Racers gather near Oro Loma

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 12, 2012 

Jake Moshier gained a new respect for his late father on Saturday.

The Santa Cruz resident showed up at the fourth-annual Eagle Field Hot Rod Gathering with the dragster his father built in the 1970s and spent years racing in Rochester, N.Y.

"The last time it saw a track was in '99," Jake Moshier said about the car that regularly reached 190 miles per hour on a quarter-mile track. "It got pummeled by four hurricanes and it's been in storage."

Dean Moshier died in Florida in 2004, and when Jake Moshier moved to Santa Cruz from New York a few years ago, he shipped the car out as well. Saturday's race was the car's first since Jake restored it to Dean's original Chevy big block, 427-cubic-inch tall-deck motor bored out more than 500ci. The only difference from the original is the four-glide automatic transmission and the new body emblazoned with the senior Moshier's nickname -- Itchy Rat.

"I've got a whole new respect for the car after that run," Jake Moshier said following his first sprint down the 1/8-mile runway track at Eagle Field. "I'm just getting my feet wet here. I definitely need a couple more after that first one. That was crazy."

Unlike a lot of dragsters, the Itchy Rat is all gas-powered -- no nitrous, no alcohol injection.

"Everybody told him to put nitrous in it, but he wanted to see what it could do with all gas," Moshier said. "This is for Dad."

Itchy Rat was one of 130 cars -- all pre-1973 -- and about 1,000 spectators that showed up, according to Rocky Phillips, who puts on the races. This year's event included a fly-over by a World War II-era B-25 bomber and a DC-4.

"We were so thrilled," Phillips said. "This was one of our best events yet as far as quality, good times. And as far as number, I think it was one our best events so far."

The racers brought all kinds of cars -- from the early-70s Camaro of Dos Palos native Derek Cranfield to 1930s-era vehicles souped up into nearly unrecognizable jalopies.

And, as always, there was at least one racer that went against the grain of Chevy engines.

Hans Huber of Clovis spent the afternoon speeding down the runway in his Volkswagen Karmann Ghia with a 4-cylinder Volkswagen 2110 engine and a sticker on the window that reads "The Surgeon General doesn't say anything about smoking a V-8."

Huber, originally from Toronto, grew up in the Volkswagen business, and one day saw a friend racing a Volkswagen dragster.

"I saw his car and I said, 'I have to build a dragster,' " Huber said.

His Karmann Ghia, which hadn't raced since 2008 and was pulled out of mothballs a few days before the event, drew plenty of second looks on Saturday -- a few of them from cars behind him on the runway.

"It's the underdog, David versus Goliath syndrome," Huber said. "I just like 'em."

Despite attempts to keep the dust down, racers commented that it did affect traction on the runway. Firebaugh resident Ron Muñoz had a scary moment in his 1970 Chevy Nova when he lost traction and went spinning into the dirt field to the north of the runway.

"I have too much power," Muñoz said. "As soon as I shifted into second and hit the button, I couldn't lock up on the track."

Muñoz went with his instincts and hit his kill switch as soon as he started spinning. He emerged unhurt into the cloud of dust his spinout created, already planning his next run.

"I lowered my shocks," he said. "I'll try it again without nitrous."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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