Vodnick in The M&R
car in the first round. He ran 8.18 & 187.50. I ran 8.11
& 184.42. I got another whole shot put on me, after Garlits
did the same thing to me when I lost the #1 spot to him a couple
weeks earlier, to say the least I was not feeling to good about
my driving ability! To add insult to injury the 8.11 put the
O.C.M.P. car in the 9th spot and they only took the low 8 cars.
Sunday. S&H was low qualifier
at 7.86 and the Orange car was in at a solid 7.96 and Kenny Safford
was #8 at 8.10. Now the fun begin`s. For some reason Garlits
did not qualify. That really broke my heart <Wide evil nasty
grin>. About two hours before the first round Garlits comes
running up to me with his firesuit and helmet and says let me
drive your car. As I said I was really down on myself and I told
him let me talk to Jim Fox and Dennis Holding... although I had
already made up my mind. I owed to much to Jim and Dennis to
let them down again. So we put "The Rat" in the car.
The word in the pits spread like a wild fire. Garlits is driving
for the frantic four. Now the really, really fun begins. Here
comes T.V. Tom Ivo and he is not a happy camper and I get the
ass chewing of my life. I want to make this very clear, it was
not that I put Garlits in the car that had him upset. It was
that I would put anyone in the car. I would like to say everything
he said, but it is not for print.<grin> In essence he told
me if I wanted to feel sorry for myself, just hang it up for
good. He also said you are the hero for that car and I better
start acting like it. Well the first round Garlits red lights
and drives the car out the back light and hangs 8 rods out the
bottom of the pan. Thanks to T.V. I was able to get my act together
and win a few more races.<grin>.
This is a great side bar story
to the one above (and the photo of Garlits in the FF car). It's
from Chuck Quenzler, Jr. written to Norm. You can only see Jim's (Fox) hands in the pic.
That's me with the Autolite hat, and of course Dennis (Holding).
When this pic was being taken Dennis was telling Don that the
Frantic 4 car might not leave as hard as the Swamp Rat, cause
it was a 354 style motor, not a 392 like he ran. Big Mistake!
Donald left so hard he boiled the tires of the car. It was freewheeling
so bad Jim said, as we watched from just behind the starting
line, "It will never make it to the end"
"Norm wouldn't ever over power the M&H's like that."
Jim was right. It blew about the 1000 foot mark. Jim commented,
"I think that's the first time the car ever oiled down the
track" since you guys got together.
If you remember, 'Big' also redlighted,
and the guy we raced either went off the track, or crossed the
centerline. I remember that, cause you and Dennis argued with
the NHRA officials, while Jim and I, and I think Lynn Hawthorne,
took the car to the shop, and changed the motor. You and Dennis
were arguing that we should be let back in cause the car we raced,
did such a dangerous thing, compared to a red light. All to no
avail, as in the next run, our would be competitor, made a boring
single, shutting off, after a few hundred feet. As a direct result
of this incident, You probably remember, NHRA started the "First
or worst" rule before their next race. This was the Winternationals,
the first year NHRA used the "Christmas tree". I think
it was 64. you can look it up.
I remember I was working for
Demar Ray, at the time you and Ron broke your only motor. I Think
you had a Drag News Top 10 challenge in to a team from Oregon,
or Washington, ( or maybe you were to race "TV Tommy Ivo"
up there) and I suggested to you that, Jim and Dennis have some
fresh motors, as they had just split up with Bill "Fix or
repair with a hammer" Adair. And that was the beginning
of some great things.
We were racing at San Gabrial
dragstrip, for a Drag News spot, and when Jim and I were thrashing
to change head gaskets, between rounds, Steve Gibbs was announcing,
an said "Weekly, Rivero, Fox and Holding, are working on
their motor trying to get back here on time, for the next round.
Those four guys are frantically trying to make the 1 hour deadline"
If I remember rite, it was Dennis who picked up on that comment,
and the "Frantic 4" was born!
PS Jim said you wanted to know
if I was working with the OCMP car at a certain race. If I recall
correctly I only worked on it at the shop, and when it was at
a track, with the orange car, home in the shop. Cause I helped
out Garlits, when he was on the west coast, I chewed for him,
when he was racing there. I think I had worked it out with Jim,
that when he was scheduled to race you for the #1 spot, I was
to help him. But then, I think, he lost his spot to Chris, and
we didn't race Garlits after all.
That race was the Infamous controversy
of Chris crossing the center line when near the lights, Some
months later at a different race he told us, as he turned slightly
in the car to give you the finger, he steered his car over the
center line. I remember we all laughed about it, even Chris..
Chuck Quenzler, Jr.
9-14-1963 - Fontana Drag City. First I would like to say I am sorry
that I have not posted more story`s, but with what has been going
on with our crackelfest car it is kinda hard to stay on track.
At the time of this race we more or less ruled Fontana drag city.
At the same time Greer, Black & Prudhomme ruled Lions. Little
did I know that my partner, Dennis Holding was going to put a
challenge to G,B&P in Drag Sport to come out to Fontana and
try us on. I would have rung his neck if I would have known.
LOL. I mean it was like going to the bank every week. At any
rate, they took the challenge and on their second qualifying
pass Prudhomme ran a 193.54 to tie the top speed record we held
at the track with Wenderski & Winkel.
In the end, we qualified # 1
with a 8.18 which also stood for low E. T. of the meet. As fate
would have it, in the semi finals it was us and G,B & P so
the stage was set for the "challenge". It was a very
cold night, but we had a little trick we used out there to make
sure the car fired. Tom Jobe will kill me, but we learned it
from them. LOL. Oh by the way that is Tom Jobe from "The
Surfers" car. Something about putting alky in the injector
imput line. <grin>
Anyway we pushed down and G,B
& P didn't fire - Dennis Holding and Jim Fox were screaming
at me to make a single. I thought about it and said "no
way". As cold as it was, I knew I could sit there for a
good five minutes at idle. I keep motioning for them to push
the G,B & P car down the track and get it fired. They finally
got the message and got it fired. I had them right where I wanted
them. The minute "The Snake" got his car fired, I stage.
He has no choice but to do the same. I know his motor is cold,
but who ever said we play fair ! <wide evil nasty grin>.
We beat them and went on to win Top Fuel in the last round against
Please understand the G,B &
P car was one of the best of it`s time, but when you have them
by the ball`s you do what you have too. A little side note for
Don Ewald, since he worked for Keith Black and knows what am
ego he had. I always had the greatest respect for him and after
I quit driving for "The Frantic Four" I had a chance
to drive some of his cars, but he always vetoed it because he
never forgave me for that night. I guess both of our egoes would
have not fit in one shop. LOL. Norm.
This is the story of the rematch with
The Rat (Garlits) at Island Dragway NJ. for the Drag News # 1
spot, through my eyes. First I would like to say this was also
a NHRA record meet, where you could try and set new records.
Back in those day they had just certain meets you could do this.
Also by this time we had retired The Orange Car and had the new
Airline Auto Sales Car. I will not say what the car weighed,
except to say it was the lightest car of it`s time and the most
ill handling car I ever drove. On the plus side, performance
wise it was the best car I ever drove, even if the little bitch
tried to kill me on every pass I made. <grin>.
Back to the performance side. When
we took the car on tour in 1964, we only lost one match race
and got jobbed on that one in Atlanta for the # 1 spot. Plus
the car beat the Rat for the # 1 spot, Won A/FD and set top time
at the Indy Nationals. Back to the race with the Rat for # 1.
Like I said it was a record meet. We set a new e.t. and mph record
for A/FD early in the day, but we had two problems. First like
I said the car was very light and to run A/FD we always had to
put and extra 10 pounds in the car. For some reason we forgot to do it and after the run
we realize it. Before the officials get`s down to the end of
the track, Dennis get`s my fire suit and puts the 10 pound weight
in it and puts it in the car. I told Dennis to forget it. If
we get caught we will look like shit and everybody will think
we always cheated and we never did. I want you to understand
this is in no way a knock at Dennis! He was trying to do his
best for the team and he told me to put it in the story.
Second problem came when we crack a cylinder
wall on the record run. We go change motors in a old barn by
the track. Now it is time to race the rat. First round. I run
7.95 and 197.80 and lose. Going back to Pomona that is three
straight he has beat me. As I am packing the chute I am thinking,
what do I have too do to beat this S.O.B. Second Round. I run
7.78 and 197.80 to his 7.79 and 185.00 and I win. The monkey
is finally off my back. I am ready for him now and the third
round! It is starting to get dark and the rat goes up in the
tower and says over the P.A. system it is to dark to race. Little
did he know we had a spy in his camp and he had crack
a cylinder wall in the second round and no spare motor. Dennis
tells me get up in the tower and lay it on him. I did telling
the fans it is not that dark and if the fans would park there
cars along the dragstrip with there headlights on we could do
the last round. This is after the rat said on the P.A. system
that only a dumb kid or a monkey would race under these conditions.
We raced I won and I new he red lighted, but I drove it out the
back light with the wheels three feet in the air and ahead of
him! Pay back is hell and it sure was nice
to get the monkey off my back, not for just me but the team.
Thank you Jim Fox and Dennis
Holding for having faith in me and us ! Now for the kicker. One
of the greatest days in our life, we go to the motel and I am
so mentally tired I can not see straight. I step in the shower
and all I get is rust water. What can I say. <grin> Norm.
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