The Southeast Gassers Association made its annual pilgrimage north of the land of dixie — the first of two such races in the northern states — last weekend to Indiana’s Wagler Motorsports Park to showcase its timeless brand of heads-up door-car drag racing. The series, now a mainstay in the sport, is unique in every facet: it offers four categories of heads-up, first-to-the-finish-line racing amongst cars that stringently adhere to the rules of gasser racing in 1967, right down to the smallest of details. The cars — Anglias, ’55-57 Chevrolets, early Nova’s and ‘Cudas, and so on — are all set up on a weight-to-cubic-inch format just like the old days, meaning an assortment of high-winding small-block engines built to 1967-era spec. The drivers are afforded nothing in the way of electronic aids, and the cars are all manually-shifted four-speeds.
Absolutely unpredictable, wheels-up, wall-to-wall drag racing the way it was and still ought to be, all packaged up in a one-day program with nonstop, heads-up-only racing that keeps fans entertained for hours. No bracket or index racing for fillers here, and certainly no traction control, throttle stops, delay boxes, or even torque converters.
This year more than 70 cars made the trip to the Wagler track, including a number of midwesterners and yankees that joined the fraternity of southern-based racers from states like Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Racers compete in three gasser categories — A, B, and C/Gas, along with the upstart Super Stock category and a few A/FX cars racing in an exhibition format. The gasser categories are separated by weight-to-cubic inch breaks, and while elapsed times aren’t shown — in keeping with the 1967 theme when scoreboards were rare if they existed at all — the cars range from the mid 5-second zone up to the low sevens in the 1/8-mile. And since these cars are so violent and reliant on driver skill, the fastest car is by no means ever a shoe-in to win it.
Two rounds of qualifying set the stage for eliminations, as fields of nearly 16 cars per eliminator took a time under the sweltering-hot Indiana sun and prepared for the battle ahead.
After the first three rounds of competition, a several hour delay ensued as an errant summer afternoon rain shower pushed through. Once back at it, Leslie Horne, in his “Chick Magnet” Chevrolet, drove to his first career A/Gas victory, doing so from the number three qualifying spot; his opponent, Rick Varner in “The Dirt Man,” showcased the unpredictability of the SEGA when his classic Chevrolet bounced and bobbled off the starting line and brushed the wall, ending his hopes for his first series victory.
In B/Gas, defending series champion TJ York powered his ’55 Chevrolet to a win from the second qualifying spot over Jerry Birch and his “Freebird” ’64 Chevy II, while in C/Gas, Josh Pruitt took his “Young Blood” ’63 Ford Fairline to the win over Tim Hall’s “Scalded Dog” ’67 AMC Rambler. And finally, Ron Allison drove his “Poppy’s Toy” Nova into victory lane in Super Stock, defeating Mark Hackett in his “Mercury Poison” ’65 Mercury.