The folks who raced at the fourth-annual Fresno Dragways Reunion May 18 and the Dos Palos Lions Club Drag Race May 19 at Eagle Field have a unique sense of history.
The pastime is rooted in history, from a time when hot rods competed in impromptu drag races all over California. Eagle Field itself is a World War II airfield.
So its fitting that Saturday's guest of honor was Eves Tall Chief, the last flag-starter at the Fremont Drag Strip. Tall Chief spent about half the day sending wave after wave of dragsters down the runway at Eagle Field.
As always, the races attracted characters from all over California.
Adron Scroggins was there with the Nomads Car Club from Reedley, with the club's custom-built Dodge dragster.
"We bought it from a guy in Del Rey, who built it in the late '70s or early '80s. He raced it only about five times, and it scared him," Scroggins said. "That's a '78 motor for a '40 Dodge with fuel-injected alcohol. It's all Dodge, the engine, transmission -- everything is Dodge."
Scroggins later admitted the only non-Dodge part -- the front end off a Ford Model A. The rest is a 440 big-block Dodge engine that runs on alcohol and a 727 transmission. He said it will hit about 140 miles per hour and cover a quarter mile in 9.5 seconds.
"Our mechanic, Robert Tartaglia, he put a transbrake in it -- you rev it up and then let it go, and it launches it. He let it go, it went up on one wheel, and it scared him," Scroggins said. "It scared me the first couple of times. But you're strapped in, with your helmet, and it happens so quick you don't have time to get scared. It's a blast."
Scroggins and Tartaglia are both founding members of the Nomads Car Club, which they formed in 1956 as an excuse to hang out and fiddle around with cars.
"We meet every Tuesday, about 25 guys that sit around and B.S.," Scroggins said. "We're all working on a car. I have a '44 pickup. But this is the club's car."
Meanwhile, Kevin Lanteigne a mortician from Corcoran bought his dragster a year ago, and said it was so fast he had to get a race license.
"I'd never raced before. It does 8.6 seconds in a quarter mile. I had to get a license, because it does faster than 9 seconds on a quarter mile," Lanteigne said. "I finally made a full pass at 150 miles per hour. People think it must be scary, but you don't have time to be scared."
While his dragster does well at the quarter-mile Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield, he said the eighth-mile runway at Eagle Field suits his dragster better.
"It's really quick off the line, but once it hits the top end, it peaks," Lanteigne said. "I have these short headers, so it gets more torque at the bottom end, so it's best on an eighth-mile."
Lanteigne first heard about the Eagle Field events while at an American Nostalgia Racing Association event in Bakersfield.
"I asked around about it, and they said it's a good time, but be careful, because the dust on the runway makes it slick," Lanteigne said. "But this car does tend to want to go straight."
While he bought his current dragster as is, Lanteigne has an idea for one he wants to build himself.
"I want to get an old hearse that nobody wants anymore, and drop a V8 in it," he said. "I have a friend who has an old ambulance, and she put a big-block Chevy in it, back where the body rides. So I'd like to get a hearse to I can race her."