This is the follow up Fast Five interview with California Hot Rod Reunion Honoree, Fred Crow. BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2006) -- From racer to safety maven: that's the story of Fred Crow. Like so many others in racing business, Crow...
This is the follow up Fast Five interview with California Hot Rod Reunion Honoree, Fred Crow.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2006) -- From racer to safety maven: that's the story of Fred Crow. Like so many others in racing business, Crow started out as a racer. He raced a Junior Fuel dragster in the early '60s when you could have a lot of fun for $25 worth of nitro on a Saturday night. And on that infamous day in 1965 when the Winternationals were run in their entirety in just one day due to weather, Crow was one of the 70 class winners winning the A/Gas category in the J&S Speed Center Anglia. But he may be best known for his behind-the-scenes work in the area of driver safety. He served well over two decades as the general manager of Simpson Race Products and more recently founded his own company, Crow Enterprizes, specializing in driver-restraint systems.
1. How does it feel to be named an Honoree to the 15th Annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion? What does the Reunion mean to you?
Fred Crow: I could not have been more surprised and shocked at the same time to receive this great honor. It's surprising that anyone can remember back that far. I raced and did what I did for personal gratification, I would never had expected anyone to honor me for something I truly loved doing. Having participated in the sport while Wally Parks was growing the NHRA, who would have never envisioned the sport to be what it is today. In my wildest dreams I could have never imagined that my true passion would become my vocation for all these years. I owe my experiences in racing to the development of Crow Enterprizes; with a big thanks to all those racers who have supported me along the way. I had three of the greatest drivers and partners anyone could ask for: Frank Fedak and Ed Allison and Dennis McCarrell, both who passed away. The reunion is a time for all of us to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
2. Are you surprised that people remember your racing exploits?
Crow: I am a man of very few words; my accomplishments in life big and small are something I hold on a personal/private level. So yes, I was totally surprised that anyone would remember me or my racing, way back in the '50 & early '60s. I did not start racing until after I came home from the Army, I was older than most of the racers at that time, I had a family to raise and had to make money at racing; I went to the track to win. It comes as a great surprise I would be honored along with my heroes by the NHRA.
3. What are some of your fondest (and funniest memories about drag racing in the 1950s. What do you miss most? Do you still see any of your old drag racing friends?
Crow: I have so many fond memories: working all night, driving all night, just to show up on time to take qualifying passes. I had a signature look in those days, white Levis and desert boots; folks would ask me white jeans? I would reply, "I came to race, not work on my car." I remember driving to Pomona to race when there was no freeway, only canyon roads and the smell of orange trees. I developed some incredible friendships during my racing days and even named my son John after the great racer John Mulligan. One truly funny great memory was winning the IHRA Winter National and setting a national record in E-Gas back in 1961, the prize an NGK Spark Plug Pin (which I have to this day) and a windbreaker that was too small, no trophy. I am truly a fortunate man as now I make my living in the hobby I had, so from time to time I get calls from old pals, usually it's their children or grandchildren who need safety equipment now, but it keeps me in touch. Sadly, I have lost lots of great pals, but they live on in some of my greatest memories.
4. Are you surprised at the popularity of vintage drag racing? Why do you think people enjoy it so much?
Crow: Vintage or nostalgic seems to be in style today. It's like folks want to get back to a simpler, perhaps a happier time in life. But when it comes to vintage racing those racers work a lot harder than we did to get their cars ready for the next round. I remember just adjusting the valves, changing the jets, pouring 98 percent in the tank and rolling to the staging lanes. I'm sure if any of us could have foreseen the future of racing we would have stock piled lots more stuff. It seems apparent to me that the reason folks enjoy the vintage racing is because many of them only heard about the good times; it gives them a chance to enjoy the smell of nitro, something we all took for granted. For those who were there in the '50s & '60s it brings back a lot of fond memories.
5. Do you still follow drag racing? What do you think of today's drivers?
Crow: I follow all types of racing. I made a deal with my wife when we built our home to have three TVs in the family room. Now I watch three diferent types of racing at once. I also follow the races on the internet, to see who finished where. Today it takes lots of money and great big balls to win races at the level the pro cars race. Drag racing has always been a family activity and the lady drivers bring another element; one that Shirley pioneered years ago; it's just taken a very long time to evolve. I am in awe when I imagine what it must be like to run 450 ET and 330 mph, the fastest I ever ran was 8.75 ET and 187 mph. Like I said before, those guys and gals have big something's and I admire them all.
The 15th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, Oct. 6-8 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is part of the museum's "living history" philosophy, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.
Since its inception in 1992, the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion has offered hot rodders and racers the opportunity to reunite with old friends and reminisce about "the good old days." The Reunion includes competition on the racetrack, a car show, a chance for fans to meet the legends and stars of the sport and the highly popular "Cacklefest," which involves early-days- style front-engine dragsters being push-started, then all gathered together on the drag strip starting line with engines running or 'cackling."
Tickets for the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, are available by calling 800/884-6472. A full- event credential is $55 for adults and only $10 for those under 16. Credentials include a "goody bag" that features the highly collectible Reunion Annual and a dash plaque. AAA members receive a $5 discount on a full- event credential or $2 off on Saturday or Sunday daily tickets when they show their membership card. Camping passes are available with credential purchase at $50 and swap meet spaces are just $40 for a 20' x 20' space. Daily tickets may be purchased at the gate of Auto Club Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield on Highway 99. For additional Reunion information, call 909/622-8562 or visit museum.nhra.com.
For 12th consecutive year, the Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, is the presenting sponsor of the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion. The Automobile Club of Southern California has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by the organization's emergency road service, financial products, travel agency and trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs, insurance products and services, automotive pricing, buying and financing programs, automotive testing and analysis and legislative advocacy. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's web site at www.aaa-calif.com.
Proceeds of the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, will benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Named for the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.
One of the best entertainment values in Southern California, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Time, with extended hours during NHRA national events. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non-members is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for private parties, meetings, corporate events, weddings and special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit museum.nhra.com.