The Kentucky Time Machine

I love this event. Getting back to the roots of the hot rodding experience is a big part of what keeps this stuff interesting for me, and the National Hot Rod Reunion provides a really good look into the past while maintaining a connection to the present. If you've been around for a while, you'll see plenty that brings back memories. If you missed it the first time around, you'll get a bird's eye view of what made the sport of sprint so compelling to begin with.

This time, the weather was a factor, as the ambient temperatures and the humidity level were both in the super-miserable, hotter than hot range. Yet that can be dealt with when there is so much significant history to admire. Obviously, there is a heavy emphasis on drag racing at this event, what with the NHRA being the organizer, and with the reunion being held at a wonderful time-warp facility like Beech Bend Raceway. There was plenty to keep you occupied and take your mind away from mother nature treating you like a steamed pastrami sandwich. Over 400 race cars, and some 1500 street bound hot rods made Bowling Green KY the place to be over Father's Day weekend regardless of weather conditions, and a simple drive through this town of 53,573 citizens made it clear that the hot rods had arrived.

So perhaps you come to the reunion to see some of what was, look at the cool cars, and take in some nostalgia drag racing. But if you think like me, you'll leave with the understanding that you've seen something special. Something enduring. It's almost like the ghost of drag racing's past reaches out and taps you on the shoulder, and whispers in your ear that this is what it's really all about. See... this is not only a celebration of yesterday, but it's a re-invention of the competitive spirit that has motivated drag racers for decades. There is now a whole new culture of people that have made this simpler take on drag racing their own. It's not just nostalgia drag racing, it's their brand of drag racing. No delay boxes. No million dollar sponsorships. No TV coverage. It's simple, it's pure, and It's real.

It's also about the type of homebuilt hot rods that fill up the parking lot at the host hotel or the show & shine at the track. Sure, there's some high dollar pro built stuff around, but those cars are a noticeable minority at this event. At the National Hot Rod Reunion, you're much more apt to encounter a moldy oldie that has been recently revived and put back on the highway, or a freshly built hot rod that was put together in someone's garage from found parts instead of whittled out of an ingot of billet aluminum on someone else's CNC machine.

To get a sense of what I mean by "history" then dig the names you'll encounter while strolling through "memory lane". You'll find historic cars like the Stone Woods & Cook Willys gassers. Both the original "Swindler II" and the the later "Swindler A" were on hand to remind us all of the classic gasser wars of the 1960's. The SWC cars were in good company with Barb Hamilton, and the S&S race team also exhibiting cars, as well as the army of "geezer gassers" that were competing on the track. "Ohio" George Montgomery was in the house interacting with the gasser faithful, as was noted gasser shoe "Bones" Balogh.

Also make note on your list of significant drag machinery...the Mooneyham & Sharp fuel coupe, Bobby Langley's "Scorpion" (number 1 & 5), Ray Godman's "Tennessee Bo-Weevil" fueler & funny car, Don Garlits and his newest cackle car, Tom Ivo's 4-engined exhibition machine, "Big John" Mazmanian's Corvette gasser, Bruce Larson with his USA-1 Camaro funny car, Roland Leong's 1970 "Hawaiian" funny car with it's driver Larry Reyes, and... whew! I need a breather. You should get the drift though, there's a lot to look at here.

In fact, there's so much to see, that I've put together a new photo gallery of the 2009 National Hot Rod Reunion here. It's just a small sampling of the sights, but there are still over 200 photos in this gallery so grab a comfortable chair and a beverage as you start the slide show. Also, make sure you have Flash installed on your computer, and give it a minute to load

A prime attraction at the reunion, is the Saturday evening "Cacklefest". This year, 40 cars participated in the push-start and static-start display of historic drag cars breathing nitro and belching fire into the over heated Kentucky air. It all unfolds pretty quickly after the cars are towed out of the pits, but it's a truly impressive sight that makes these machines more than just museum pieces. Make sure you stick around to see this spectacle when you attend either NHRA's National Hot Rod Reunion or the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield CA.

So make some time to take in this event next year. It will remind you of who you are, and why you took notice of this stuff in the first place.