Drag Race Central - NHRA
Mon, 25 Dec 2017, 09:31 AM

Homegrown Top Fuel Dragsters Part VIII
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2017 Steve Reyes

No one can say the early top fuel competitors in NorCal were not diversified. Heck two of the best in the top fuel class were Japanese-American Dave Uyehara and Mexican-American Frank Martinez or as both were known in Northern California, "The World's Oldest Living Kamikaze Pilot" and "The World's Fastest Mexican." Uyehara not only drove but became a very talented race car chassis builder and to this day is a respected name in drag racing circles. Martinez and Uyehara raced a junior fuel dragster The Hustler Jr. together in 1965-66. After their stint together, Uyehara went off to drive in top gas for Dick Oswald and Martinez found himself at the controls of the Hay, Haslom & Walsh The Wailer AA/FD in 1967.

Both did well in local top fuel events with Uyehara driving in both top gas and in top fuel. Frank Martinez fielded his own top fuel car for a couple of years but with no sponsor, times became tough for Frank. Martinez went as far as to build his own Camaro funny car in late 1969; but, again, with no sponsor, his funny car dreams faded. Having three small daughters to support Martinez gave up drag racing and concentrated on his incredible welding skills to make a living.

Enjoy the photos below of these two racers as they made their mark in drag racing all those years ago and stay tuned for photos of The Wailer in another segment.

If you wish to purchase prints of the photos below or any others, they may be obtained by contacting us at breyes@reyesontour.com. Other photos for purchase may be viewed by following the links at www.reyesontour.com.

The Northern California Mexican and Japanese team of Frank Martinez and Dave Uyehara shared
ownership and driving of the Speed City Hustler Jr. A/FD in 1965. The color photo has Martinez
standing by the push car door as Uyehara left the starting line. The black and white photo has
Uyehara kneeling, watching Martinez leave the starting line with the front wheels high in the air.

Next for Uyehara was honing his driving skills in the Oswald and Cohon top gas dragster.
The trio of Dick Oswald, Lee Cohon and Dave Uyehara did well on the drag strips of
Northern California and when they ventured to Southern California to battle the best in top gas.

Dave Uyehara circa 1969.

While still driving in top gas, Uyehara made the jump to top fuel with partner
Leroy Jorgenson. After a short stint with Oswald and Cohon, Jorgenson partnered
with Uyehara to race in top fuel in late 1969 and 1970.

Northern California's Max Williams debuted his all new Instant Karma AA/FD at the
Beginning of 1970 with Uyehara at the controls. Dave only drove for two seasons
before Denver Shultz took over the driving chores.

I believe the Gold Seeker AA/FD was the last front engine top fuel car Uyehara drove in 1971.
The Gold Seeker was the ex-Soapy Sales AA/FD and it was parked in the latter part of 1971
because of the success of the rear engine top fuel dragsters.

The smiling Mexican unmasked and masked at the controls of the Martinez and Jorgenson AA/FD in 1968.

With the help of Champion Speed Shop in San Francisco, Martinez returned with his own
AA/FD in 1969. Meanwhile, while racing his AA/FD, he secretly built a Camaro funny car to
go funny car racing. All that changed at the 1970 NHRA Division Seven WCS race at Fremont,
California. Frank suffered a huge fire and explosion with his AA/FD. The engine blew out part
of the crank shaft and parts and pieces blanketed the shut off area. Yes, Martinez got burned
and was pretty shook up. His explosion even affected the photographer that was beside me
when I shot the explosion. Mike Bagnod who was beside me received a chipped elbow when
part of Martinez's engine block struck Mike's arm. That explosion pretty much put Martinez
out of business. He never raced again in top fuel and his home built funny car was sold.

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