"Fast Five" with Ted Harbit
Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion Honoree built and raced cars for a half-century
*Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion: June 15-17, National Trail Raceway, Columbus, Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- (Feb. 5, 2007) -- Teacher. Coach. Builder. Racer. Winner. Studebaker lover. That's Ted Harbit, an Honoree at the Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, June 15-17 at National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio.
Harbit raced his "Chicken Hawk" 1951 Studebaker and won the Stock class at the NHRA Nationals an incredible seven times in 11 tries. A retired teacher and basketball coach in the Frankton, Ind. school system, he has raced continuously in cars he's built himself for more than 50 years. Ted retired from class racing after the '72 U.S. Nationals and drove the Studebaker occasionally until 1987 when he decided to see how fast it would really go. With twin turbochargers and twin four barrel carbs, he's turned a best of 10.07 at 137.8 mph. In the Studebaker Drivers Club publication, Turning Wheels, Harbit explained why he still uses a Studebaker engine. "My own experience has been that it is not necessary to go to expensive extremes to develop over 500 HP in a Studebaker V-8. . . and that the engine is so basically sturdy that one need not fear immediate disintegration when higher horsepowers (sic) have been developed."
1. How does it feel to be named an Honoree for the 5th annual NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion? What does the Reunion mean to you?
Ted Harbit: I feel honored to be selected as an honoree, knowing there are literally hundreds of worthy racers out there. This is something I'll treasure the rest of my life, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be a participant in this gala affair.
2. In your wildest dreams, did you think after you retired, people would honor your racing exploits decades later?
Harbit: No, not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this. When I was asked to be a participant in the Golden 50th NHRA Anniversary Drags, I was overwhelmed and thought that would be the last recognition I would receive.
3. What are some of your fondest and funniest memories about the good old days?
Harbit: Two come to mind: The first year we won the Nationals in K/Stock in 1962, we took the intake, head, etc., off the car to have it checked for legality. After waiting around for about half an hour and no one doing anything, I went to Farmer Dismuke, the national tech director and asked if they could start checking the Studebaker. Farmer was a little grumpy, asking why I thought I should get special treatment! When I told him I had to put the car back together to drive it home, he looked surprised and said, 'Are you serious?' When I said I was, he hollered at his help and said, 'We got to get to work, guys. Believe it or not, this guy has to drive his car home tonight.'
The other time was about the 1967 or '68 Nationals when I was at the line, ready to run, and the starter, I think it was Buster Couch, told me I had a bye run. I asked why and he said the other fellow could not get his car started. I looked back at the staging lanes and he sat there with the hood up. The starter said his battery was dead. I asked if I could give him a jump start as I had jumper cables in my trunk. He said I could, but didn't have to. I backed up, raised my trunk and jumped his car and we went ahead to race. We won and on the way back on the return road I heard all these people cheering, giving the 'thumbs up' sign, etc. I later heard when the win light came on about 50,000 fans cheered. I'll always remember that.
4. Why do people enjoy the Hot Rod Reunions and vintage drag racing?
Harbit: Hot Rod Reunions are when you can see a lot of people you haven't seen for years, plus meet new people and friends. I guess the vintage racing helps us old guys remember what it was like and to live an enjoyable part of our lives over again.
5. What are you doing these days to keep busy? Do you still race?
Harbit: I have always raced Studebakers and still have the '51 'Chicken Hawk' I raced 11 years at the Nationals in stock class. I still have that car, but have put a '63 Studebaker R 2 Avanti engine in it, added a turbocharger and still race it in ET racing. It has run 10.07 at over 137 mph. I also have a '63 Super Lark four-speed Studebaker and race it in Pure Stock Races and am building a Studebaker Avanti to race that will have dual turbos, dual carburetors on a tunnel ram intake on alcohol. So you can see what I do to keep busy. At 71, I hope this helps to keep me from getting too old, too quickly.
The 5th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, June 15-17 at National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio, is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. Produced by and benefiting the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, 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.
Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods, classics, customs and muscle cars of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.
Credentials are now available for the Reunion by calling 800/884-6472 or through an application on the Museum's Web site at museum.nhra.com. A 3-day credential is $55. Those purchasing their credentials before May 25 receive significant added value, including Saturday's Parish Heacock Pit Pass Barbecue, a "goodie" bag, a limited edition, collectible Reunion program, a dash plaque and a souvenir credential. A 3-day junior credential is also available for $10 and includes the barbecue. Daily general admission tickets/pit passes will be available at the National Trail Raceway gate, 2650 National Rd. SW, Hebron, Ohio 43025; phone: 740/928-5706;
www.nationaltrailraceway.com. Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:
* Hot Heads Eliminator NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport's most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks.
* Street rod "show and shine," presented by SoffSeal, with thousands of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, street rods, custom cars, classics and muscle cars. "Memory Lane" will have a display of nostalgic race cars.
* National Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the Columbus Airport Marriott, Fri., June 15 from 7 p.m.- 10 p.m. Open to everyone at no charge, it's a tribute to the Reunion's Grand Marshal and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes. Grand Marshal for the event will be Jeg Coughlin. This year's honorees are John Abbott, Don Cain, Ted Harbit, Fred Hurst, and the team of Gary Rupp and Pat Dakin. The Justice Bros. Reunion Spotlight highlights Frank Hawley.
* Parish Heacock Pit Pass Barbeque on Saturday afternoon, June 16.
* Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the "old days."
* The Swap meet and Reunion Midway are filled with manufacturer exhibits and demonstrations
Information, including a full activities schedule, entry forms and tickets, is available through the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at museum.nhra.com. Requests can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds of the Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion directly benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif. The museum 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.
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., PST. 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. Auto Club members receive discounts on admission and at the gift shop: show your card and save. 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., Pomona, Calif. 91768. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit museum.nhra.com.