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Thu, 18 Jan 2018, 11:18 AM

Top Fuel Teams Across the USA Part II
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2018 Steve Reyes

As I continue my magical mystery tour of AA/FD owners & drivers based throughout the United States, it is time to highlight the careers of two of the best ever to grace the 1320. From the upper Midwest came the Michigan-based duo of Connie Kalitta and Dick Lahaie. Several things made these two unique (you choose one) including: the fact that they won a lot in AA/FD racing; they both owned, tuned and drove their own AA/FD's; and they both raced with only one eye. If you chose the part about their eyes, you would be correct. Of course, all the above pertained to Kalitta and LaHaie. Childhood accidents made them one-eyed wonders of the sport of drag racing. Therefore, when they raced each other only two eyes went down the 1320.

Heading down to the Southwest, Oklahoma's Jimmy Nix, the smilin' Okie, was a true racer's racer. He raced in top gas and won the NHRA Springnationals on nitro in 1966. Nix set a slew of AA/GD and AA/FD records in the Southwest and was very respected by top fuel racers across the country. In fact, Nix was the first driver in NHRA history to set records in four different categories; AA/FD, A/FD, AA/GD and S/FX.

Then heading down to the Lone Star state of Texas, "the Texas Whips" Curt and Bones Carroll owned and raced some of the quickest and fastest AA/FD's in the country. They also had a very talented group of drivers in the cockpit of their nitro burners including: Buddy Cortines, Richard Tharp, Bob Gibson, Dave Settles and David Pace. In 1970, Gibson put the Carroll Brothers AA/FD in the NHRA Springnationals' Winner Circle at their home track in Dallas.

One thing I liked about the Carroll Brothers was that they were not afraid to try something different. Just prior to the rear-engine revolution in top fuel, they brought out a twin-engine AA/FD. The twin didn't win anything but it shook the ground and hurt your ears on every pass and the fans in the stands loved it.

Next time, we will highlight more Southwest racers and maybe make a visit to NYC...

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Conrad Kalitta and his Bounty Hunter AA/FD were on tour in the mid-1960s.
First in 1965 at Riverside, California, and then at Irwindale, California, in late 1966.
Then in 1967, Kalitta's Ford-powered AA/FD swept drag racing's triple crown,
NHRA, AHRA, and the NASCAR Winternationals. Did you know in 1962, at the
NHRA Nationals, Kalitta's good friend Don Garlits drove Connie's Bounty Hunter
to a new national speed record on gasoline at 180.36 mph?

Kalitta did not have a very auspicious beginning to 1969. While push starting at
the 1969 NHRA Winternationals, a very cold SOHC Engine failed to fire.
Connie was going too fast for the turn of the race track and found a steel pole
anchored in concrete. The pole didn't bend, the car did. Kalitta and a huge
group of other AA/FD racers helped get the bent fueler straight and Kalitta
raced the following day in Eliminations.

Lansing, Michigan's Dick Lahaie was one heck of a talented AA/FD owner,
tuner and of course, driver. Early in his top fuel career, he primarily stayed
close to home and pretty much owned the UDRA Midwest top fuel circuit
title every year. Lahaie went on to win the NHRA Top Fuel Championship
in 1987 and as a tuner, he helped Scott Kalitta win two Top Fuel titles in
1994 and 1995. While tuning for Larry Dixon in Don Prudhomme's top fuel
car, Dixon made his mark with top fuel titles in 2002 and 2003.

Looking for Texas tough guys in top fuel racing? Well, look no further than the
Texas Whips, The Carroll Brothers. Here Buddy Cortines piloted the Carroll Brothers
& Oxman AA/FD at Dallas in 1969. In 1970, at the NHRA Supernationals in Ontario,
California, it was "King" Richard Tharp behind the wheel of the Carroll Brothers AA/FD.

With Bob Gibson at the controls of their AA/FD, Bones and Curt Carroll won
the 1970 NHRA Springnationals at their home track Dallas International Speedway.
A very well-deserved win for the Texas Whips!

Rolling Thunder is the only way to describe the Carroll Brothers twin engine AA/FD.
Pilot Buddy Cortines shook the ground and ruptured ear drums with this nitro-burning
twin. It had gobs of horsepower but, alas, it was too heavy to be a real threat in the
world of top fuel. However, it was a fan favorite.

Last but definitely not least, the Smilin' Okie Jimmy Nix was the only owner/driver
to set records in A/FD, AA/GD, AA/FD, and S/FX. Nix often ventured to the left
coast to battle California fuelers at Pomona and Riverside.

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