Over a couple of beers, Cole Coonce contemplates mortality with a hero dragster driver once declared dead.
He writes: “It was June 2001, and my best friend, Lee, was in a coma at St. Joseph’s ICU in Burbank. He had beat cancer, but complications developed due to a staph infection. Because of belated concerns about germs only three visitors were allowed in his room, including his mom, his common-law wife, and me. I’d go visit Lee every day and bullshit and tell him stories. It was my understanding that he could hear me, despite the lack of response.”
More of “Smoke and Ash” here: http://www.carcraft.com/dragtimes/1420_bakersfield_cacklefest_2013/smoke_and_ash.html
In its introduction to Cole’s Coonce’s “My First Time” feature, DRO writes: “Cole Coonce is a died in the wool drag racing junkie and one of drag racing’s premiere journalists and a pretty damn good photographer. He has crewed Nostalgia Top Fuel cars, been a PR flak and in his spare time written for most of the premier publications, both in the automotive world and out, including the L.A.Times, Hot Rod Magazine, and Drag Racing Online, just to name a few. We’re honored to add his name to the list of “my first time” contributors. (These days Cole Coonce is writing punk-noir detective stories at www.tarhole.tv)”
The story starts like this:
“Drag Racing Online has tasked me with remembering the details of my first drag race. This is no easy assignment.
“My guess is that it was at San Fernando Raceway (aka “the Pond”), probably in 1966 or 1967. I cannot say with any confidence that I even remember my first drag race. I do know I was really young, probably in kindergarten or having just started first grade at Gridley Street Elementary School in San Fernando, California.
“I do recall the first time I saw a rock concert, however. That might’ve been the same summer I saw my first drag race. My first rock show was the Beatles at Dodgers Stadium in 1966. I was four years old. I remember schoolgirls screaming, throwing pennies, fainting and wetting themselves.”
Read the rest of “My First Time” here: http://www.dragracingonline.com/firsttime/xvi_6-firsttime-1.html
Cole Coonce writes in the Elapsed Times: ‘It’s dusk at the 22nd California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield, and the dust, grit, and soot kicked up from hundreds of weed-burning headers smears the setting sun in the atomic-orange Western sky. Over the public-address system, venerable National Hot Rod Association announcer emeritus Dave McClelland starts reciting names. “Bill Alexander…” Somberly working his way through a list of 80 recently deceased drag racers, McClelland’s commanding voice caroms over the 170-acre facility. “Walt Arfons…. Paul Candies… Kelly Chadwick…”
‘These echoes of the dead are a macabre but poignant preamble to the Cacklefest, an exhibition of 70 museum-perfect fuel dragsters from the 1950s and 1960s, all of which come roaring to life like a Tyrannosaurus skeleton in that Ben Stiller movie. Indeed, the Cacklefest is the final act to a long day of racing, when period-specific, nitro-burning dragsters are push-started one after another in front of thousands of monopropellant-addled drag fiends and parked at idle with header flames dancing, while belching fire and cackling maniacally before swelling to a climax that would shake, rattle, and roll like Jericho. The noise only stops when the machines are bled dry of fuel.’
Nitro-huffing drag-strip journalist Cole Coonce on the closing of Lions Drag Strip: “Lions Drag Strip’s undoing was that America changed in the ’70s, and too much was no longer enough for some people. Hip capitalism was passé, and the new ethos became making as much money as you can—and who gives a damn about the neighbors and what they think? No more free lunches, ma’am. Like Mike Kuhl was to his Top Fuel engine: Just flog it until it dies. You’ll either win or leave a trail of absolute carnage. Or both. ‘Who cares? It’s behind you!’ Yes, 1960s drag racing, if not the 1960s in totum, died that bleary-eyed night in December, 1972. Cold and stoned.”
Read more here at Car Craft’s Elapsed Times’ web archive.
Drag-strip journalist Cole Coonce takes on the March Meet in Drag Racing Online: ‘By the time the clutch dust had cleared and the live-Internet streamers had taken down their scaffolding, I counted over 55 blown-on-nitro race cars at the 2014 March Meet. By sunset Sunday, 29 AA/Funny Cars, 16 AA/Fuelers and a dozen AA/Fuel Altereds had taken time slips at Auto Club Famoso Raceway’s signature event that drag-scribe Dave Wallace referred to as “the last great independent event.”’
Finish reading part one of Cole Coonce’s 2014 March Meet journal here: http://www.dragracingonline.com/features/2014/xvi_3-cooncemm_1-1.html
In anticipation of upcoming March Meet, Drag Racing Online reports that: “As SoCal braces itself for what locals call ‘extreme weather event” and what the rest of United States refer to as ‘rain,’ a handful of nitro-burning teams will be making the trek through the San Joaquin Valley en route to Famoso Raceway in preparation for the mother of all Heritage-style drag racers, the 2014 Bakersfield March Meet.”
In his March Meet Journal for Drag Racing Online, Cole Coonce writes: “No matter how you slice it, over fifty nitro-guzzling machines are entered for competition at the March 6-9 March Meet at Famoso Raceway north of Bakersfield, Calif. The majority of fuel-burners consist of AA/Funny Cars, with 30 racers officially entered in the class. Among the more noteworthy is Tim Boychuk, who won last year in his Troy Lee Designs ’77 Firebird but lost in 2012 due to a technical infraction. He has reunited with former tuner, ‘the Hawaiian’ Roland Leong, who wants to do to the rest of the flopper field what his ancestors did to Captain Cook.”
The rest of the Journal is here: http://www.dragracingonline.com/features/2014/xvi_2-cooncemm_1-1.html