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Remembering the “different” Dick Venables and the “different” James Warren

Dipublish pada 7 January 2022 | Dilihat sebanyak 104 kali | Kategori: car rental news


Anybody who is aware of something about drag racing — and particularly readers of this column — is aware of the names of Dickie Venables and James Warren. Venables is effectively generally known as a three-time (and counting) Humorous Automotive world championship crew chief with Matt Hagan, and Warren was a Southern California Prime Gasoline hero within the Sixties and ‘70s.

However at this time I’m going to acquaint you with the Dick Venables and James Warren that possibly you didn’t know, and neither of these two are the fellows talked about above, and sadly, we misplaced each of “the opposite” Dick Venables and “the opposite” James Warren, each of their early 80s, within the final week of December. 

Dick Venables Sr., was, in fact, the daddy of the proficient crew chief everyone knows from at this time’s NHRA Tenting World Drag Racing Collection motion because the tuner of Hagan’s Dodge-bodied Humorous Automotive, and it was Dick Sr. who not solely gave his son the mechanical begin that had led to a tremendous profession within the sport but in addition launched the profession of one other Corridor of Fame tuner, Rahn Tobler.

The senior Venables loved an extended racing profession that started within the Fifties with a blown Olds-powered gas dragster that he ran with associate Buggs Threadgill and had his personal Prime Gasoline dragster within the Sixties earlier than hooking up with fellow Houstonian Steve Stephens for a partnership that lasted a decade, from the early Nineteen Seventies by means of the early Eighties.

Venables owned an auto restore store in Houston, and Stephens offered advertisements for the Yellow Pages, they usually met on the drags. Earlier than lengthy, they’d determined to construct a front-engined automobile collectively and went racing with Stephens driving and Venables tuning and the automobile primarily based out of Venables’ enterprise. Dickie Jr. was 7 when the partnership began.

“My mother would drop me off at my dad’s store after college, and I’d assist out washing components or sweeping the store,” Dickie remembered. “I didn’t get to go to the races so much in these early years, however finally, I went as typically as I might, and I cherished it.”

About that very same time, Tobler arrived on the scene, a 17-year-old Southern California transplant who ended up in Houston after his mom’s job with Shell received transferred to Texas.

“I used to be working at a grocery retailer down the road from their store, bagging groceries, and after I would drive [by] the store it had a double door after which a single door, and the only door was all the time open,” recalled Tobler. “And inside the only door, there was a front-engine dragster you may see from the road, and that piqued my curiosity. I grew up in Southern California and used to go to Lions [Dragstrip] with my buddies and was a drag race fan. Someday, I walked up and simply sort of leaned on the nook of the door body. I did that on and off for most likely two weeks after which in the future they requested me if I wished to return in and have a look at the automobile, and I snapped some photos of this front-engine automobile, which I assumed was the good factor ever.”

Earlier than lengthy, Tobler and the youthful Venables had been working collectively within the store, neither realizing that they each would go on to have lengthy and embellished careers within the sport and even change into teammates at Don Schumacher Racing for greater than a decade some 40 years later.

As a result of he was older (by about 9 years), Tobler received extra duty on the race automobile, studying easy methods to construct quick blocks and such, and took his first highway journey with the duo to the 1971 NHRA World Finals in Amarillo, Texas.

“I used to be 17 years previous proper, and they also needed to meet my mom and guarantee her that they had been going to deal with me,” he mentioned. “It was simply the three of us – me, Dickie, and Steve – in a Ford pickup truck with a single bench seat. After all, they’d been all, ‘Mrs. Tobler, we’ll deal with Rahn and be careful for him,’ and all these issues? Effectively, midway to Amarillo, the truck runs out of gasoline. Effectively, guess who they placed on the highway with a five-gallon gasoline can to hitchhike down the highway and discover some gasoline?”

(Steve Reyes photograph)

In the course of 1972, the group received its first rear-engined dragster and the group hit the highway.

Remembers Dickie, “I used to be restricted due to college, however I do know I skipped college to go to U.S. Nationals and the Springnationals in Columbus, Ohio, a time or two. I went each time I might, you already know.

“I used to be hands-on and did not actually perceive the tuning a part of it, however my dad was the one who taught me easy methods to be a mechanic, to verify your instruments are clear and arranged, to be sure you have a system on how you’re employed on stuff, issues that I nonetheless preach to the fellows who work for me now.”

The expertise was far more intense for Tobler, who truly impressed his bosses sufficient that when he was 21 they provided to let him license of their QuickSilver dragster to additional enhance his expertise.

Rahn Tobler saddles up, with younger Dickie by his aspect

“I would by no means staged a automobile on a dragstrip in my life, and that is the push-start days,” he mentioned. “We’d push down, then must jockey forwards and backwards 15 occasions to get it pointed down. I’d by no means been in any sort of automobile on a dragstrip, they usually let me soar on this Prime Fueler. I went 6.48 at 219 mph and received a AA/Gasoline dragster license signed by [late Division 4 Director] Dale Ham.  These had been nice occasions. All of us had jobs in the course of the week and met each night to work on the store, from six till midnight or each time the Budweiser ran out. And you already know, after which on the weekends we go to the racetrack.

“I used to be a younger man that by no means had a father,” Tobler continued. “I did not know my father and was raised by a single mom, and from the age of about 17 to about 22 or 23, Dick and Steve had been this optimistic male affect that basically helped set me up for the remainder of my life. So not solely did they offer me a begin within the sport, however additionally they gave me a begin in life. I nearly consider Dick as a father determine. The beginning that he gave me formed my whole life and my 50-year profession in racing. I would not be sitting right here, married to my spouse proper now, if it wasn’t for Dick Venables Sr. I would not have finished the issues that I’ve finished in life. He significantly influenced my life, not solely the individuals however the sport and the profession that adopted.”

Dick Venables Sr., left, and Steve Stephens (Steve Reyes photograph)

The Stephens & Venables group gained a pair of Division 4 Prime Gasoline championships and expanded their operation within the mid-Nineteen Seventies to additionally embrace a Monza Humorous Automotive — additionally named QuickSilver — after Sid Tarter joined the group with additional funding, however Tobler finally went to work for Marvin Graham’s Prime Fueler after which, in fact, turned a longtime and vitally essential a part of the life and profession of Shirley Muldowney, but remained tethered to the Venables household.

“We’d come by means of Houston with Shirley’s automobile — simply me and her son, John — and we’d stick with the Venables household for a few weeks so Shirley might run some Division 4 occasions or match races, so Dickie and I by no means actually received that far aside. However then when Dickie graduated from highschool in 1983, we picked him up, and that was his full-time job after that till Shirley’s accident occurred [July 1984] then got here again to work for us from 1988 by means of 1990.”

“Shirley was my first actual race automobile deal,” Dickie expanded, “you already know, so far as truly getting paid. We clearly didn’t on my dad’s deal. I truly went with Shirley and Tobler in between my junior and senior yr in highschool and needed to come again to complete my senior yr. Then proper after I completed highschool, Rahn simply mentioned, ‘Hey, what do you consider doing this full time?’ I used to be 18, so I am like, ‘Heck, yeah.’ After all, my dad thought it was nice. My mother did not suppose it was too cool. 

“It was unreal. It was a dream. I assumed, ‘Wow, you are gonna pay me to do that?’ So I used to be simply glad to do this, and it ended up turning out to be a profession.”

And what a profession for each of them. Tobler tells me that he has 70 profession NHRA wins and estimates Venables has between 50 and 60, for a complete of at the very least 120, which is fairly wonderful contemplating there’s solely been 1,000 occasions, that’s a 12% win ratio, and the duo have eight championships between them. And people information don’t embrace IHRA or AHRA wins, of which Shirley had a number of. That’s one heckuva legacy for Dick Venables Sr. to depart.

(Steve Reyes photograph)

Venables died Dec. 29 at age 82 and lived lengthy sufficient to see the entire success, a few of it firsthand.

“He all the time would come to the races,” mentioned Dickie. “Anytime we had been in Houston or Dallas, and he all the time got here to Indy, even up by means of this previous yr. And, actually, I feel him following it, following me and Tobler, saved him entering into his later years. I actually imagine that.

“I did not actually understand what number of pals he had till the previous week, and actually, I knew he was all the time pleased with what I did. However as I talked to individuals since he is handed, they’ve made me understand how proud he was. In order that makes me really feel actually good, and simply figuring out that he had a superb life proper as much as the top offers me consolation. , he all the time advised me that he’d finished every part he wished to do, so that offers me some peace, too, however we’re all going to overlook him.”

The James Warren that almost all of you already know effectively — a multiple-time March Meet winner, Division 7 Prime Gasoline champ, and nationwide occasion winner with the bright-orange Warren & Coburn dragster out of Bakersfield, Calif. — died in Could 2011. Oddly sufficient, there was one other James Warren who additionally raced Prime Gasoline, however a rustic aside, plying his commerce within the Division 2 space from his Florida base.

James Keith Warren, of Oviedo, Fla., handed away Dec. 24, at age 81. Pretty much as good as my data of the game is, I had by no means heard of him till his stepson, Alan Ridenoure, reached out to me.

Warren, a Navy veteran, competed in Prime Gasoline in NHRA and IHRA within the Sixties, ‘70s, and ‘80s and within the final decade had saved alive his want for pace with a Professional Dragster at tracks all through Florida. 

In response to Ridenoure, his stepfather owned the distinctive honor of getting the final front-engined Prime Fueler to qualify at a nationwide occasion staged by a significant sanctioning physique. Extra on that in a bit.

Warren was initially from Binghamton, N.Y., however moved south to Ocala, Fla., within the mid-Nineteen Seventies, which is the place he met Ridenoure’s mother when Ridenoure was simply 6. Earlier than lengthy, Warren had a 6-year-old crewmember for his automobile.

“He was residing together with his race automobile associate on the time, George Mikulyuk moved in subsequent door to us,” Ridenoure advised me. “He and my mother actually hit it off. About six months later, he says, ‘Hey, you wish to go to the races?’ I had by no means been to a race between Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney at Bradenton [Raceway in Florida], and I used to be hooked. Again then, which was most likely about 1977, you may stroll proper as much as the fence, which was most likely 15 toes from the guardrail.”

“He’s the explanation that I ever went drag racing. We had been low-buck racers earlier than anybody knew what low-buck was, however these are a number of the greatest occasions I keep in mind from my childhood. Many races we had been pitted subsequent to Paul Longenecker, Marvin Schwartz, Don Garlits, even John Power, Kenny Bernstein, and Al Segrini!”

NHRA historian nonpareil Bob Frey confirmed the front-engined stat, discovering that Warren certified on the 1974 IHRA occasion at Rockingham Dragway, the place he additionally gained a spherical. Bear in mind, that is greater than three years after Garlits proved rear-engined dragsters might be profitable and two years after the final front-engined dragster winner in NHRA Prime Gasoline historical past. In response to Frey, Florida’s James Warren by no means might crack the sector at an NHRA nationwide occasion however did end fourth within the Division 2 standings in 1974.

“We had been fairly low buck, and we did not have numerous components,” Ridenoure acknowledged. “Within the ’70s, it was somewhat simpler, however the ‘80s is after we began to note that if you happen to if weren’t Kenny Bernstein with Budweiser or no matter you run in Prime Gasoline, it was a tricky highway. We tried it, however we simply realized that it wasn’t one thing that he was going to have the ability to do anymore. We simply knew that. So we offered the automobile after the Bristol IHRA occasion in 1981.

“It was cool simply to be a part of a Prime Gasoline group. Early on, I did not know what qualifying actually was or something like that; I used to be having a superb time. I assumed I used to be one thing cool as a result of I all the time saved a rag in my again pocket like everyone. I might stroll across the pits with my mother, and the entire racers again then had been actually cool. Jim and Alison Lee had been good pals of ours, and Paul Longenecker and Marvin Schwartz. I might take my rag and wipe their automobile off. I’ll always remember the time that Don Durbin threw me a dime and mentioned, ‘Go purchase your self a race automobile. It was the best factor on this planet.’ I used to play with Jeb Allen’s son.”

“It was only a neat expertise rising up, you already know, clearly not figuring out the distinction between high-buck and low-buck racers.  I keep in mind assembly John Power most likely again in 1980 or so when he was low buck, and I simply sort of thought, you already know, everyone did that. I assumed rising up that everyone had a crankshaft standing up of their front room.”

“I most likely thought I had the good dad on the block, and in later years, I actually did after we wound up rebuilding a ‘47 Chevy with a 351 with a blower on it, and it was all below the hood. And now I am considering to myself, ‘I’ve received the good dad on this planet.’ He was a superb one. He was undoubtedly a throwback.”

Warren’s automobile was crewed over time by himself, Mikulyuk, John Robbins, Buddy Kellett, and even current Insider column topic Bob Taaffe, who Ridenoure remembers dedicated the sacrilege of portray the dragster British Racing Inexperienced.

“At one level James had the longest automobile on the circuit, a whopping 280 inches,” he recalled. “The Ricochet dragster was an extended automobile for its time, however these guys again within the ‘70s, they discovered easy methods to actually engineer their very own stuff. A number of what Garlits did, [James] was making an attempt to do some stuff; he even ran a three-speed at one level, so it was attention-grabbing.

“He and Garlits had been fairly good pals as a result of they each got here out of Florida within the ‘60s and ‘70s and would race on the circuit with one another, whether or not it was AHRA, IHRA, or NHRA. I do know they stayed involved with one another all through the years.”

And what of “the opposite” James Warren, the well-known one from California. Did he find out about his cross-country counterpart?

They raced at the very least one occasion collectively, the 1976 Gatornationals. In response to Mikulyuk as reported to be by Frey,  Warren from Florida was paired up with James Warren from California in a qualifying run. He mentioned the announcer made a giant factor out of “Effectively, we all know James Warren goes to win this race.” 

Florida Warren had a sly humorousness, dubbing his automobile on the time “Solar for Sale” as a parody to the opposite James Warren’s “Rain for Lease” automobile. as you possibly can see within the photograph above,

“The 2 had a superb snicker about it,” mentioned Ridenoure. “You most likely could not do this now as a result of any individual would get upset about it, nevertheless it was simply sort of a kind of enjoyable issues.” 

After he stop driving in 1981, Florida Warren sat out of racing for greater than three a long time. Throughout his life, he owned and operated a full-service gasoline station and restore store, labored as a long-haul truck driver, welder and fabricator at E-One, and later owned a customized automobile constructing store.

In 2011, he returned to the dragstrip with a bracket-style Professional Dragster and even received his previous 242 everlasting quantity again, with a J on the top for James: 242J. He handed away Christmas Eve.

“He simply was racing for sort of a interest, however he nonetheless cherished racing,” Ridenoure mentioned. “He was down, and he was residing down in Oviedo, Fla., and we have stayed in contact over time. And I used to be calling him to inform him Merry Christmas and Completely happy New Yr and all that stuff. We had been truly sort of planning on happening there to see him run that Professional Dragster that he had. He was a superb dad to me and gave me my love of the game and so many wonderful occasions.”

Two nice tales of affection from sons to their fathers, males who can’t get replaced however gained’t be forgotten. I misplaced my pure father after I was 9 and my stepfather — an ideal second dad — only a few years in the past, so I do know the ache of loss. It’s all one thing additional for us to consider as of late when life is a bit more fragile and valuable with every part occurring on this planet. Don’t neglect to inform your dad and mom what they imply to you. I’m gonna name my mother proper now.

Phil Burgess will be reached at [email protected]

Tons of of extra articles like this may be discovered within the DRAGSTER INSIDER COLUMN ARCHIVE

Or strive the Random Dragster Insider story generator



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