SEMA News—October 2020


Half-Mile Drags at Reno

By Drew Hardin

Photography Courtesy Eric Rickman, Petersen Publishing Company Archive


In late September 1957, Hot Rod’s Eric Rickman traveled north from Los Angeles to the Douglas-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nevada, (near Reno) for the final meet of the Nevada Timing Association’s drag racing season.

The airstrip offered a full 8,000 ft. of runway and was “equal to four ordinary dragstrips in width,” Rickman noted. “Due to their handicap of being at an elevation of 4,703 ft. plus having adequate room for safe spectator isolation, they’ve been running both gas and fuel classes.”

The NTA staged quarter-mile races over the course of the year (including stock-class cars running four wide) and put on a special half-mile event as the season’s finale. Rickman said that the entry list included an “interesting array of cars” from western Nevada, northeastern California, “and even two from Southern California.” This photo shows an eclectic mix of entries, including several stock or nearly stock Chevys—even a pickup—plus a Studebaker, an Oldsmobile, a custom Mercury, and what looks like an Alfa Romeo sedan, along with a few hot-
rod Fords.

“Stockers had a field day,” Rickman said. “The half-mile distance is their dish.”

The fastest of the Stockers clocked a top speed of 105.10 mph.

This photo, taken from the timing tower, shows NTA announcer Bob Fabel doing double duty on the microphone and the timer. The photo’s caption in the December 1957 Hot Rod read: “Sylvia Fore keeps score on king-size chart, recording top speeds at half-mile’s end and start to finish overall elapsed times.”

One of the Southern California entries was the T roadster in the foreground, entered by Chester Osgood and Wally Fontain of Long Beach. With an Ardun-headed Mercury Flathead under the hood, the roadster clocked 122.03 mph and finished the weekend as the gas roadster class winner.

“Two cars, a roadster and a sedan, each Chrysler powered and running fuel, set identical top speeds at the year-ender—144.00 mph,” Rickman wrote.

Woody Eriksen from Winnemucca, Nevada, won Top Eliminator. His fuel sedan, which had its Hemi in the “normal front seat space” and the driver seat “at extreme rear,” beat Bill Freedman’s Oldsmobile-powered sports car for the win.

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