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Sat, 26 Dec 2015, 09:14 AM

Remembering Roger Gustin
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2015 Steve Reyes

Just when I thought all the bad news in drag racing had played out in 2015, the news of the passing of Roger Gustin flashed across my computer screen. Gustin was one of drag racing's premier jet car owners/drivers and was quite the promoter too. In his fifty plus years of racing Gustin brought some of the largest companies into the world of jet car racing. His early days of racing with famed jet car and chassis builder Romeo Palamedies brought the Daily C sponsorship to the sport and soon after the duo sported the Smith Brothers cough drops logo on the side of their jet Monza funny car.

When Roger left Palamedies he promoted a big league sponsorship from Proctor and Gamble and his Lava Soap jet funny car team was born. The VP's at Proctor and Gamble saw Roger's appeal as a spokesperson and even featured him in a series of TV Commercials for Lava soap. As the Proctor and Gamble sponsorship ended, Black and Decker quickly replaced them as sponsor to the jet car team. Meanwhile, besides drag racing, Gustin purchased the Autostar/Super Chevy Shows from Argus Publishers, one of the most popular car show/drag race series in the United States.

The Gustin I knew never seemed to slow down from promoting and racing. A horrific crash while driving one of the Lava Machine jet funny cars in the early nineties left him with very serious injuries but Roger recovered. His driving days were over with that crash but he kept on working in the industry and promoting the sport.

In his career as a driver/owner, he was awarded the first ever NHRA sanctioned licensed jet car driver in 1972. In 1993 he was inducted into the Project Association Hall of fame and in 2002, him and I were inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. Yeah, December 15, 2015, drag racing lost one of its pioneers and I lost a friend. RIP Roger!

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I first got to know Gustin about thirty plus years ago when he was racing with
Romeo Palamedies and their Smith Brothers cough drop Monza bodied jet funny car.
Roger and I did a photo shoot with Bob Moats' jet truck to show the different engine
and body styles in jet car racing.

Roger took a break between runs to catch up on his favorite reading Super Chevy Magazine.
He was sharing his reading skills with Maple Grove Raceway Super Chevy Girls.

One of Roger's rare solo efforts was his Time Machine jet funny car.
The jet car wasn't around for long when it flew and destroyed itself.
Roger escaped with minor injuries and like a true racer, came back for more.

It seemed like when all drag racers in the pro ranks were struggling to
find sponsorships, Gustin would put on a business suit and venture into
the land of big business and find himself a sponsor. His business sense
brought Proctor and Gamble into the world of drag racing for over five years.

Match racing and more match racing was a staple of Gustin's jet funny car career.
He raced in every state in the union, all through Canada, and even in Mexico.
Roger's adventure in Mexico with crooked Mexican police is a harrowing.

One of the other "little" sponsorships that Gustin obtained was Black and Decker.
The black, silver and blue jet funny cars were raced coast to coast to the
delight of the sponsor and jet car fans.

The last sponsorship on Roger's dueling jet funny cars was Roger's
own business Work Mat Pro Products.

Roger Gustin and his jet funny cars have left quite a legacy in the world of drag racing.
If you got to see him race or bench raced with him you were very lucky.

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