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Mon, 02 Dec 2019, 14:14 PM

1969 A Year of Change- Part II
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2019 Steve Reyes

Highlights and lowlights fill each year and 1969 was no exception. Of course, the Vietnam war was raging and so were protesters of the war. Americans and the world watched on TV as Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. In the automotive sport world Mario Andretti won the Indy 500 in a STP sponsored race car. The Flying Scotsman, Jackie Stewart, was crowned the F-1 Champion and the good old boys NASCAR circuit named David Pearson their champion that year.

The sport of drag racing was undergoing its own growing pains with the influx of the growing funny car class. Both NHRA and AHRA looked to the future with plans to expand their national event series. The match race circuit was becoming a huge success across the USA. Both top fuel and the blooming funny car racers were in demand for match races seven days a week. With the right bookings a racer could have match races the entire year and never race a national event for free and many did just that.

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One of the most famous cars in drag racing was Rich Guasco's Pure Hell AA/FA.
In 1969 he made the long trek from California to Indy for the NHRA US Nationals.
On the long tow home to California, he was involved in a highway accident that severely damaged the AA/FA.
After that, he bowed out of drag racing, fixed the broken AA/FA and sold it to NorCal racer Jim Peace.
Guasco returned a few years later in the AA/FC class.

For me the worst accident of 1969 happened at the new Dallas International Speedway.
Pat Foster was driving the MT red Mach I and tangled with Gerry Schwartz driving his Ratty Cat Cougar.
This accident took the life of Schwartz and totaled both funny cars. Foster was not injured but was
hospitalized for shock due to the crash. They did not re-build the Mach I.

These two teams raced for the last time in the AA/FD class in 1969. The K & G guys traded
in their hard charging AA/FD for a Ford Mustang bodied funny car. The Mustang had been built for
Northeast racer Phil Bonner but Bonner elected to sell the unused flopper to the K & G guys.
The Ramchargers left top fuel to return to the funny car class and driver Leroy Goldstein made it
a farewell to remember. On the car's last pass in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Goldstein blew the blower off
in one heck of a fireball. Yeah Goldstein got burned a bit but he was able to get the blower-less
AA/FD stopped okay. For Leroy that was a fitting way to say goodbye to top fuel.

Texan, Harry Schmidt went big time funny car racing after splitting up with partner Mike Burkhart.
Schmidt debuted his all new Ford Mustang flopper with Dallas police officer Paul Gordon at the controls.
After the debut, Jake Johnston took the controls and they named the blue and white Mustang Blue Max.

At the 1969 NHRA US Nationals, Roger Clayton tried to get his AA/FD into the top fuel field.
Clayton found the bite in both lanes and this was the result. The fans and photographers loved
it but there is no winner's circle in the sky. Check out the weights strapped on the front of the fueler.

One of the hardest running funny car match racers was Terry Hedrick and his Super Shaker Nova.
Hedrick was the poster boy for the touring funny car racer. He would put 150,000 miles on his
hauler going from match race to match race in 1969. Yeah, you could say Hedrick was a
very popular racer on the match race circuit.

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