Kris and John, and Gale, and Jill and...
Richard L. Railton© 5.4 06
"Dragging through a
The group of us were
standing in the parking lot of the Caravan Inn in beautiful downtown
Bakersfield. Beautiful downtown Bakersfield is probably a classic
contradiction in terms, but there we were. At this point standing was a
contradiction in terms.
But to expect great
acrobatics after spending the evening in a cocktail lounge is asking for
We decided to convene in a
cocktail lounge after a hard day of drag racing at Fomosa drag strip.
And we all know how thirsty
a day of serious competitive drag racing makes one.
And even though we were
primarily involved in qualifying for the event, it still justifies a
cocktail or two.
Drag racing is very serious
and hard work. And we had been so intensely trying to squeeze the last drop
of horsepower out of a fuel-burning 392 Chrysler without forfeiting its
So the discussion for the
first couple of hours deal with what to run, how to run it, why, who says,
and everyone had their own "hot ticket" to run the big numbers. Of course
no one was giving away any of their supersecret, individual tricks to what
might be your competition tomorrow. Competition after all is competition.
So after the usual round of
dirty jokes, new lies, old rumors, new gossip the conversation dropped into
a discussion of "lean the barrel two flats, make a pass, and read the
plugs. And watch out that you don't “hop” yourself right out of competition.
After a certain amount of
time tuneups, timing lead, valve lash, gear ratio, tire size, tire pressure,
and rollout track conditions, etc. gives way to old classic jokes, who's
sleeping with who, what happened to ol' what's his name" etc. etc. and who's
got a hot ticket to sponsors the talking drops off to a moderate drone.
In accordance with
California's rather provincial look at alcohol (bourbon not methanol mind
you!) consumption, at the tolling of the two o'clock bell all the
participants in the aforementioned highly technical conversation are asked
to vacate the premises.
Not perhaps that the world
of physical science & physics was going to miss the scientific breakthroughs
that came from this highly technical conversation, but it was indeed rude of
the bar tender to ended so abruptly.
As the shares emptied of
their former occupants it looked like a class picture of the Who's Who of
top fuel drag racing.
The Sour Sisters, The Dead
End Kids, the verbal game filed out into the parking-lot like a
We found ourselves waiting
for a way to get to the local coffee shop/restaurant that would be ready to
serve an unruly crowd of less than sober racers in various forms of
alcoholic disrepair. (This is sometimes a critical logistics problem!)As we
stood in the parking lot discussing the evenings on goings, "short-pour" the
Scottish bartender, And Brandi the long-awaited long legged cocktail
waitress whose combination of Bakersfield cowboy chic and homegrown good
looks made for a pleasant pictorial to counter Short Pour's thriftiness with
the bourbon bottle
Karmasenes said not to
worry because John Cranenberg, his old friend and push-truck driver, a
dragster pilot of note himself, was on the job and would bring back our
transportation shortly. So we went back to discussing Short Pour and in
estimating the distance between Brandi's skirt hem and the ballroom floor.
In a relatively timely
fashion, up through the haze came a very sedate four-door sedan with John
Cranenberg at the wheel. As he pulled the conservative appearing town car
to a stop he leaned across the front seat to open the passenger-side door
and motioned for us to get in. So "the wrecking crew": "the boys", and the
female contingent: Gale & Jill Grove climbed aboard.
A4-door town car was just
what we needed. Between Pete, Gale, Paul, Kay Kris and John and the loaded
clothing bar that hung between the stock apparel clips it would've justified
a Greyhound bus. But not to worry we were just going to breakfast.
Once loaded we started out
to find a breakfast joint of one type or another. As we motored through the
avenues of beautiful downtown Bakersfield, Gale remarked that John had done
well in choosing a comfortable car with which to take us to breakfast. A
nice thought she said, in that typical drag racing fare would be a pickup
truck or some other vehicle not so convenient.
In the ongoing polite
conversation, Gale innocently posed the question: John, where are you going
to wear all these nice three-piece suits?" Thinking that perhaps he had
an appointment with sponsors or something.
Because three-piece suits
would be a bit of "overkill" in the pits at a drag race.
John's answer should've
shocked nobody when he said, "they came with the car."
Gale, a pleasant and polite
person by nature, continued the conversation with "where'd you come up with
such a nice car?"
Thinking that the car was
part of a sponsorship deal of one sort or another. Automotive dealers while
sponsoring racecar in certain venues "sweeten the pot" with the extended
loan of an example of their inventory. One of the benefits of a good
relationship with your sponsors!
John's reply was, although
casually and calmly excepted, more than a little revealing. "Out of the
Gale's interest piqued, she
repeated the question only to get the same answer.
"Let me get this straight,
this is not your car, it was just sitting in the parking lot?" She said
hoping for a different answer to her previous question. John seemingly
without much concern, said "oh hell! We're just taking it to breakfast!
I'll fill the tank when we
get back." "The owner will never wear those suits tonight anyhow!"
There was no use in trying
to convince John of the magnitude of his action. He was convinced that
without intent of doing anything more than breakfast, borrowing someone's
car was not as serious as one would think. Whether they were aware of it or
It seemed a logical
conclusion! The local authorities might differ, but after all this was drag
racing, and this was the March Meet.
So we went into the best
looking breakfast place that we could find, ordered breakfast, (steak and
eggs, if memory serves?) drank enough coffee to float the Queen Mary and
tried to rebuild our constitutions for tomorrow's day of drag racing.
It was a very hardy and
very nervous meal.