Touring the USA in search of the perfect drag race photo can be a lonely task. As a freelance photographer, a friendly face was a welcome sight after miles and miles of driving. One of those "safe havens'" for me was Great Lakes Dragway located in the small Wisconsin city of Union Grove. I had heard about the 'Grove (what racers called it) from touring funny car racers. They all agreed I should make time to check the place out. One day I headed to Wisconsin in my trusty tour van from my summer base of Chicago. I just showed up, no phone call or anything to secure a photo pass.
I pulled up at the front entrance and explained who I was and asked if I could get the proper photo pass to work that day and evening at the 'Grove. The worker that I spoke to was nice enough and radioed the main control tower to talk to the manager. About five minutes later, this white-haired gentleman arrived with a crazed look on his face. It was Broadway Bob Metzler, the track manager and promoter. I introduced myself with a handshake and Bob suddenly had this big grin on his face. All of a sudden it was like I was a long lost relative and Metzler began telling me how he knew me through my photos that appeared in Drag News and Drag Racing Magazine. He assured me that whatever I needed was mine; photo pass, parking pass, food coupon, you name it, he supplied it. I was a bit shocked, no manager/promoter had ever treated me this well and I had been to a lot of drag strips. Most of those manager/promoters acted like I was picking their pocket when I asked for a photo pass. But not Broadway Bob, he knew I was there to work and hopefully get some great photos of racers at his track. Getting photos of racers running at this track published was his main objective as a happy race team will return to the 'Grove. I did not disappoint Bob, he really enjoyed the spread in Drag Racing Magazine along with page after page of color on cars photographed at the 'Grove in Popular Hot Rodding and DRM USA.
After that, whenever I could, I pointed my tour van towards Wisconsin and the 'Grove. I would get the same great greeting every time I showed up and I would get the wildest, wackiest drag racing shows ever promoted. I was never disappointed. Rocket dragsters, jet dragsters, jet funny cars, top fuel dragsters, fuel funny cars and wheel standers all had their place at the house that Broadway Bob built and the fans loved it and Bob too!
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Riding on the nose of Doug Rose's Green Mamba jet dragster, Bob lifted a
cold one for the fans. Did I mention Broadway Bob was a bit crazy? One
of the regular attendees at the 'Grove was Wayne Knuth's Odyssey jet dragster
with Aggie "Hi-Speed" Hendricks at the controls. She piloted the sleek jet to
clockings over 300 mph. Here speeds were never announced because jets
at the time were told they couldn't go over 299 mph. When Aggie retired,
some upstart kid named Tony Schumacher drove the Odyssey. I wonder
whatever happened to him?
a permanent fixture at the 'Grove. Jet car Freddy drove his
"Antique" USA-1 against Sandi in her Gypsy Moth jet dragster.
The fans seemed to enjoy the Sibley vs. Sibley duel.
late Russell Mendez pilot the Free Spirit rocket dragster. That
night Mendez had one heck of a wild ride off the end of the race
track. He was okay but the front of the Free Spirit needed work.
Tony Fox's Pollution Packer rocket dragster had the 'Grove fans
another fan favorite and could be counted on to put on a
great show. The late Butch Orand piloted one of the wilder
jet funny cars I ever photographed. The Maxi Taxi was pretty
cool but two weeks after I shot this photo the Maxi Taxi was
no more. It took flight at the finish line at a southeastern
dragstrip and Butch Orand died of his injuries.
Roger Gustin in his ill-fated Time Machine Mustang.
The wild fireworks USA funny and Dick Rosburg put on
one heck of a fire show with his Fighting Irish jet funny car.
Oh yeah, it got very "warm" shooting that rear shot
of Rosburg. Metzer told me I could stand anywhere to
shoot my pix so I did!
Van Dyke put on some great fire shows for the fans.
I can't leave out Bob Van Sciver and his Kendall Warrior
jet funny car. Van Sciver's real job was a manager of
Atco Dragway in Atco, New Jersey. Yes, there were many
other jet dragsters and jet funny cars that raced at the
'Grove but I only have so much room.
that packed the stands at the 'Grove, Metzler took up
the offer of this so-called want-a-bee stuntman to light
himself on fire for $50.00. The fans loved it and I got a
few different photos for my wall. Only at the 'Grove.