Tony DeFeo: An Open Letter to Who Banned the Breather Mask

No Hot Rods Allowed…Ok, I get it…but ENOUGH already! I’ve been living with you people and your rampage against all that is good and cool and fun in the world of Drag Racing for better than 40 years now. And just when I think it’s not possible for you to lunge off in completely the wrong direction YET again, Wham! There it is. You never let me down!

It really started when ya killed Fuel Altered…that was bad…but then, just when those big, hulking twin engine Top Gas Diggers started getting popular and goin’ fast, you snuffed them too. And then there was Modified. Only someone who truly HATES cars would even consider rubbing those guys out, but…ya did it. I’m not even gonna talk about Buddy Ingersol’s Buick. I still lose sleep over that one

I mean, those are just highlights. Over the years I’ve watched you manage to screw up and castrate…like…everything…seriously!

So I guess you must have been running out of things that offend recently, because you really had to dig deep to come up with this last one…the banning of the breather mask. Do you not understand that Drag Racing had one stark, visual distinction that set it apart from all other motorsports? A FACE and that face was the BREATHER MASK.

Don’t you understand how beloved that image is? Take a walk through the pits at one of your events sometime and look at how many people…a bunch of them not even born yet when that particular safety item went out of vogue a quarter century ago…how many of your paying, loyal customers relate to and even revere that image that is so unique to your..their…OUR sport. I see it on everything…T shirts, bumper stickers…even tattoos. I actually saw it in traffic today, (which is what prompted me to write this) in the back window of a pick-up truck.

I know it can’t possibly be a safety issue. I know this because I tried as hard as I could and I have never found one single instance of a death or even debilitating injury that was a result of wearing one. Oh, sure, there are a bunch of old timers at the reunions these days with “raccoon eyes” but hey, that’s a badge of honor. Looks like it did its job well during the quarter mile Bar-B-Que known as the 60’s and the 70’s.

I wish I could say the same for the flip up visor you guys feel is so much safer. I’ve seen the results of those things blowing off and even melting to the drivers face.  And I can think of one unfortunate racer who literally had his eyes burned out of their sockets before he ingested enough fire to actually kill him because that thin plastic shield could not handle the concussion of a bad blower explosion. Ugly, brutal stuff here, but you’re the one who took a proven, viable safety item and deemed it obsolete for no good reason what so ever.

Wearing a breather and goggles was my own personal choice, and it had little to do with the coolness factor. I felt safer and more secure with it. And, in the future, when I am operating a car at a track that is out of your menacing, controlling, smothering reach, I’ll wear it again.

About the author

Tony DeFeo

Tony DeFeo was thrown out of school at 16 for stealing a bus. He went on to start a career as an auto mechanic and, on a whim, entered the field of automotive journalism, writing for Cars Illustrated magazine. Tony founded High Performance Mopar, and then launched Mopar Action a year later just to compete with his first book. He is currently building a twin-engined Fuel Altered, and in his spare time studies economics and abstract psychology.
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