.  Issue #345
November 7, 2014
Editor-in-Chief: Jack and Mary Ann Lawford, www.landspeedracing.com
President of the Society: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139
Assistant Editor:
Richard Parks, Rnparks1@Juno.com
Photographic Editor of the Society
: Roger Rohrdanz, beachtruck@juno.com
Northern California Reporter: Spencer Simon, sparklecraftspecial@yahoo.com
Field Reporter/Historian: Bob Falcon, rfalcon279@aol.com
Historians: Anna Marco, Dick Martin, Tex Smith, Burly Burlile, Jerry Cornelison


Click On All Images / Link For more Info / Images

GUEST EDITORIAL, by LandSpeed Louise Ann Noeth.
     Make no mistake, I fully support efforts to protect and restore the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is my considered opinion, based on countless hours of unpaid research conducted at numerous public and private archives throughout the nation, that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has failed in its mandated duty to protect the federal lands in Utah known as the Bonneville Salt Flats. That the flats are also listed on the Federal Register of Historic Places (Reference # 75001826) makes the failing that much more egregious.   Today, the fastest speed machines are taunting the razor’s edge running on less-than-optimum surfaces made smaller, thinner and unsafe by years of unchecked mineral mining.
     The mining companies are not at fault. They are operating under a BLM approved, legal mining plan that fails to include any direct preservation or restoration directives. While the Salt Lake City BLM office is directly responsible for this debacle, apparently no one in Washington, D.C. seems to give a damn that treasured federal land is being legally and systematically salt raped. Gone are contenders for the absolute world record and now even slower (if you can call plus 400MPH slower) class hopefuls are feeling the pinch. If lack of oversight is allowed to continue unchecked, I firmly believe that land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats will be severely curtailed if not completely halted for safety reasons within the coming decade. Unless, of course, Intrepid allows the racers to come and run on the north side of Interstate 80 on the where the salt is upwards of 10 feet thick after nearly a century of fetching salt off the Speedway for potash extraction.
STAFF EDITORIAL by Richard Parks:      
     In this issue we have a story on the Auto Club Dragway at Fontana, the Alex Xydias Center at the Pomona Fairplex and on badminton.  I know what you are going to say; “BADMINTON?”  Yes, badminton, that game with the lame little racquet and the feathery little shuttlecock that you sometimes play in the backyard with the grandkids.  I tried it once with the wife as it looked like good exercise and in five minutes all those tiny and unwieldy “birds” ended up on the roof or over in the neighbors yards.  You aren’t the only one who wrinkles their brow and snorts, “why badminton, and why in the SLSRH newsletter.”  I also get snorts of derision from Roger Rohrdanz, who is a purist and puritan of hotrodding and Mary Ann Lawford, our publisher.  What has badminton got to do with hot rodding?
     Well, nothing really, except that some hot rodders love the game and keep in shape by playing it.  Seeing as how most of us have that hot rodders “beer belly” look, it is probably a good idea if you read the article and take up the sport.  I have yet to see a badminton player who is out of shape.  You ought to see these Pro-Am tournaments they stage around the country.  They run, jump, lunge, bend, move and do things with ligaments and muscles that the human body just wasn’t engineered to do.  But what a workout and what great fun it is.  The ladies do really well at badminton because of the aerodynamics of the shuttlecock in slowing down the “bird.”  They also don’t have to carry as much weight around as we do and badminton is good for the lungs.  So to answer your question about why badminton is here in the newsletter the answer is; “I don’t want to lose any more of you and we all need to exercise and get rid of that spare tire.”  I won’t tell you how much I weighed, but I will say this, the wife said the other day, “My goodness, you’re really skinny!”  I never thought I’d hear those words again.
     There’s another reason why I write on women’s roller derby, badminton, wild animals in our neighborhoods and various other strange topics; they’re fun topics to write about and they break up the monotony of cars, cars, cars.  Hot rodders have other hobbies too.  We need a little break and we need to see how the rest of the world lives.  We have to keep the brain nimble and forever searching for new things.  That’s what separates humans from other life forms; our endless curiosity of all things possible.  It’s what makes a hot rodder a hot rodder.  What is a hot rodder if he isn’t a tinkerer and a grown person with the curiosity of a little child?  We are always trying to improve on things; that’s the most basic definition of a hot rodder.  You’ll also be getting a story on model trains.  No, not the kind that fit in your hand; but the kind that weigh a quarter of a ton and some seven people can sit on and ride around a mile long track going 8 miles an hour close to the ground.  If you think that isn’t fast, just try it.  So today it’s badminton and if you’re smirking I’ll let you take on Ray Lyons.  At 75 he can run rings around just about anybody you know.  It’s a man’s game (and a woman’s too).
     On another issue, someone brought up the topic that there are errors in punctuation, spelling and grammar in PARTS of the newsletter, but not in other areas.  There are many reasons.  I attended high school back before it was changed by progressives.  I had homework and they flunked me on a regular basis.  I put in 4 hours a night on weekdays studying and 8 on the weekends and for all that work I averaged a C and not a high C at that.  Times have changed and you can now go to college and take courses in “cultural courses” where there is no homework and the tests are all graded as A’s, whether you got any questions right or not.  What a world, huh?  With my mediocre skills as an editor I correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and other errors when I know them and when the computer program agrees with me.  I “hear” the English language and how it sounds and that’s how I edit the English language.
     Roger and a few other members take me to task frequently, as they should.  One area of improvement is that I try to limit sentences to 10 to 15 words, but if there is a double or triple verb in that sentence you’ll have to forgive me.  I’ve also shortened my sentences some, to about 10 to 12 lines, rather than my previous 50 or so.  I also do some editing on letters and stories that I receive.  No submitter has scolded me for that yet.  There is one man whom I admire greatly who puts me to shame.  His sentences have hit 100 words and his number of paragraphs; well he never has more than ONE.  The reason that I fuss is that I don’t want anyone to be embarrassed.  I got that from my father who was always trying to professionalize hot rodders and whip them into the kind of man that John Force has become.
     There is one man whose material I run in the newsletter every chance that I get; and I am “gosh awful” thankful that he allows me to do it.  You’ve heard me say that I don’t idolize any man, but I have to admit that I come close to idolatry when his name is mentioned.  Worship that is.  He’s a former editor of everything cars and a close friend of all the car guys.  He writes in his own style and he goes against every rule ever written about the Queen’s language.  I think he was a college English Major, flew jets in the Air Force, knew all the greats and still produces the best stories and editorials out there.  For you see, we can get bogged down in a split infinitive, irregular verb or some other nuance and forget that the idea is what’s important.  So he has carte blanche to murder the language any way he thinks fit.  It’s his style and I just can’t edit his work.  But the rest of you had better be perfect.

     I live in Castro Valley near the Lee Chapel's Speed Shop in Oakland California where Lenny Lowe's used to machine the heads. I heard that the Lowe's family and Chapel's widow had moved to Sparks, Nevada.  Also George Bignotti, a San Franciscan friend of Norm Rapp who built Indy cars back in 56-57, also moved there.  A year ago a friend of mine, Carl Schmid passed away.  Carl had bought the remains of the Tornado Bonneville race car from Chapel's wife.  Bob Allinger, who built the streamliner for Lee   and Chapel's daughter Mariella, is anxious to find the Chapel family for more information on her father.  Do you have any information on them?  Spencer Simon

     I don't know about Lee Chapel's widow living in Reno.  I will check around.  I'm familiar with George Bignotti as his father-in-law was Lou Meyer.  I met George at Lou's 90th birthday party in Las Vegas.  I believe George has passed away.  I was good friends with Carl Schmidt, and I was sorry to hear of him passing away last year.  I saw Carl two years ago at the Turlock swap meet.  Please come over to Sparks for a visit.  Doug Clem
     STAFF NOTES: Does anyone know the whereabouts of the people or family members that Spencer Simon is looking for?  If so contact him at
     STAFF NOTES: Hila Sweet sent in the link on a pictorial tribute to Parnelli Jones in Rod and Custom magazine (on-line).  Copy and paste the link and if that doesn’t work then search Parnelli Jones story at Rod and Custom magazine on the net.
     You can get MOTORS TV on Sky Channel 447, Virgin Channel 545 and Freeview Channels 71 & 240.  If you live in the USA you can watch MOTORS TV on your computer, click here;
http://www.stream2watch.me/live-tv/motors-tv-live-stream. You'll be able to watch UK Top Sportsman Drag Racing Series, this no holds barred championship is the UK's fastest adrenaline explosion on four wheels.  FIA European Drag Racing Championship, highlights of Europe's premier drag racing series includes Pro Modified, Top Methanol, Funny Car and Pro Stock.  Australian National Drag Racing, now entering its fifth decade, Australia's domestic drag racing championship remains the country's fastest adrenaline explosion on four wheels.  Cheers John Hutchinson, Great Britain
     I am looking to find a home for a 1949 1st Annual Bonneville National Speed Trials Souvenir Program. I found your newsletter and thought you may know a collector or enthusiast that may want the item. If you have any thoughts or suggestions as to how I can locate the best buyer, please let me know.  Sandra Martinez,
     SANDRA: I'll run your request in the next issue of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians Newsletter at
www.landspeedracing.com.  To find the value of this program you should take it to car shows and other car events and ask people what they would pay for it.  Sometimes you can check eBay when they have comparable articles and see what they are going for.  There is no clearing house for such collectibles.  It is a buyer/seller's decision and sometimes it is a buyer's market and sometimes it is a seller's market.  The value of any object grows depending on who owned the object.
     SANDRA: On the 50th anniversary Burke LeSage had duplicate copies of the 1949 Bonneville program made.  There are a couple of different things on it like the staple size and spacing.  You might check with Jim Miller as he has an original.  There are copies out there.  Glen Barrett

     The Fabulous Fifties will be presenting the Lindley Bothwell Lifetime Achievement Award to Parnelli Jones on Saturday, December 6, 2014. 

     The Southern California Chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians named “LandSpeed” Louise Ann Noeth the winner of the 2014 James Valentine Memorial Award in the periodicals category.  Presented for “Excellence in Automotive Historical Research,” the entry entitled “Counting Down to a Century of Speed” appeared in the October 2013 issue of the GoodGuys Gazette. The 18-page feature encapsulates 100 years of land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. 
“One judge commented about the possibility of expanding the article into a full length book,” explained Bob Ewing, Chairman, Valentine Award committee, “‘I would look forward to seeing something along those lines on the shelves.’  Another judge commented the entry had ‘considerable value in a number of ways,’ but also felt it could have been edited better, and that the lack of captions on some photos left him wondering which vehicle was which.”
     Noeth, an acknowledged expert on the subject matter, was equally grateful for the award as well as the critical remarks. 
“A new book is underway!” said author Noeth. “One judge, a retired college professor, said that there should have been more detail into how the research into the article was done. As a street urchin who learned her craft through the tender mercies of thoughtful, yet tough university-trained editors through the years, I don’t automatically think about creating a bibliography when hunting down historical facts – but I will now.”  The Valentine Memorial Award is named for the late J.H. Valentine, at one time the recognized authority of automobiles built in Los Angeles. Valentine devoted his life to accurately compiling nearly insignificant data on early automobiles one by one.  With no chance of personal wealth, he ensured that future historians would have a large quantity of priceless material.
     The Valentine Award honors authors whose automotive historical research is linked to people and events in California, but does not preclude significant historical milestones anywhere in the world.  Noeth was first honored in 2002 by the SAH SoCal Chapter, winning the Valentine for her book “Bonneville Salt Flats.”  She has repeatedly earned additional honors through the years for her historical work.  Here is a link to the 2014 Valentine Award winning article:


Hank’s Hotrod: Hank Becker’s 1921 T-Roadster.  By Tim Love and Anna Marco.   Pix by Anna Marco and Mike Basso.  Reprinted with permission of the authors, 2014.

     Hank Becker’s 27 T Roadster is probably one of the first Hot Rods ever made; a true original.  Hank’s hotrod was built in 1932 by the Downey Brothers in auto shop at a Burbank, CA high school.  Sam Downey and his younger brother cut the windshield and split both sections to work like a stock T windshield would. They also moved the wheelbase forward, added 3-inches and a suicide front end. They spaced the splash aprons and running boards three inches, radiused the front wheel wells, lowered the frame front and rear (spring is up in the trunk), and installed rear fenders and rear splash apron across the back of the car. We give them an A+ for their efforts. This car was built strictly for street use, while other cars built in the 30’s were multi use vehicles, used for racing, the lakebeds and other activities.
     Hank Becker is a life-long Model T Ford enthusiast and a protégé of Joe Gemsa aka Jiggler Joe because his reputed valve adjusting skills.  Joe was the founder of Gemsa Speed Equipment, a sprint car/hill climb racer, master welder and creator of heads and core boxes.  Hank began apprenticing under Joe at the age of 12 and knew him for 60 years.  By the age of 13, Hank was driving Joe’s push cars and the stories abound of endless excursions into hotrod anarchy, both on and off the track.
     Hank lusted after this car for a long time and had a friend who went to school with the Downey Brothers in 1932. He chased it for 20 years and then lost hope when it was sold. First to the Harrah Collection, then Bill Honda of California Metal Shaping bought the car to get the spare tire cover with a hand painted Gilmore Lion on it, then it was owned by Thomas Cadillac in Los Angeles, then acquired by Hank’s friend George Hood who sold it to Hank in 1978.  The only modifications Hank made upon acquisition were a 12-volt electrical conversion and “hotrod stuff” in the form of an alternator, VW ignition, oil pump and dual carbs (replacing the 2bb Dodge carb), all of which are still on the Ford today.  A year after selling Hank the car, George Hood (famed vintage motorcycle restoration expert) repainted the fenders in 1979 (blue and black enamel) otherwise this true hot rod is a survivor, primarily in original condition.
     Hank was born with speed in his DNA, so the Rajo Overhead T conversion and other modifications to the original T engine (cast in 1926), along with the special body modifications of this car, have always appealed to him. Over the years Hank has delighted in taking his unsuspecting friends for rides, particularly on the Pasadena Reliability Run. Over the twisty roads of Angeles Crest Highway they would go so he could watch their knuckles turn white as he dirt tracked around the corners, passing newer V8 hot rods. Remember, this car has no front brakes and Hank is a former Sprint car/Hill climb racer.   Hank still holds the record as “the fastest rocker arm T” at the Long Beach Model T club hill climb at Signal Hill, CA. He has a wicked sense of humor.
     The modified 1926 T engine features a Rajo Overhead conversion, dual 97 carbs, camshaft and other trick tech features to the lower end, so the T engine has plenty of horsepower. It also retains a rare Rajo header plus down tube and 90-degree bend, a 3-pedal Model T Ford transmission, and an early Ruckstel/Hall Scot 2-speed rear-end. The roadster body has unique modifications, especially for the early 1930s. The suicide front axle extends the wheelbase forward. Springs are lowered and 18 inches and 30’s era Plymouth wheels are used to lower the car. The front fenders are moved forward, to center over the front wheels. The running boards are lengthened to fill the extra space where the fenders are moved forward. Front fenders have a valence added to fill the gap behind the wheels. The rear fenders are modified and a valence panel fills the area between the 2 rear fenders.
     The spare tire cover is a story in itself.  Though faded now, it was painted in 1939 on canvas by an American Indian in eleven oil colors and is in original condition.  It is also the original painting used by Bill Honda to reproduce spare tire covers with the Gilmore artwork on them.  That wheel cover is true folk art, something the Antiques Roadshow would like to get their paws on because it’s worth a fortune but it’s not for sale. Hank jokes, “it has not been restored and is starting to look old like the owner.”  Not true.  There’s no such thing as old when it comes to hotrods and their owners, it is either known as cool, classic or traditional or all of the above.  And so it is.
Owner: Hank Becker           
Occupation: Retired Hot Rodder
Builder: The Downey Brothers
Year: 1926
Make: Ford Model T
Chop: windshield, sectional
Other Body Modifications: F/R lowered frame, suicide front end
Grille/shell: Model T
Paint Color: Blue & black fenders
Paint Type: enamel
Painter: George Hood (1979)
Custom Graphics: original Gilmore Lion, spare tire cover (1939)
Engine: 1926 T, Rajo OHV cast in 1920s
Transmission: 3 pedal Model T Ford
Intake & Carb: homemade, 97s dual carbs
Ignition: VW
Exhaust: rare Rajo header & down tube w/ 90 degree bend
Rear End: Hall Scot 2-speed (early Ruckstel)
Suspension Front: Ford T lowered 8-inches
Suspension Rear: Ford T, lowered 8-inches, raised crossmember
Brakes: Front-none
Brakes: Rear-Model T
Wheels/Size: 18” Plymouth coupe (1932)
Tires/Size: 450-18
Seats: one T
Upholstery: naugahyde
Dashboard: Stock T with temp/oil pressure gauges
Steering Column: Model T
Steering Wheel: stock Model T
Taillights: unknown

     These Top Fuel factoids are now embedded in the car culture.  All from numbers crunched around a cafeteria table in 2001.  They've gone international, in Max Power magazine in the UK.  As far as I know they're on Mars.   But I'm still as anonymous as the car guy who conjured up "hot rod."   Thomas Condran
     THOMAS: My father and Ak Miller told me some time ago that the term “hot rod” came out of a newspaper or magazine article by a journalist sometime in the late 1930's and that the local kids took great offense at the term HOT ROD because it inferred "a stolen car."  Young people in the 1930's used Gow Job, Hot Iron and other terms.  I talked to Alex Xydias and he told me few people would use Gow Job, Hop Up or Hot Rod.  He said they hated the term Hot Rod and used Roadsters more than any other term.   Nicknames and aliases were very common and so various areas of the country called their cars whatever name suited them.  It's too bad Ak Miller is gone, because he literally invented the nickname moniker.  He had a funny term for people, places and things and renamed everything.  I wished we had saved all those nicknames from the past.  Funny how a name like Hot Rod that was so hated came to represent millions of cars and people today.  The hated name has now become a cherished one.
     Xydias also told me a story about the early SCTA.  Bozzy Willis would take his early video camera and record the lakes meets and Bonneville.  Then at board meetings he would show the film and Ak Miller would narrate the events.  Ak would keep up a constant and hilarious description of what was going on in the film and use very descriptive names, terms and nicknames that would result in great laughter.  He had a nickname for everyone.  Some of the nicknames were Spade (after a man who looked like Spade Cooley, the bandmaster), “The kid,” oil can and many other names.  It could have been the old movies from the 1930’s that inspired young people of that era to give each other nicknames.
     My counterman and I spent a lot of time discussing "stuff" for my High Performance class at DeAnza College when I was teaching there.  Hot rod was a term that I asked Edward A. Winfield about and we both agreed that the Ford model T engines with Babbitt bearings would seize when the engine was "hopped up" and running at the 'lakes' and would have the connecting rod blow out of the crankcase.  Therefore the term "hot rod' became a term for us racers.  Dimitri "Dema" Elgin 
     DEMA: That story is as logical as any of the stories that I've heard.
     Shake ups at John force Racing.  Given the high level of stress that John Force must be under, he handles all comments like a gentleman and gives accolades for a job well done to his crew.  Class act.  Jennifer Walsh
     JENNIFER: I've heard people call John Force the best names and the very worst names.  I can tell you that I've watched John Force since the 1980's and he's a very kind-hearted man.  He stays late at work and collects his messages and calls everyone back.  He didn't know me, but he called to ask me what I wanted once.  He's great with kids.  He's never forgotten his roots and those who helped him when he had nothing.  He became a big man, but never developed an ego.  He's the same guy he always was.  But the pressure was excruciating on Force from the first time he won anything.  How he can manage it is beyond me.  He readily admits his faults and he works hard to overcome them.  I have great respect for the man.
John Cooper Fitch, by Art Evans.  Book review by the publisher.

     John Fitch led a truly fabulous life and he was truly an American Hero. His WWII experiences are unique. An Army pilot, he flew both bombers and fighters. He was among that group of Americans who were the first to engage in the European theatre. They flew a bombing mission on July 4, 1942. John returned flying fighters to support the European invasion. After downing a German jet, his P-51 was hit by antiaircraft fire and he had to bail out and was prisoner in early 1945. After the war, he started an aircraft shuttle service in Florida, dated Kathleen Kennedy and was a friend of JFK. Fitch was one of the first to race sports cars after the war. In a borrowed Allard, he won the first race on the streets of Buenos Aires and was kissed by the race queen: Evita Peron.
     During his racing career, John won more than 20 races, was the first Sports Car Club of America National Champion, won his class at the 1951 Le Mans and won overall at the 1953 12-Hours of Sebring. Part of the 1955 World Championship Mercedes Benz team, he won the Tourist Trophy plus the production-car class at the Mille Miglia. Heading the GM Corvette team at Sebring in 1956 and 1957, he turned a boulevard cruiser into a real sports car. But perhaps his most significant contribution was his invention and development of the Fitch Inertial Barriers, those ubiquitous barrels on our thruways that have saved countless lives. This book is a complete biography recounting John Fitch’s life from his birth in 1917 to his death at 95 in 2012. Call (800) 289-3504.
     For an autographed copy, send a check for $35 ($29.95 plus $5.05 Priority Mail) to Art Evans, 800 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach, CA 90277. (Sorry, Art does not take credit cards.) Be sure to include a note regarding the autograph. For instance, “To John— Warmest Regards, Art Evans.” Autographed books make excellent gifts. Art will send autographed books from you. Your note should include the address to whom you want it sent as well as instructions regarding the autograph. If you wish, a gift card will be included (Xmas, birthday, etc.)
     Art is doing a book signing at Autobooks/Aerobooks, 2900 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbanks on Saturday, November 1 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Consider Alternate Power.  By Le Roi Tex Smith

     Back in the dark ages, when I was at Hot Rod Magazine, we did a lot of articles on some really disparate types of automotive power, and I figured out early in my years that there is really very little that can be considered new in the evolution of human invention.  When it comes to history on this subject, I suspect the golden years were probably between l890 and l990.  Even then, perhaps some fine tuning will show that the really fertile years were back early on in the last century.  I propose that it is mostly a matter of laziness.
     I mean, if we hot rodders can’t go down to the junkyard and find a ready-made donor platform, we don’t seem to be interested.  At least not enough to get off our collective asses and delve into the subject. In fact, if we can’t punch up the subject (along with phone numbers for parts suppliers) on Google, we fall back on a crate engine and trans from the magazine ads.  And even those ads may be a thing of the past!
     Why not a steam engine and CV transmission?  Why not power cells available at your nearest hardware store?  Why not direct sunlight conversion?  Consider: We could fabricate a backyard fusion generation plant to handle all the energy needs of our home, as well as our most immediate transport factors.  Such as we could get from true fusion. And I’ll lay you ten to one the technological breakthrough will come from some hot rodder who is willing to forsake the blue oval or GM nametag.  Well, unless the general has been holding out on us until the market is really primed.
     Through the years at Hot Rod Magazine, I had plenty of weird-o inventers through the front doors looking for validation of their ideas.  Most all of them had to do with using water for fuel.  Isn’t that what Hydrogen energy is doing?  And that is mostly a matter of figuring out how to handle storage and delivery.  It would not be too difficult to design a fusion system inside the parameters of a Deuce highboy.  Actually, how about going with a fenderless hiboy ’29 that carries an electric power supply with a tiny on-board generator for the electric charge system.  A wrecked Prius anyone?
     The boys at the salt flats are already flagging record classes for such power systems.  Whatever, I am bored to tears with the current crop of crate engines (motors?).

Gone Racin’…To see the Auto Club Dragway at Fontana sound barrier.  Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.  January 27, 2014.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands.  Photographs can be seen at www.hotrodhotline.com

     Roger Rohrdanz, Dave Lindsay and I recently made an excursion out to the Auto Club Dragway at Fontana to see for ourselves how much work has been done so that the drag strip can re-open.  Roger was the dragstrip photographer prior to the closing of the drag strip.  Dave Lindsay is the owner/publisher of www.SoCalCarCulture.com that provides information on car shows and events throughout Southern California.  It is a website that is very important to check in order to plan your itinerary.  Litigation by homeowners prompted a judge to order the closing of the drag strip until an environmental impact report could be prepared and acted upon by the court.  A sound wall was proposed as a way to satisfy the intent of the law at a cost exceeding one million dollars and the judge authorized the reopening of the drag strip.  This came as a welcome relief to Southern California drag racers that had recently lost Irwindale Speedway's drag strip when the promoters went into bankruptcy.  Irwindale has since reopened and now provides 1/8 mile public drag racing.  The Auto Club of Southern California Dragway at Fontana, California is slated to re-open February 15, 2014, according to David Talley, Director of Communications for the Auto Club Speedway.  Previously there had only been a sloping ten foot concrete wall and an eight foot chain link fence between the track and a railroad track on a further ten foot setback.  Not much room for a concrete noise barrier, but engineers can design remarkable structures in such a small space. 
     The plaintiffs were a local group of concerned citizens in the San Bernardino County area known as CCoMPRESS, and were represented by Chatten, Brown & Carsten legal firm.  They were upset about the noise from the railroad trains and the drag cars at the drag strip.  The new sound barrier will not address the issue of railroad noise, but their suit against the drag strip has been adjudicated and released by the court.  This lawsuit has dragged on for years and caused harm to many loyal drag racers that used the track in the past.  It may now be possible to have a renewed street legal program added to the normal racing leagues that used the drag strip in the past.  The drag strip had existed on the south side of the huge raised oval track in the past and the original environmental study authorized the drag strip in that location.  The owners of the property moved the drag strip to the northern end of the property where the oval track could not shield the new location from creating noise that bothered the residents. 
     The Auto Club Speedway has invested a great deal of time and money to bring drag racing back to Fontana.  The wall is massive, some 20 or more feet high, a quarter mile long and each slab is a good thirty feet in length by six inches thick.  The rebar reinforced concrete slabs were poured on the pavement in about a week and after drying were lifted by a heavy crane onto I-beams, where they were bolted into place.  The steel I-beams are buried in reinforced concrete pylons eighteen feet deep.  Another section of the wall covers the back of the track creating an L-shaped structure so that the noise will be focused upward where it will dissipate straight up into the atmosphere.  Prior to this the noise would hit the small, ten foot high retaining wall that was built at a 45 degree angle and this would condense the noise and shoot it straight out towards the surrounding homes, which were a mile away.  The next step is the removal of the heavy equipment, the continued curing of the concrete slabs and the painting of sponsor names and advertisements.  I asked if there would be increased seating capacity, but Mr Talley did not know at this time.  What Auto Club Dragway at Fontana needs is more spectator involvement; for Auto Club Speedway has proven their commitment to continued drag racing and now it is up to the fans to support this rather interesting and unique drag strip.  No one has worked harder or has been more committed during the closure of the drag racing facility than the Auto Club of Southern California.  They worked diligently to keep the topic alive and their support, both monetarily and through their prestige in the community has made all the difference.  Now it’s time to go racing.
Gone Racin' is at
Gone Racin’…To the AXC (Alex Xydias Center).  Story by Richard Parks, photographs by Roger Rohrdanz.   Written 25 June 2011.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands.  Photographs can be seen at

     Roger and I were invited to an open house celebrating a new program operated by the Los Angeles County Fairplex during the Los Angeles Roadster Show.  The event was hosted by the Fairplex on Saturday, June 18, 2011.  The name of this new program is called AXC, which stands for the Alex Xydias Center, a part of CTEC, which is a youth training program sponsored by the Fairplex.  The full name is the Alex Xydias Center for Automotive Arts Career & Technical Education Center.  That’s quite a mouthful, but the concept is simple; to offer free training for young people in various kinds of vocational training.  Some refer to this as shop classes and home economics and I was very familiar with these courses when I went to high school in the late 1950’s.  In fact, shop classes for the boys and home EC classes for the girls consumed a lot of time for students back then.  It was understood by my father’s generation that most young men and women would not be interested in going to college and complete a course that would lead to a Batchelor of Arts or Sciences degree.  What that generation believed in was turning out students who could speak and write well and who had a good understanding of the three R’s.  Most of us knew that we would become mechanics, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, farmers, truck drivers, welders, carpenters, home makers and a wide variety of other trades.  I took drafting, metal, wood, and electronic shops. 
     Then in the 1960’s a new breed of school teachers and administrators came out of college and reorganized education to stress college prep courses.  Their idea was to train a super literate population and they saw no use to waste valuable school time training car mechanics.  As school budgets were cut to balance state needs in other areas, vocational training was almost eliminated.  But we need far more trained blue collar workers than we do college trained professionals.  The Los Angeles County Fairplex realized that the local communities needed men and women trained in the vocational arts and set about to do something about it.  They organized a day care center to give women training in child care and to alleviate the needs of working women who need to place their children in a safe and nurturing environment.  They created other training classes under their Careers & Technical Education Center (CTEC).  One such center was named after a very influential automotive man, Alex Xydias, and called the Alex Xydias Center of Automotive Arts (AXC).  This training center specializes in all the fields of automotives; fabricating, engine building, electronics, upholstery, painting and more.  The center takes applications from young men and women and if they pass the interview they are sent to a boot camp of sorts.  In this early training they learn how to interact with the public, good grooming and manners and to develop a good work ethic.  It might sound simple, but people learn by observing and some of our young people are deficient in such social skills.  Then the real work begins and these young people get hands on training and classroom education in all the automotive skills.
     The Fairplex came to Alex Xydias and asked him to be the name behind the group.  Why did they choose him?  He is one of the foremost men in the automotive world.  He founded So-Cal Speed Shop, a name that is etched in our minds for quality and speed.  His land speed racing cars and hot rods have become famous.  He was a close associate of Wally Parks, Ak Miller and many other well-known men in racing.  He was a documentarian and historian, an editor and a major player in the SEMA organization that today is world known and important in protecting the rights of car enthusiasts and manufacturers throughout the United States.  He is also on the Board of Directors of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.  With Mickey Thompson, he founded SCORE, an off-road racing association.  He was elected to the following Halls of Fame; SEMA, Dry Lakes Racers, the
Hot Rod magazine, Route 66, and the Grand National Roadster Show.  He was honored with the Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award.  Today his So-Cal Speed Shop is alive and well under the management of Pete Chapouris.  Xydias is the type of role model that the youth of today can and should emulate.  The CTEC Automotive/AXC advisory committee is well represented in the automotive world.  Their members include; Jon Blickenstaff, Bill Grant, Pete Chapouris, Theresa Contreras, Phil Duarte, Doyle Gammell, Dan Garrett, Dan Harden, Bruce Hollingsworth, Jerry James, L. D. Johnson, Don Kendrick, Darren Krohn, Eddie McKeown, Joe Mitchell, Louie and Sara Morosan, Willard Ripley, Jim Sleeper, Bob Soderberg, Clark Stephens, John Tarrant, Dick Teis, Tony Thacker, Monique Valadez, Paul Wheeler, and John Whitsett.
     This is a group of car builders, manufacturers, teachers, directors and automotive specialists who can set an example for young people to follow.  The course leads to a credential and references that will put these young men in the forefront of automotive designing and creation.  When they graduate these young people will be highly sought after.  They can be sure of an education and a future bright with promise.  The automotive community needs trained specialists and the youth of today need good opportunities to work.  Roger and I drove up to the parking lot and the first person that we met was L. D. Johnson, from American Classic Cars.  He explained the program to us and told us that the program started with art and pottery classes and broadened the scope of courses from there.  There is no tuition or fees; it is completely covered by the CTEC program.  The courses are eight to twelve weeks in duration and the curriculum spans a four year credentialed course of subjects.  The CTEC program in Pomona assigned a warehouse at the Fairplex for the students and instructors.  Don Kendrick, the current mayor of La Verne, spoke about the importance of training our young people for vocational jobs.  He told the audience about the deplorable rate of graduation and that was partly due to a lack of vocational courses.  He told us that when the schools offered vocational training the graduation rates were much higher.  Our country cannot flourish unless we have an educated and motivated work force that is productive.
     I interviewed Russ Deane, a good friend of the family.  Deane was there to support AXC and he is also working on the “Save the Salt” committee, which is a program under the ACEC (Area of Critical and Environmental Concern).  That program is trying to save the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah from chemical removal of minerals.  The BLM has a legal responsibility to enforce the law and have the companies replace the salt back onto the salt flats after the potash has been extracted.  Deane said the salt flats are not only important to land speed racers but to other groups as well.  It is recognized on the National Register of Historical Landmarks.  I met three of the students at the center.  Elijah Romero was told about the AXC by his counselor at San Dimas High School.  Edward Zamora attended Bishop Amat of La Puente and he was informed about the center from a family member who knew Willard ‘Rip’ Ripley, the Auto Instructor at the AXC.  Joseth Hernandez heard about the center from his counselor at Diamond Ranch High School.  The young men have been well taught and are eager to set a good example.  I found them to be well-prepared and quite good speakers.  They told me that the building is only 1200 square feet in size, but that the Fairplex plans to build larger quarters for the school.  It was time for Alex Xydias to speak to us.  “Age jokes are my thing,” he told us.  “I’ve been around since Washington and Lincoln,” then the respected automotive man got serious.  “We need to eventually replace men like Chip Foose and other great designers and builders,” he told us, “And these young men here will one day be the men that will run our centers and automotive businesses.” 
     Kendrick took the microphone and thanked all the guests for coming.  He also thanked the committee, the Fairplex and the L. A. Roadster Club for allowing them to hold this open house during their big car show and swap meet.  The presentation ceremony ended and we milled about.  I met a young lady with great potential.  Her name is Jessica Clark from Westlake Village and she is a midget and stock car racer.  She is a cute and petite young lady and at first you would never guess that she races in the USAC Sports Focus Midget series on quarter mile asphalt oval tracks. She started in Go-Karts at the age of eleven and is a member of the Ron Sutton Winner Circle Racing Team.  She is leading her class in the National Points Championship and Jessica wants to make this her career.  She also races in the NASCAR stock car late model series.  Some of the tracks that she has raced on include; The Bullring in Las Vegas, Lake Havasu, Madera, Irwindale, Rocky Mountain Raceway and other facilities.  Dick and Judi Dixon sponsor her in the late model series.  Her father, Rich Clark, is her crew chief on the midget car and Ron Sutton is the owner.  Tim Huddleston is the owner and crew chief for the stock car.  Dick Dixon teaches motorsports management, PR marketing and core components at Cal State San Bernardino.  Dixon is also the Publisher and editor of HotRodPartsGuide.com. 
     I also spoke to Willard ‘Rip’ Ripley, who is the chief instructor at the AXC School.  His whole life has been dedicated to the automotive arts.  He was a member of the Woodlake Lakers car club from 1959-64.  He taught in the high schools of Modesto and Pomona for forty years in shop classes.  He built a flathead Ford car and the engine when he was thirteen years old.  Though he retired from the school system he couldn’t stay away from working with young people in automotive arts.  He introduced me to another young man, Sherm Taylor, who has been teaching automotive arts at Chaffey College for the last eight years.  He is also the faculty advisor for the Chaffey College Car Club.  Another educator is Phil Duarte who retired as an ROP instructor and came back out of retirement to work at the AXC.  Employees from Extreme Automotive came from Corona.  I also spoke to Quentin Swan, who is the lead teacher for trade and industry at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.   Gale Banks was in the audience representing Banks Engineering, a much respected Turbo company and a land speed racer and supporter.  Pete Chapouris, owner of So-Cal Speed Shop and a master car builder and restorer was also in the audience.  Some of the other companies who sent representatives to the open house included; L&G Enterprises, Snap-On Tools, Pomona Valley Customs, Jerry James Auto Appraisal, American Classic Cars, Baldy’s Classic Cars, Custom Truck Shop, Sleeper Suspension Development, Alchemy Construction, AUTO Enthusiasts, Chaffey Auto Body, Engineered Storage Systems, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, Wheeler & Wheeler Architects and JW Enterprises. 
Gone Racin’ is at
Gone Racin’…Badminton.  Story by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  Circa Summer of 2011.  Reprinted with permission from Internet Brands.  Photographs can be seen at

     Hot rodders spend a great deal of their time working, showing and racing their cars, but they also have private lives.  They also had girlfriends and wives who demanded some of their time as well.  There was an unwritten rule that the guys had to get home, wash off the dust, make themselves presentable and take the gals out dancing.  Danny Oakes, the midget champion, used to tell me that he was a good dancer and popular with the ladies.  He had a reason for dancing; it often got him close enough to a car owner’s wife to put a good word in about how good a driver he was.  This got Danny some rides that he normally wouldn’t have gotten.  Yes, the ladies let the guys go racing as long as they reciprocated.  Another sport that was popular was gymkhanas and road rallies.  I saw quite a few trophies on the mantels of people’s homes back in the 1950’s.  When children were involved there were outdoor activities that hot rodders enjoyed with their families, such as horseshoe tossing, croquet and badminton.  Badminton was a sport that you could enjoy in a small space.  It seems that the smaller the space, the better it is for this sport.  Everyone could play badminton and it wasn’t overly strenuous or dangerous.  We weren’t very good at it and most of the exercise was bending over and picking up the shuttlecock or “bird.”  It was a game that hot rodders could have fun at and the women and children had a fair chance at scoring points and winning games.  Cheap badminton sets, with racquets, birds and nets can still be found at stores and discount centers.  Every so often we buy a set and have fun for a while or until we ruin or lose the equipment, but mostly the game has passed us by.  Or so I thought until I met Robin ‘Ray’ Lyons.

     Ray, as we know him, is a champion senior’s badminton player.  He married my wife’s cousin and every once in a while he comes to Orange, California to play in a seniors tournament.  Lottie, his wife, and granddaughter Danielle, enjoy watching him play as they root him on in his matches.  He invited me to come and watch the tournament that he was entered in.  His enthusiasm for the sport was catching, so I told him that I would come and do a story on the tournament.  It reminded me of the good old days in the 1950’s when every back yard had a net, racquets and happy kids playing this game.  I had no trouble finding the Orange County Badminton Club.  It was located near Main and Katella, in Orange, California.  There were two tournaments combined; the 2011 Yonex/OCBC US Open and the Senior International Badminton Championships.  Badminton is still the same sport that it was six decades ago, with a minor rule change here and there.  I remembered that you could only score a point when you were serving, but today the rule has been changed so that you can score whether you are serving or receiving.  Badminton is still a backyard sport, but today it is the indoor games that draw the fans and participants.  It is a sport that is very flexible; it can be fast paced and yet deliberate, and it is definitely a cerebral activity.  Strategy and planning are as important as endurance and fitness.  Most of the players were in good shape and thin.  I was surprised at how much movement and running there was in a court about the size of my living room.  The hardest blow hardly knocked the bird much further than the back line before the air caused friction and drag to slow the shuttlecock down.  The goal is to keep the bird in the air, for if it hits the body or the ground the point is lost.  Rallies went back and forth for some time until a player maneuvered his or her opponent into an awkward spot and then a smash or a drop shot proved to be un-returnable. 

     It is the grace of the sport that seems so mesmerizing.  Strength and power are equalized by quickness, strategy and finesse.  I entered the arena and met three charming ladies and identified myself.  They were in charge of the media and guest lists and they graciously let me enter.  I was introduced to Paisan Rangsikitpho, the tournament director.  Paisan is originally from Thailand where the game of badminton is very popular.  He told me that the sport is organized under a World Badminton Federation and that 173 countries belong to this group.  They also partner with the Olympic Games, which includes badminton as one of the sporting events every four years.  “Three hundred players from thirty-nine countries are participating in the US Open, which is the professional part of this tournament,” Paisan told me.  “There is a prize of $120,000 for the pros to play for and in the Career Open Badminton Tournament in Seoul, Korea the professional prize money exceeded one million dollars.  In addition there is a Seniors tournament as well and it attracts players from all over the world,” he added.  “The sponsors for this tournament are Yonex, a maker of badminton equipment and clothing and the Orange County Badminton Club,” Paisan said. 

     I asked him how many people play badminton and which countries are the most prominent in the sport.  Rangsikitpho thought for a minute and I asked him for an estimate.  “China leads with maybe more than thirty million players.  Then I would say that India is next with ten million participants,” Paisan said.  Badminton originated in India and spread to England, where it was popularized among Europeans according to what Ray Lyons said to me earlier.  “Indonesia has about three million badminton players.  After that there are a number of countries that have around the same numbers and impact in the sport.  They are; Thailand, England, Germany, Australia, Vietnam, France, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, Japan and Taiwan.  After that there is another group that includes Italy, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.  The United States has about one million badminton players who play at least once a month in some form of competition,” he continued.  Paisan lives in Santa Barbara, California, about midway between the centers of badminton clubs in the state.  “There are six private clubs in Southern California and twelve private clubs in Northern California.  These are the big areas for the sport in the nation, but badminton is growing in New York, Miami, Chicago, Seattle and especially places where new immigrants are settling.  The sport is also being played at the high school and collegiate level,” he told me.

     “Private clubs need around 500 to 700 members to thrive.  Dues to join can run around $60 a month, a racquet can cost anywhere from $20 to $250.  Good sneakers are required for all the running and cost around $100 and the shuttlecocks (birds) run about $35 for a tube of twelve,” Paisan said.  Badminton is a relatively inexpensive sport compared to other athletic activities.  Schools, recreation and community centers offer the sport for lesser fees.  It seems fun and I never saw one person get angry with another.  In fact, there is a good natured bantering that goes on as the players groaned and grunted as they tried to reach and return the shuttlecock.  A typical match consists of two out of three games and the whole set lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.  Every serve will result in a point for either the server or the defender.  If a server wins the point then he keeps on serving.  A server must serve from below the waist and the shuttlecock must go over the net, traveling another 7 feet or so to reach the middle of the opponent’s side of the court.  The receiver has the advantage, not the server.  The first player to 21 points wins the game as long as he wins by two points.  Should the game be close and a player cannot break away by two points over 21, then the first player to reach 30 points is declared the winner.  After the match is over the two players meet at the net and exchange a handshake or fist bump.  Courtesy and manners prevail in badminton. 

     An umpire sits on a chair that is about five feet above the court and keeps score and control of the rules and faults.  It is similar to tennis, but the subtle differences between the two sports make this an altogether separate experience.  There were six matches going on continuously and it kept the officials quite busy.  Two referees were assigned to watch the six umpires and the players on the court.  It seemed like a bit of uncontrolled mayhem with movement everywhere, but one match ended and another one started in a most organized manner.  A winded and slightly sweaty man walked up and sat at the officials table with a nonchalance that seemed to be odd.  This was Bob Cook, from San Fernando, and he was a player in the Senior tournament and the assistant tournament director.  It seems that there are no age restrictions in badminton and players often leave the floor after a match and volunteer to run the games or to umpire.  Of course this is two tournaments in one; the professional and the amateur games.  The professionals come from all over the world to compete for prize money and in some tournaments that can amount to a hefty sum.  But the Senior tournament is all about competition, balance and fun.  There are also Junior tournaments that extend from any age up to 18; but there wasn’t one scheduled at this event.  At 19 years of age a man or woman will compete in the Open category until they reach the age of 34.  At 35 a player will compete in the Senior division.  If a player is good enough he can continue to compete in the Open division even if he or she has reached the Senior age limit.

     But to keep the sport even, balanced and competitive as players get older, there are more sub-groupings.  There are singles (men’s and women’s events), doubles (a team of two men or two women) and mixed doubles (a team of one man and one woman).  For singles in the Senior division you sign up to play in your age bracket and that is every five years; 35, 40, 45, etc.  In men’s and women’s doubles, or in mixed doubles you add the ages of the two players to see which division you will compete in.  Ray Lyons and his partner, Judy Gray played in the 130+ category, meaning that there combined ages totaled that at least that number.  I was told that you can play down in a younger category, but you can’t play in a division if your combined ages are beneath that age category.  Bob Cook introduced me to the officials on the podium.  Dudley Chen comes from Miami and he is the Match Controller.  Ana Cook is Bob’s wife and she was the nice lady in charge of tournament credentials and media relations.  Ursula Gee is also a Match Controller.  Terry Lira is the Transportation Controller.  She is responsible for all the players as they arrive and leave.  If there is a problem with traffic, visa, airline flights or any other problem affecting a player, Terry is the person who will help you. 

     David Carton is the Umpire Coordinator in charge of all the umpires, and the Senior Referee for this tournament.  Tom Wilmshurst is Lines Judge coordinator.  Dr Kang Young Joong is the Honorary Chairperson and the President of the Badminton World Federation.  Don Chew is the Organizing Committee Chairman for the tournament and the owner of the Orange County Badminton Club where the games were being held.  Carsten Koch was the Referee and Charlotte Ackerman was the Deputy Referee.  Other important officials and committee members included; Widya Susanto (Draw Coordinator), Dave Anderson (Results Judge), Ed and Christian Barnes and Robin Metson (Court Managers), Tim Mangkarakiri (Awards and Presentations), Montri Chew (Public Relations), Gus Chew (Publications), Mark Phongasavithas (Facilities), Dr John Yong and Dr Ed Wang (Tournament Physicians), Tim Mangkarakiri, Panita Phongasavithas, Ana Cook and Carol Bryan (Registration and Credentials).  This group worked so well and patiently together. 

     I asked Bob Cook how long the players can last in the Open category as badminton seems like an exhausting sport.  “The Open or professional singles players usually do well until they reach about 30 and the doubles players until around age 35.  But the amateur or Senior’s category have players who are in their eighties and one man is still competing in tournaments and he is over ninety years old,” Bob related.  I asked him what it cost to register to play in the tournament.  “It’s $75 for the first event that you enter and $25 for each additional event that you want to play in.  Our two sponsors are Yonex, a racquet and equipment maker and the Orange Country Badminton Club which is owned by the Chew family,” he concluded.  Cook owns two private badminton clubs himself and told me that they are both operating in the black.  Badminton is a growing sport, especially in California.  Both of his clubs are in the San Gabriel Valley area.  He opened his first facility in 1995, which was the first for-profit badminton club in the area.  Cook introduced me to a quiet and patient man, Don Chew, who has played this game in his native Thailand since he was seven years old.  “I opened the Orange County Badminton Club in 1996 and right now we have about 150 members, but another 700 play here regularly.  My entire family plays badminton and this is my passion.  My grandson, Philip Chew, is the top 17 year old player in the United States and has won the Junior National Badminton Championship.  He’s also won thirty other championships and is currently playing in the professional category,” Don told me.

     Bob and Don were called away on business and I found Ray Lyons who was talking to Rose Lei, who owns the California Badminton Academy in Fremont, California.  “I’ve played there,” Ray told me.  Sometimes the players are opponents, but they are always friends.  The senior players would meet and greet their old friends from around the country; indeed sometimes the only time that they would see each other.  Ray, whose real name is Robin, just returned from a 2011 National Senior (Olympics) tournament in Houston, Texas where he won two gold medals and a silver medal in his age categories.  He travels to about six meets a year in his motor home with his wife and granddaughter and at the age of seventy is as fit and as trim as a man thirty years his junior.  “Women prefer a lighter racquet,” he told me, yet the racquet that he handed me was as light and well-balanced as a feather.  Lyons fairly gushed with enthusiasm, much like all the other players and fans, about the sport that they loved.  “The scoring has changed over time to make badminton a faster and more entertaining sport.  Gone are the days when you could only score a point on a serve.  Today’s game is a point for either the server or the receiver on each play.  There is time to rest and compose yourself after a grueling rally as you prepare to serve, but for the most part the action continues unabated,” he added.

     I was here only because Ray had urged me to come.  Badminton had been the furthest thing on my mind until he had driven by in his motor home to visit my wife and me.  Now he had my attention and I was curious.  Like all fans of the sport he wanted to make a good impression.  “The US Open is for the pros and the Senior Internationals are for the amateurs, and if you want to see some great badminton you have to see the professionals play tonight,” Ray continued.  “Badminton began in India and the British brought the sport to England, where it spread to the European continent.  The court used to be an hour glass shape and the game was a lot slower at first,” he told me.  Ray plays in about nine tournaments a year, three on the local level and six around the country and sometimes overseas.  “I don’t keep track of the costs of each tournament; some are more expensive than others are.  Badminton is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer, but we receive little or no news coverage,” he said.  Ray was called away and I looked around the spacious and air-conditioned arena.  It was a high-ceilinged building about the size of a large basketball court with fold down bleachers.  There are room for twelve badminton courts when the bleachers are rolled up and six courts when they are down.  The bleachers will hold about 1800 fans for tournaments and the arena has room for a pro shop, a coaching staff and a Thai Restaurant and snack bar.  The rest rooms are very clean and there are showing facilities and lockers for members and their guests.  The public is welcome to come and practice or play. The restaurant has twelve booths and thirteen tables and the food looked delicious.

     I met Robin Metson, who came all the way from England to participate and to be the court manager.  One of the sponsors, Yonex, set up a restringing area and a shop to sell gear, equipment and sporting attire.  Yonex is one of the biggest makers of racquet and badminton equipment and apparel and is based in Torrance, California.  It was fascinating to watch the Yonex staff restring the racquets.  Masaharu Kakinami is a stringer on the Yonex International String Team.  “Most players want their racquet to have a PSI (pounds per square inch) of 20 to 26, but the top pro players like the PSI to be in the 30+ range and one German player likes his to be around 35-37 PSI.  The more extreme the tightness of the strings the better control a player has.  Think of it like a trampoline.  You give up a bit of power when it is strung that tight, but these pros have a lot of power in their arms anyway.  What they want is control.  You always want to hit the shuttlecock in the middle of the racquet where all the support and strength lies, not on the edges of the racquet, where it will weaken the strings,” Kakinami told me.  With him was Kevin Yamaguchi who was also on the Yonex team.  Managing the sports complex is Tim Mangkarakiri.  She told me that complex is open seven days a week for the members and the public.  She has been the manager since 1999. 

     Ray Lyons had returned and was talking to his mixed doubles partner, Judy Gray, from Arizona.  “I’ve been playing this game for fifty years and I’ve known Ray for awhile.  Doubles players try and keep the same partners for as long as possible,” she said.  I asked her about strategy and serving.  “It’s illegal to serve above your waist or the servers would be smashing the shuttlecocks with such force that it would be just like tennis.  Strategy and planning are essential,” she iterated.  Ray added, “Badminton is a much more interesting sport than tennis and the soft shots are just as potent.  Power is minimized and speed and quickness takes on an added importance.”  I noticed that a player called the shuttlecock out and asked why.  “In the Senior division we are on the honor system to call a shuttlecock in or out of play.  Often I will give the benefit of the doubt to my opponent, because the game was meant to be fun and competitive.  But sometimes players will fudge a bit and we just overlook it.  In the pros they have linemen who make all those calls,” Ray continued.  Just then an official called Ray over to ask him if he would volunteer to umpire a match and he good-naturedly agreed.  Judy watched him take up the chair and then added, “Badminton is really an indoor sport as the shuttlecock behaves better indoors and out of the wind.” 

     This explains why I can never seem to hit the bird when I play with my kids outdoors.  “You need a heavier bird if you are going to play outdoors where it is windier.  We flip a coin to see who gets the first serve or the side of the court they want to start or finish on,” she told me.  I asked her how could that make a difference on such a small court indoors and she answered, “It can make a big difference in a tight game between well-matched opponents.  There are all sorts of edges, techniques and strategies that make this game fascinating.”  Then I watched silently for awhile as players huffed and puffed and moved in strange patterns across the small courts.  From the bleachers it looked easy and a cinch on a rather smallish court, but when I went up close to the players it was obvious that the game is not quite so simple or quite so easy.  Judy went on to explain how conditioning is so important and Ray had told me that he lift weights and runs to gain lung capacity.  For such a light and fragile racquet and bird, it takes a lot of stamina and conditioning to play this game.  Ray and Judy won the gold medal in their age group in the mixed doubles category. 
Gone Racin’ is at

     The British Drag Racing Hall of Fame (BDRHoF) is proud to announce that Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Serbia will be an Honoured Guest at the BDRHoF Celebration Gala Awards Dinner being held at the Savill Court Hotel, Windsor Great Park on November 22, 2014.  Princess Katarina will present one of the major awards of the evening and is the first relative of the British Royal family to attend a drag racing event in an official capacity.  As a great-niece of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, she is in line of succession to the British throne and as well as her extensive humanitarian work she is also President of the Guild of Travel and Tourism. 
     Chairman of the BDRHoF, Stu Bradbury said, “It is a great Honour to have Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina attending our event and present the major award of the evening.  Her presence reflects the stature that the Gala Dinner has attained and is a fitting tribute to the pioneers who built the sport of drag racing in the United Kingdom.  To have drag racing royalty in the shape of Don Garlits and a relative of the British Royal Family at the same event is something I would not have thought possible just a few years ago – even just a few months ago.  I still can’t quite believe it.”   
     As you would expect, while Don Garlits is in the UK he has been invited to quite a few special functions.  These include dinner with Lord Montagu’s son Ralph at Beaulieu Palace on November 24, 2014 (he will be at the museum in the afternoon so as the museum is open as normal you might glimpse the party viewing the exhibits.  A visit to the museum in 1976 gave him the idea for his own drag racing museum in Florida), the International Historic Motoring Awards dinner at the Renaissance Hotel, St Pancras, lunch at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, and an exclusive trip around the Lloyd’s of London Building including a special presentation by Rupert Atkin, Deputy Chairman of Lloyd’s, plus a visit to Nick Mason’s private collection of cars if it can all be fitted in to the busy calendar.       
     Robin Jackson
robin@britishdragracinghof.co.uk, Tel 01933 222917.   The British Drag Racing Hall of Fame is sponsored by many businesses and associations.  Without this support it could not exist.  They are Beech Underwriting; U S Automotive; Power Race Graphics; Santa Pod Racers Club; Pennine Drag Racing Club; Eurodragster.com; Avon Park International Racing Association; Shakespeare County Raceway; Santa Pod Raceway; York Raceway; Flint Insurance; Allard Motor Company; Lucas Oil; Custom Car Magazine/Real Steel; Julie Braskett, Alamo Rent a Car and the National Street Rod Association.



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