The Big Go Yesteryear

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The NHRA's 50th Winternationals was a celebration full of memories for veteran drag racing fans, while younger fans embraced the opportunity to see drag racing's history materialize in a tangible, hands-on manner. To say that Larry was humbled by the positive response to this special occasion would be a significant understatement.

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Larry appeared at this special landmark edition of NHRA's season opener, along with Roland Leong and the Restored 1969 'Hawaiian' Dodge Charger funny car. In the photo above, Larry is greeted by 1969 Winternationals funny car champ Clare Sanders. Clare was one of many former drivers on hand, as he appeared with the restored 'Jungle Jim' Nova F/C that he drove to victory at the Winternationals some 41 years ago. Also shown in the 'Golden 50' display was a replica of Roland Leong's dominating 1965 'Hawaiian' top fuel dragster. It's an impeccable example of slingshot dragster design, and a real treat to see since the original car is in an art museum in Italy! The 'Golden 50' race car display was actually more like a 'Golden 90' as historically significant drag racing machinery, and the extended drag racing family associated with them packed fabled Pomona Fairgrounds beyond anyone's previous expectations. A list of the numerous cars displayed at the 'Golden 50' can be seen here.

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Anytime the 'Golden 50' display was open, the fans lined up as far as the eye could see and waited patiently to get a little face time and an autograph with the sports legends. After returning home, Larry announced; "You wouldn't believe the lines of people that waited to get an autograph. I can't believe so many people still remember this stuff". But remember they do, and Larry made plenty of new friends during the course of this special anniversary. One of Larry's long-time fans is Californian Kevin Lavelle, who attended the 1969 Winternationals as a 13 year-old fan, and witnessed Larry's incredible crash in the 'Hawaiian' that sent him flying through the traps upside down. Larry returned to decisively win the Winternationals in 1970, and Kevin returned in 2010 to give his heartfelt thanks to Larry for some irreplaceable memories.

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A special "Cacklefest" was arranged for both Saturday and Sunday during the race, and Larry along with the restored 'Hawaiian' were prominently featured. Larry seems right at home back in the seat of the 'Hawaiian' on what was also the 40th anniversary of his win at the prestigious race.

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Of course, this was more than a nostalgia meet and greet. This was also the first race of the NHRA 2010 Full Throttle drag racing season. A big pat on the back to all of the 2010 Winternationals eliminator champions, and know that we're all in awe of the level of professionalism and the incredible performances that have evolved fifty years on.

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Thanks are in order for Greg and Kathy Mosley, who sent the beautifully restored 'Hawaiian' westward to it's birthplace amid a mean midwestern snow storm, and to John Troxel, who towed the irreplaceable race car through some seriously wintery road conditions before arriving in California. Also, a big thanks to John Sexton for providing photographs of the festivities. Great stuff of a great event... and no doubt a real journey down memory lane.

So who was it that said "You can't go home again"? Looks like we can get pretty close if where we are still has where we've been in the rear view mirror.

LK