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 #4590  by Alice
 Wed Sep 19, 2007 8:56 pm
I was recently given the opportunity to review the book "Fuel & Guts - The Birth of Top Fuel Drag Racing" and also given a Reader Offer if anyone wants to purchase a copy within the next two months. The details of the offer are at the bottom of the review and the copy I was sent will become part of The Wild Bunch raffle prizes at this year's Dinner Dance .... so I'll be buying my own copy through the offer! It's a great book & if anyone wants a sneak preview I'll bring it to the National Finals!

Fuel & Guts - The Birth of Top Fuel Drag Racing by Tom Madigan

Now the nights are drawing in and the season is coming to a close there’s no better time to grab yourself a good book which reminds you of days gone by ….. funnily enough I can recommend just the one! Fuel & Guts – The Birth of Top Fuel Drag Racing is a walk down memory lane through the eyes and words of the men & women who lived it. The author, Tom Madigan has collected interviews from notable history makers within the sport and his personal accounts and knowledge of events gives you a real apathy for what it must have been like to be part of the golden era. The author has a list of reputable books to his name and this is a very colorful, descriptive addition focused on the American history of Top Fuel. The book declares very early on that the boundaries of the scope and time frame are limited to the belief that California was the birth place of drag racing and with that understood the reader is invited on a journey spanning over 20 years.

‘Lighting the 1,000-foot fuse’ is the title of the forward written by none other than Dave McClelland. He describes his time as a Missouri high school teenager when he attended his first drag racing event in 1955 in Kansas City and talks through the marvelous innovations he saw through the early years way before he became known as ‘the voice of the NHRA’. Few would argue with the words ‘Those days of the 1950’s and 60’s are a time to be cherished, a time that reveals the ingenuity in action that is the mantra of the American Hot Rodder, talents and skills that continue to this day. It was truly a time when innovation ruled supreme in the sport of drag racing’.

18 chapters make up this 240 page hard back book and the photographs used to depict events and times make it an interesting but relatively easy read. It’s a book that you can come back to time and time again even for the most knowledgeable of drag racers out there I’d suggest that it would contain photo’s you’ve not seen before and detail you didn’t know! It’s steeply focused on the stars and as the chapter entitled Working Class Racers suggests ‘the law of the jungle sorted the strong from the weak. If you built a reputation, the word got out; if not, you raced without notice’. However, the fact that this chapter has been included in the book is a testament to the author and his belief that this should also be a dedication to the ‘working class racer who ran for the pure satisfaction of the act and not for the glory’.

Those who did take and share glory are well versed in books and of course they feature heavily in Fuel & Guts, they made the history that makes the authors job so challenging in terms of which stories to recite – they are so many! Pioneers such as Roland Leong, Don Garlits and Don Prudhomme all have a passionate recount of ‘their’ day particularly Prudhomme whose memories of ‘the Road Kings’ and first meetings with Tommy Ivo and Kenny Stafford seem fascinating and if anything leave me wanting to know even more! The drag strips are just as important as the racers who made them famous, stories from the days of Goleta, Santa Ana, Fremont and Half Moon Bay to Bakersfield, Pomona & Fontana to name a few. An emotional look back on the early days of Long Beach by the man initially in charge, the late Mickey Thompson, is a stark reminder to the dreadful loss of life that attached itself to the sport back then but nevertheless in the 1960’s ‘nothing mattered more to a Top Fuel driver than winning at Long Beach’.

Written in a testimonial style format, Tom Madigan has produced a book where ‘99% of those who offered content to the story he can call friends’, what a fabulous accolade considering the names the book includes, many of which I consider drag racing folk-lore. The stories are dramatised by the photographs chosen by the author, they really do bring the book to life and easily show that as Madigan describes in his acknowledgments (which is also worthy of a read!) ‘Top Fuel racing had penetrated my soul’.

There is a Reader Office available for anyone wishing to purchase the book within the next two months. The retail price is £35 but is available for £30 plus free p&p (free p&p UK only). Call the distributors Grantham Book Services on 01476 541080 and quote ISBN 0760326975, pay by card, cheque etc and the book is despatched normally taking five days or so to arrive.

Many thanks to Mat Archer of MBI Publishing for the opportunity to review the book.