Because Roadkill “becauseroadkills” everything, all our Zip-Tie Drags events have been held under threatening skies. Memphis International Raceway was surrounded by dark clouds and lightning was flashing in all corners, but the track itself stayed dry and we had a chance to meet some of the early birds for the July 15th running of the Zip-Tie Drags. Freiburger, Fin, and Dulcich were on late flights, but writer Povi Pullinen and editor Elana swung into the track to see who had showed up. The first person we met was Randy who yelled cheerfully that he had just run a 12.8 pass in his blue GMC. We’ll have to get more details, like his full name and the truck specs tomorrow, ’cause he was heading back to the staging lanes as we saw him.
After that we too-roughly shook the hand of Van Janowick, who told us, after wincing, that he had just broken his collarbone the night before. So sorry, Van!
In the back corner of the pits we met Cullin Kennedy running a 302-powered 1983 Fox and the Seegel brothers, Mike and Chris, who were learning how to wrestle a supercharged smallblock Camaro down the quarter-mile, slamming gears the whole time. On the other end of things was an impromptu truck club made up of Jennifer and Jerry Russell’s 1971 Ford F100 and David Avery’s 1977 Dodge.
While Elana was caught up in pickups, Povi was learning all about Chris Dodd’s 1990 Festiva, nicknamed, the Fastiva. Chris is a driving instructor for NASA (National Auto Sport Association, not the space travel group) and set up the Festiva for autocross with a ton of aero mods, custom coil suspension, 15-inch Minilite wheels wrapped in 205/50 race rubber, and a B6T swap from a Mercury Capri XR2. He says his drag racing goals are to run a 14 second pass and/or beat one other person. He’s had the Festiva for almost three years, he got it for $200, and uses it as a daily driver. “I don’t really have to win,” he told Povi. “Just imagine people saying ‘I nearly lost to a Festiva!'”
We saw some familiar faces too, Kalman Keresi’s minibikes might be familiar from the Detroit Outlaws story we posted a few months ago. Plus he was at the Ohio Zip-Tie event. Kalman and his son Jason brought out the custom Nitro 44 bike, as well as a Roadkill special.
The small Friday crew meant the track was open for hot laps, and we saw one car run 33 times! There was fun in the pits too for those too young for a driver’s license. Slick-tired trikes for a mini-drift track looked like a blast, and the really young ones could bouncy-house to their hearts content. As the sun set, the bonfires were lit and everyone set to marshmallow roasting.
The track action was a lot of fun, ranging from stock Mustangs to a Model T roadster pickup with a smallblock painted in a traditional revival flat black and red. We even had a celebrity guest, Top Fuel driver Clay Millican. If you don’t follow NHRA, all you need to know is that Clay is one of the guys who races because nitro is in his blood, he couldn’t do otherwise, and he’s done it for a long time, handling frustrating final round loses with grace and good humor. When he finally got his event win in Bristol this year, everyone cheered. Now, we hate to to burst his bubble, but Clay, you can’t win ’em all, and Elana is deadly in a crappy rental.
Clay learned a hard bracket racer’s lesson about letting up too much before the stripe. And of course, he dealt with the devastating loss with grace and good humor. He won’t be at the event tomorrow, but only because he promised to help out another racing Roadkill friend, Jeff Lutz, at a grudge race. So we wish them luck, and will miss them both. Go check out Clay’s social media pages and give him a follow and like. He won’t disappoint you.
If we had this much fun on the night before the race, you can bet we’ll have ten times as much on race day. Come join us at Memphis International Raceway for the Zip-Tie Drags.