One of the biggest stars of the fondly remembered AA/Fuel Altered era of the 1960s and 1970s was Leon Fitzgerald, whose unique series of big-block Chevy equipped Pure Heaven entries enjoyed great success against the more powerful Hemi-motivated counterparts.
There probably hasn’t been a moment in Kelly Brown’s life in which he hasn’t been involved in one form or another of extreme physical activity. After having drag raced with great success from the early 1960s until 1980, Brown did stunt driving for motion pictures and commercials until about 2008 and has spent the last five years riding horses at his ranch in Shasta Valley in Northern California.
From 1965 through 1969 when the NHRA national event schedule consisted of just four races, among the most dominant entries were Jack Ditmars’ Lil’ Screamer ’34 Ford and Mini Brute ’68 Opel altereds. They not only defeated other conventional entries in their class on a regular basis but also the factory-sponsored early Funny Cars that Ditmars had to compete against because an eliminator had yet to be created for the new breed of machines.
When anyone lists the greats of the fabled “Gassers Wars” of the 1960s that includes the likes of Stone, Woods & Cook; “Big John” Mazmanian; “Ohio George” Montgomery; and K.S. Pittman, another name that has to be included in that group is innovative pioneer Jr. Thompson. Equally skilled as a driver and engine builder, Thompson gained an edge over the competition with his unique engine/body-style combinations.
When it comes to Pro Stock, Frank Iaconio has seen and done it all. He began competing in the factory hot rod class in 1972 when the vehicles were still made from production bodies and utilized manually shifted four-speed transmissions. During a driving career that lasted more than three decades, he recorded 11 Pro Stock national event victories that include multiple triumphs over such stellar competitors as Bob Glidden and Lee Shepherd. Iaconio has kept up to date with the quickly evolving Pro Stock technology and still builds competitive customer engines today.
During his drag racing career from 1970 through 2001, Ken Veney established himself as not only one of the sport’s more successful drivers, but he was also ranked as an all-time great crew chief and engine builder who was credited with many major innovations. Now 73, Veney hasn’t slowed down a bit as he has been equally dominant in the field of tractor pulling, where drove his way to the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA) Unlimited national championship in 2012.
Not only did Dale Emery drive one of the more memorable drag racing vehicles ever, Rich Guasco’s famed Pure Hell AA/Fuel Altered roadster, but he also has enjoyed one of drag racing’s lengthiest careers. He began in 1955 and remains very active as a tuner and parts supplier for nitro-burning nostalgia cars.
Not only did Ron Colson have a very successful career as a drag racing driver, piloting such prominent entries as the Chi-Town Hustler and the Hawaiian, but his vast background in a variety of areas has given him careers in publishing, racetrack management, and civic work.
Jerry Baltes retired from his successful drag racing career in 1974, but his connection with the sport remains as strong as ever. He has spent the last two decades as an active participant in the various hot rod reunions, Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame banquets, and many other nostalgia-related activities.