Return to Thunder Valley

Well, the previous post about the 1967 Spring Nationals has apparently brought back a few memories for some of the Memphis Rodders that made the trip to Thunder Valley. We now have everyone in this photo identified courtesy of Larry Nolan...

Starting at the top left-   Gilbert Bugg, Gene McClennahan, Dennis Nolan, Larry Nolan, Coley Armstrong, John P. Robilio. Kneeling Down from the left- Eddie Wilbanks, Bill Fite, "Hoot" Johnson, & Marshall Robilio.

Arthur Trim sent an e-mail to tell us who from the Memphis Rodders attended the 67 NHRA Spring Nationals.
Bill & Claude Mcatee - ?? stock class Chevy
Bill Hill & Gene Graham - ?? stock class Chevy
Ivars Smeltnicks & John Mcquirter - ?? stock class Olds
Raymond Godman & Sonny Adkins - BB/F dragster
Bill Fite & Hoot Johnson - A/F dragster
Larry & Denny Nolan, Eddie Wilbanks - A/Altered 
Marshall Robilio, John P. Robilio, Gilbert Bugg - B/Altered
Charlie Edgin & (partner not remembered) - C/G Dragster
Arthur Trim, Pat Williams, Albert Scipper - C/Gas Dragster
Bill Davis & (partner not remembered) - B/Gas Dragster
Leland Stanton & Ralph Freeman - D/Gas Dragster
Tommy Calhoun & Gene McClanahan - AA/F Dragster

Numerous class wins were tallied by members of the club, and a win in Super Eliminator was secured by Ray Godman's BB/F dragster with Sonny Adkins at the wheel.
Arthur says that there were most likely two of three other teams/cars that he cannot remember, but you get the point. The Memphis Rodders were a force to be reckoned with in the Tennessee hills. Also worth noting is that this was before the completion of I-40 & I-81, which added to the adventure with a 15-18 hour drive using station wagons & small pick-ups for towing simple trailers!

Although focussed mostly on the Top Fuel category this NHRA web page is a reprint of National Dragster coverage from the Bristol Spring Nationals of 1967. Note that Ford provided the powerplant of choice for the nitro cars at that time, giving them a slight edge over their Chrysler powered colleagues... at least for a little while.

After the 1967 edition of the NHRA Spring Nationals, things changed as the customary spring race weekend moved on to Englishtown New Jersey for one year, and then on to the new but short lived super track known as Dallas International Motor Speedway. After Dallas switched affiliation to the IHRA (before closing completely) the Spring Nationals wound up in Columbus Ohio. Eventually, corporate influence homogenized the race into something other than the Spring Nationals, as the date moved to late June, and the name of the race only reflected it's sponsors logo. Today, the Houston race is referred to as the Spring Nationals (albeit in March) and what was the Spring Nationals is now moving on to Norwalk Ohio. Kind of a weird turn of events if you ask me.

But for the three years that the "Springs" were contested in Tennessee, the Memphis Rodders were a feared entity, and 1967 was perhaps the strongest showing by the club in competition.

If you have any memories of the Bristol races, or other remarks regarding the Rodders competitive ventures, feel free to chime in with the comments feature. Your input can only add to the story.