Following on from the news that Ron Hope of Rat Trap fame will be attending the 2015 British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Gala Awards Dinner being held at the Savill Court Hotel, Windsor Great Park on November 21st this year, two more American Drag Racing legends have booked their seats. They are Blue Max Funny Car super tuner Fred Miller and the only man who could really handle the twin Chevy engined Freight Train gas dragster Bob Muravez.
‘Waterbed’ Fred Miller is one of the most respected tuners in Drag Racing and it was in that role that he joined Raymond Beadle on the Blue Max Funny Car Team during the visits made to Santa Pod Raceway in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He said,
“I was glad to do what I did in the era of Prudhomme, McEwen, Garlits and Shirley. I think it was a lot more fun back then and I miss hanging out with Raymond. We had great fun during our visits to the UK and meeting up with Stu Bradbury at the recent International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Awards Dinner in Gainesville brought back a lot of memories”.
“I’m really looking forward to attending the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Gala Dinner with my wife Diane in November and meeting up with some old friends from back in the Blue Max era”.
Photo; Geoff Stilwell
Joining Fred is another legend, unfortunately one who we have not seen racing in the UK. When you talk about the old Top Gas Dragster eliminators in the USA one name comes to mind and that is the fabulous twin Chevy engined Freight Train dragster owned by John Peters. From its debut in 1959 right up to its demise in 1972 it dominated the class.
The dragster’s most successful driver was Bob Muravez who made over 1,300 passes in the car. However, unknown to many at the time, Muravez came from a rather well-to-do family that simply did not approve of him driving any of those dirty drag racing machines. Their disapproval was so strong that for a short period he actually stepped out of the seat to appease them, despite the fact that his driving in 1962 netted the team a win at the March Meet, the first major race for the Top Gas class.
Photo: Bob Muravez
After several other top drivers had failed to get the same performance out of the car he was persuaded to return and drove it under the car owner’s name for a while.
Later, NHRA Race Director Steve Gibbs gave him the nickname Floyd Lippencotte Jr. and under this pseudonym, he would drive the car to six NHRA national event wins, this in the days when there were only two to three such events each year. He took to coming into the winners circle in his fire mask and there are some great old ads in the pages of Hot Rod Magazine showing head shots of famous drag racers and there was always one guy still in his fire mask.
In 1970 and 1971 Peters teamed up with Walt Rhoades to run the car with Bob still in the driver’s seat. They ditched the Chevy motors for a pair of 428ci Chrysler Hemis. They also painted the car black, a departure from the traditional red scheme it had sported for a decade. Despite the additional weight of the big Chrysler lumps, the car was still unstoppable and the team won the 1971 GatorNationals with this set up. It was to be the last big win for the car as the class was scrapped the following year and Peters had no interest in going down the Super Comp road.
Muravez retired from Drag Racing at that time and didn't drive again until John Peters restored the Freight Train in 1993 and ran exhibition runs at four national events. The dragster’s home these days is the NHRA Museum, beautifully restored with Chevys back between the frame rails. Not just a static display car, the Freight Train participates in the CHRR ‘Cacklefests’.
“I’m so looking forward to being at the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Gala Awards dinner in November. We have heard so much about it and it will be a great privilege to meet up with drag racers and racing fans in the UK. Along with my wife ‘Big Red’ Sharon, I expect my friend Floyd Lippencotte Jr. will be with us as well, so watch out for some special photo opportunities.”
British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Management Group Board Director Geoff Stilwell said,
“What can I say? The news just gets better. People asked how are you going to top the 2014 event? I think you can already see that the evening is going to be another Drag Racing milestone so book early is my advice. I think we may well need a longer table for the after dinner autograph session”.