Mopars Gasser Circus Report

The final weekend of July played host to the Mopar Nationals at Santa Pod, and as well as a fine gathering of Dodge cars spanning many years, the Gasser Circus were also in town. With 14 Gasser’s on site, it looked like being a good weekend of racing, and with the forecasts saying Sunday would be the better day, all the drivers knew they would have to make the most of the qualifying when it arrived.

When Round 1 of this began, not all Gassers made it down the track. Lee Pike with Honky Tonkin 2 didn’t make a run and neither did Nogbad the Bad. The latter being down to not arriving at the Pod until after the first round had been completed! The cause, ending isolation at midnight Friday. Speaking of which, the Circus welcomed a new driver this weekend, with Drew Mason taking the wheel of Ain’t Misbehavin and on his first run stopping the clocks at 10.17. The reason for his debut was also Covid Isolation, with normal hot shoe Sean Milsom, not completing his until midnight Saturday.

The second round of qualifying arrived just before 2 in the afternoon, and this time all 14 Gasser entered the fire up road, unfortunately, not all of them made it out of it and down the strip. Lee Pike suffering fuelling problems with his ‘Honky Tonkin 2’ Nova. The problem later traced to there being a distinct lack of fuel in the tank! The qualifying also bore witness to a selection of breakouts, Mark Dibley in the ‘Ansen’ Pop just missing qualification by 2 thousandths and Jason Pickett in his ‘Cherry Bomb’ 55 Chevy running 11.60 on an 11.60 dial in. With two more rounds of qualifying scheduled Lee and Mark would have more opportunities to qualify, but for now number 1 qualifier was Billy Jones in his ‘Grumpy Grizz’ Willys.

Shortly before 6 the Circus were called to the lanes, and a race was on, that being could we get another round of qualifying before some ominous looking rain clouds arrived at the Pod. The answer to that question was forthcoming moments after we entered the lanes. The foretellers of this were the rain drops on our screens, which were rapidly like a cake topping being hundreds then thousands. The fire road soon emptied as the gathered classes headed for shelter and the day drew to a close, as did Mark and Lee’s chance to qualify their Gassers.

Peering out through the caravan curtains, was a disappointing experience at 7am Sunday, as the sky was full of grey clouds and there was a hint of drizzle. During the morning the sound of the track drier in the distance gave all racers optimism but, despite the highly valued efforts of all the track officials their work was soon being literally rained on. As midday approached and the rain showed no signs of abating, the sound of cars going onto trailers punctuated the air, and the space in the pits steadily grew. After several sessions of berating the inaccuracies of the multitude of weather apps, and reports that had said Sunday would be a good day, a small cry went up when someone spotted a bit of blue sky. Admittedly it was a very small gap between still looming grey clouds, but it was a glimmer of things to come. Just after 3 in the afternoon, the track was dry, the racers were slightly damp, but cars were ready to race once again. Racers are nothing if not a determined bunch of people, and sitting out the weather was about to pay off.

Gasser Circus Eliminations got underway just after 3:30 and first pair up was Number 1 Qualifier Billy Jones against Tony Pearson in his 56 Chevy ‘Guzzler’. Billy dialling in 10.65 and Tony 10.85, this could be a close one. The cars left and we had a green light race, the cars were evenly matched and they stayed side by side down the track, as they went under the gantry the boards showed that both drivers had broken out with Billy running 10.63 and Tony 10.72, Billy taking the win as he broke out by 0.0196 to Tony’s 0.1204!

Next pairing had Tom Margesson in ‘The Tinsel Town Hustler’ Pop 11.38 taking on Graham Barton in his ‘High Anxiety’ Austin Devon dialling 10.71. As the tree dropped, Tom left fractionally earlier than Graham but both with green lights, and again the cars were side by side as they powered down the strip, but at the lights it was to be a breakout loss for Graham with a 10.68, Tom safely through with a 11.49.

Next pairing had the Jason’s racing each other with Jason Pickett and Jason Hollamby lining up against each other. Simultaneous burnouts from the ‘Cherry Bomb’ Chevy and the ‘Jumpin Jalapeno’ Ford. This was destined to be another side by side race, with neither driver backing off, as underlined by both drivers breaking out, the win going to Jason Hollamby as he broke out by less. This was good news for Jason as he had started the weekend second in the points, sandwiched between Billy Jones in third and Nick Barnett in first.

The next Gassers up had Nick taking on an ex Bristol car , with the 57 Chevy ‘Honky Tonkin’ of Steve Matthews, who had been plagued by the Chevy pulling hard left each time it left the line. Steve did not suffer these issues on this run, but did unfortunately leave a cherry on the tree, the Championship leader Nick advancing to the next round. Also trying to join him there was Sean Milsom, who having concluded his Covid isolation was back in the driver’s seat of his ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ Gasser. He was lining up against the Austin ‘Nogbad the Bad’, I had dialled in 11.72 and Sean 10.14. At mid track I was wondering where he was the answer wasn’t long in coming as he shot past taking the win.

Final pairing had Paul Dominey in his ‘640’ Austin Dorset, lining up against Brain Gibson in his ‘Identity Crisis’ Dodge following one of Brian’s customary rolling burnouts. Paul was looking for 11.46 and Brian 11.24, so Paul would be leaving first, as it turned out Brian left the line first, but not with a cherry, as Paul’s reaction time told the story of his run 0.514. Brian pulled another pleasing wheelie off the line and took the win with 11.32.

Just before 5 the Gassers were at the end of the fire up lane, ready for the quarterfinals, first pair was Nick Barnett who whilst sat in the fire up road, had changed his dial in from 11.72 to 11.70, he was up against the Pop of Tom Margessson and John Gumble, ‘The Tinsel Town Hustler’ with their car dialling 11.38. Tom was in chase mode and when the clocks stopped Nick had run 11.73 and taken the win as Tim had chased a bit too hard with a breakout 11.30 which equates to getting there 4 inches ahead of his dial in.

Brian Gibson and Jason Hollamby came to the line and Brian left with another big wheelie, he and Jason had another very close race, but with Jason in full chase mode having dialled 10.72 to Brian’s 11.24, he had overcooked it by breaking out by running a 10.70, Brian advancing.

The winner of the next pairing had a ‘bye’ waiting for them that would whisk them to the final. Sean Milsom and Billy Jones prepared to do battle with Billy dialling 10.60 to Sean’s 10.09, when they left we had a green light race and they were neck a neck down the strip and both crossed the line at 124 mph with Sean taking the win with a 10.10.

Some of the eliminated Gassers were running on the back of the winning cars, one of these was just about to post a stunning reaction time, with Graham Barton recording a 0.000!

Semi-final time and Nick Barnett in the B&G Racing Falcon (current points leader) came to the line against Brian Gibson, with Nick on an 11.70 against a 11.24. Brian again pulled a wheelie and with his front wheels back on the strip the race was on, another close fought battle followed but with Nick running 11.76 and Brian stopping the clocks with a 11.57, it was Nick that advanced to face Sean who made sure on his bye run that his wheelie bars worked properly with a wheels up launch before powering through his bye run.

Ten to six arrived and so did the Gasser Circus final, with Nick and Sean performing stout burnouts, then edging to the line. Nick had 11.68 on his back screen and Sean had 10.07 on the rear door of his van. The scene was set as the cars edged into Pre stage, then Stage, the tree activated and Nick left rapidly followed by Sean, but unfortunately too rapid as he planted a cherry on the tree. Nick took the win but with both still on it down the track, Nick went onto break out, but that didn‘t matter as first or worst applied. This win puts Nick neatly in the money seats for the Championship which will be decided at the Hot Rod Drags in September.

His win also meant he was able to pick up another superb winners pin from the talented Melliard’s who sponsor the Gasser Circus. Looking back a day after the event, it showed what determination and dedication to drag racing means to not just all the racers that stayed and never gave up hope of being able to race, but just as much to the superb team at Santa Pod, who ensured that we could race safely to a conclusion. I am sure we came close to the event being called, but instead of that the hard work by the Santa Pod crew, saved the event and made our weekend. Long may that determination and dedication prevail.

The Gasser Circus wish to thank Neil Melliard for his sponsorship and trophies, Simon Prest who sponsors the Best Reaction Time and Closest to Dial in awards, the National Street Rod Association, Renegade Fuels and all the team at Santa Pod especially the track and timing crew. See you in September.

Gasser Circus – Racing the Dream