Filed under: Event Coverage
To be honest, I always start the month of August by loathing the upcoming H.A.M.B. Drags. The stress for a guy like me is almost unbearable. I start to worry about being in a crowd, forgetting something important, leaving someone out, the weather, the track, the hotel, etc… Every year, I come in certain that an unexpected catastrophe will sink the boat.
This year was no different than any other. Our pre-registrations were down a bit, we were trying out a new hotel, and a ton of other little (and not so little) concerns were worrying the hell out of me. By the time I got back from Bonneville, I was a mess and certain that doom awaited.
The Cochran family got to Joplin on Friday afternoon and the hotel scene was pretty damned impressive. Our new pal and hotel liaison, Rob Pyle, had taken the initiative and set up the huge parking lot for not only bands, bars, and cars but tech inspections as well. Things were running smoothly, but I still wasn’t relaxed.
Then, the music played… Scotty G. started it off soft and smooth, Miss Major and Her Minor Mood Swings brought out some bluesy rockabilly, and then the Rumblejetts finished it off loud and right. In between, the GizzleHopper fellas lit my ass off with a dose of nitro. It was a perfect capper to a very nervous night.
As I was going to bed, I thought maybe… just maybe… I’ll make it another year without a catastrophe.
Morning came quickly. The H.A.M.B. Drags crew got to the track early, but not as early as the 20 or so cars that were already waiting in line to gain access to the track. We set up as quickly as we could and opened the gates at 9:30 – about 30 minutes earlier than planned. Things went smoothly for a bit. I gained a little confidence and began to think things were going to be okay.
And then it happened. Car after car, trailer after trailer, spectator after spectator… It seemed as if they were just morphing out of the surrounding corn fields and walking towards me with their arms raised and their eyes dead. The highway adjacent to the track backed up with traffic waiting to get in, highway patrolmen came to “control” the scene, and the pit area began to bust at the seems.
My mind shattered as my worst fears became a reality. This was the unexpected.
Soon, my radio buzzed with activity. The track crew was struggling to keep up. My crew fought valiantly and admitted cars at a rate of almost two per minute, but it wasn’t fast enough. The line backed up on the highway was almost three miles long by 11:00.
And then I heard Carl on the track PA, “Folks, we are overwhelmed. Please, BE PATIENT.”
We were overwhelmed. In fact, it was pure pandemonium. No one expected this kind of attendance and as a group, we were unprepared.
By noon, we had reached our 200 car cap and a decision had to be made. From that period on, only pre-registered cars would be allowed in the pit area. I volunteered to tell folks at the front gate and spent the next hour breaking the hard truth to unsuspecting folks. It was excruciating.
“Damnit” Dave and another volunteer (who was that guy?) soon took over my post and continued spreading the bad news. Meanwhile, I went back to the registration tent and helped get folks their car numbers. It seemed like the fight went on for hours.
And then, it happened again… the unexpected.
The pandemonium just kind of gave way to drag racing. Not just drag racing – really damn good drag racing. The Olds powered nitro car narrowly escaped the guard rail, Roothawg got all fours off the ground and stayed in it, those crazy bastards from St. Louis followed suit, the Phoenix crew showed us speed AND grace, and hot rod after hot rod went after each other’s throats all day long. By 10:00 or so, we had witnessed hundreds of runs down the quarter. It was nothing short of incredible.
Even more incredible, however, were the people… and that’s something I’ve rarely admitted to. It’s always about the cars for me. ALWAYS. This year it was different. I was cracked and vulnerable, but you fellas picked me up with your patience, understanding, and good will. You waited in long lines and endured over-crowded pits and didn’t let any of it stop you from making this one hell of a drag race.
You also showed up with some pretty amazing cars. Sure there were some cars that should not have been there, but ya’ll certainly outnumbered them with quality traditional hot rods and race cars. I’ve never seen more cars dedicated to speed (the right way) in a single place before. Simply spectacular…
I’ve never meant it more when I say, “Thanks HAMBers. You saved me.”
More thanks to:
1. Carl and the gang at MoKan. I tell ya what fellas… These guys pulled a rabit out of their hats and busted their asses to make this race happen. MoKan rules.
2. The Girls – Marcie, Holly, Jill, Katie, and Kristen. The crew has never worked harder or for longer hours and they did so eagerly. I’m one lucky guy to have such special women in my life.
3. Mr. John Joyo for providing The Jalopy Journal hauler for the weekend.
4. “Damnit” Dave and the nameless gentlemen that helped me at the gate. I’d bet neither of you realize how much you helped me… As for the nameless, speak up – I owe you a shirt!
5. The Yay-Hoos for the Yay-Hoo Cup.
6. The Kontinentals for the Kontinental Cup, lunch, moral support, and every thing else over the weekend.
7. The Vagabonds for the dogs.
8. Rob Pyle and the Holiday Inn. Rob made Friday night our best social night ever in Joplin. The bands were incredible and the venue couldn’t have been better.
9. Rashy for keeping my girls cool and well ventilated.
10. Bill Owecke and all the fellas that supported the silent auction this year. We are gonna do some serious good this year – promise!
11. Jeff Norwell for the best art we’ve ever had at the H.A.M.B. Drags.
12. Everyone that showed up and made the ’09 H.A.M.B. Drags. That was undeniably the craziest event I’ve EVER attended.
13. Bitchin’ Camaros everywhere.
A couple of notes:
1. Next year the H.A.M.B. Drags will be a bit smaller and more focused. Expect only pre-registered cars to be allowed admittance. We are working on a few other changes to keep the event from getting away from us.
2. I found myself too far into the whirlwind that was the 2009 H.A.M.B. Drags to take any photos or video this year. Here’s a few of my favorites from various photographers on the H.A.M.B.:
As expected, there is a ton of more coverage on the H.A.M.B.