The following article is by recent grad Dave Shotsberger. He has a good friend who is literally a legend in Florida sprint car racing and pens a newsletter called the “MONTHLY MULLET WRAPPER” that goes out to most of the sprint car community, not only here but around the country too. Dave was asked to do a little write up on the school for the July/August MMW.
Mulleteer, friend, sprint car driver, and fellow pilot recently went to the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School to qualify to drive straight liners. I asked Dave to pen a short article describing the experience and furnish photos chronicling the events. Read and enjoy.
Linda coming into my life has been an incredible blessing. Not only is she a fantastic person she is also a car nut. She loves car shows and hot rods. However, she has not been exposed to racing very much. With so many drag strips in the area we started going when we had nothing to do just to walk around and look at the different cars. After going to several local events and two Gatornationals one night at Orlando Speedworld she said, “Why don’t we try and do this?”
Hmmmmmm…… As a young boy I was fascinated by drag racing, playing with my Hot Wheels cars and reading every racing magazine I could convince my parents to buy. I would pester my Dad to take me to the little podunk strip in our area to watch the local guys. But with Williams Grove 5 miles away and the lure of sprint car racing I soon left drag racing behind.
There is a significant amount of drag racing activity in the Southeast. So why not try it? And what better way to “try before you buy” than going to a school? So we decided I would attend Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in Gainesville and see how that worked out. If it went well and the interest was still there we would consider the next step.
I’m sure most people in our area have been to Gainesville. If not then you may not know that we have a world class facility right here in our area. Gainesville is also one of the longest tracks on the national circuit which is perfect for students. Frank Hawley’s school has been in business for many years. I have heard of it but never realized the quality of the programs that they offer. And let me say right here this is a real school with real training not some hokey “experience”. Frank is the teacher. In addition to his broad background in this facet of the sport he is also a two time national Funny Car title holder.
I scheduled the class for mid-May. The study material provided prior to the course is well laid out and concise. It was at this point I realized this was going to be an interesting class. I thought for training you would stage the car, get familiar with the surroundings and when ready push on the throttle to start moving down the track. Not according to the instructions! Here is an excerpt from the instruction manual:
11. Stop at prestage. Locate transbrake button (don’t press it)
12. Inch forward. Stop when stage bulbs light.
13. Press and hold transbrake button
14. Release foot brake (car doesn’t move)
15. Floor the throttle (Engine RPM limiter holds engine at 3000 RPM)
16. When instructor activates the Christmas tree, release the transbrake button.
HOLD ON A MINUTE!!!! The first time I do this I’m going to launch at full throttle??? And that was correct. So on the first day we had about 2 hours of classroom and in car orientation and then start the car, burnout stage and launch.
The class includes 6 runs. NHRA requires 6 time slips and two full runs for a license. Your first pass is 200 feet and if successful then followed by 600, 1000 and then full runs. To say I was startled by the launch is an understatement. The cars are Super Comp dragsters weighing 1550 lbs. with 720 HP. Not too far off of a sprint car. But the grip on a prepped track allowed no wheel spin and when you let go of that transbrake button it’s like a rocket launch. I don’t know how people drive those fuel cars.
I made the 200 foot run successfully and was in the car to do the 600. And then the rain came. It did not stop raining for the rest of the class. The bad news is we had to come back later and finish the runs. The good news is we had an abundance of classroom time. The classroom time in this course is fascinating. Because of the rain Frank had plenty of time for stories from personal experience that we may not have heard so I feel like I got a big bonus. While the course is about drag racing and reaction time it goes far deeper into the psychology and physiology of being a successful racer. Or for that matter successful at anything that requires focus. The classroom work was every bit as interesting as the car part.
On July 10 we went back (Linda was able to come along this time) for 1 day to finish all of the runs. It was a lovely hot, humid Florida day to be walking around on asphalt in a driving suit. Having had two months to think about that first “launch” I was much more prepared this time around. We successfully progressed through the 200, 600 and 1000 foot runs so we got to do 3 full passes. The cars are a joy to drive. By the time we go to do the full passes I was very comfortable. The hardest thing for me to get used to was the launch but after just a few it wasn’t a factor any more. Linda fulfilled her duties as a freelance photog for the Penguin Television Network.
With all the runs being good my NHRA application was signed off by Frank and we now hold a NHRA Class 4A competition license (ET 7.50 to 9.99 wheelbase 125” and up) number 2257. I can’t say enough about what a great experience this school is. The cars, classroom and instruction are all top notch. The staff are all courteous and professional and all have years of racing experience. If you even have a passing interest in drag racing or hot rods it is well worth going even if you never get the license or intend to race. Go to www.frankhawley.com for a look. They have all kinds of programs and pricing available.
We’re not sure where we go from here. We may get a car and start running or keep watching for a while. Either way the school was well worth the time.
Hawley’s Drag School Back at Maple Grove (Want some FREE drag slicks? Visit FrankHawley.com to learn more!) Just a few weeks ago, Frank Hawley was roaring down the Maple Grove Raceway as a featured driver in Maple Grove’s 50th celebration. Hawley, who appeared at the event as the guest driver of Troy Martin’s vintage 1973 Chi Town Hustler Nitro FC, was also inducted into Maple Grove’s “Walk of Fame” alongside veteran racers Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle and Dale Pulde. However, Hawley’s next appearance at Maple Grove will be as an instructor, not a driver. The racing coach is set to return with Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School on August 21 and 22. “I started racing at Maple Grove in the 1970’s with a Top Alcohol FC, so I know the track pretty well,” said Hawley. “We’ve been coming to Reading with our school to entertain and train drivers for the past 20 years. This track is one of the best in the Northeast and is right in the middle of thousands of racers and race fans.” In addition to the Super Comp gas dragster and Super Gas door car programs, the attendees at Hawley’s Maple Grove school will get a new opportunity this year. For the first time ever, speed seekers will be able to come out and get a ride in one of the school’s race cars. “Some folks are interested in just seeing what it’s like to accelerate in a drag car, so we’re making that available for them,” said Hawley. “Just give us a call and schedule a time and we’ll get you a ride you’ll never forget.” For other racing enthusiasts – some of which seek NHRA competition licenses – it’s the Hawley School’s reputation of offering first class instruction and providing quality equipment that will bring them to Reading. “More and more race tracks today are requiring that the drivers have a competition racing license if their car runs quicker than 10 seconds in the quarter mile. It can be very frustrating if you end up at your local track with your hot rod and you can’t compete because your race car is too fast,” said Hawley. “At our school, you can walk away with one of these licenses. Not only do the students get top-to-bottom instruction on how to be safe and drive fast- we also spend time in the classroom offering lectures on a number of topics to help drivers reach and maintain peak performance.” Lately a number of racers have attended Hawley’s classes with their own race cars. “Some of these drivers that bring their race cars are new to the sport and others have been at it a while,” said Hawley. “Even the pros can use a little help occasionally and that’s why we are seeing an increase in the ‘bring your own car’ programs.” There are lots of ways you can participate in the Hawley School in Reading. If you’d like to find out more or have any questions, please contact us! To view our Super Class video or obtain more information on all available classes, dates and locations for Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, visit the school’s website – www.frankhawley.com – or call 866-480-7223 (Outside U.S. 678-804-8835). The school’s also on Facebook, Twitter @Frankhawleydrs, Instagram – frankhawleydragracingschool and YouTube! A decision to attend Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School is an easy one. “I am often asked how come it looks like I know what I am doing in a fuel funny car and my answer is ‘I listened to everything Frank Hawley told me.’ I do not have natural talent. Frank’s instruction on how to drive a Super Comp car is exactly what you need to drive a Funny Car. If you have the desire and listen to Frank, you too can drive any type of race car. Honestly, I think the classroom part of the course is much more important than the racetrack part of the course. He is the most thorough teacher I have ever met.” – NHRA Funny Car Driver Robert Hight “The information I received at the School from Frank has improved my life professionally and personally. Everyone that wants to improve their mind and their skills should take this course.”- NHRA Top Fuel Driver Antron Brown “I started at Frank’s in his Alcohol Funny Car class. It was a great program and got me started in the right direction. I’d recommend his course to anyone. I always say you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Hawley’s School is a heck of a place to start.” – NHRA Top Fuel Driver Tony Schumacher “Frank knows what he’s talking about. He understands the demands placed on drivers today and is able to work with drivers at all levels, from novice to Pro. If you’re thinking about race instruction, you need to go to Frank.” – NHRA Top Fuel/Funny Car/Pro Modified Driver Melanie Troxel Upcoming SC/SG Classes Listed Below. Call for PSB, Top Dragster, Top Sportsman, TAFC and TAD dates! July 24-25, 2012 – Bandimere Speedway, Denver, CO August 21-22, 2012 – Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, PA September 11-12, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL September 25-26, 2012 – Royal Purple Raceway, Houston, TX October 1-2, 2012 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV October 3-4, 2012 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV October 15-16, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL November 13-14, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL November 19-20, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL December 4-5, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL December 27-28, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL
Back in time… I drive the Chi-Town Hustler. Frank Hawley.
So it’s around New Years and I get a call from my long time friend Lex Dudas, whose lengthy career in motorsports has taken him from NHRA Division Director to track management positions. Lex runs one of the most popular tracks in the country—Maple Grove Raceway—just outside of Reading, PA and home to the NHRA Auto Plus Nationals. I didn’t know at the time, but Maple Grove would be celebrating its 50th year anniversary in 2012. They were putting on a show and I was being invited! The race would feature jet funny cars, jet dragsters, Motz’s jet truck, wheelstanders, a bracket race, and my big interest: Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars.
Since I had a great win record at Maple Grove from the 1970s through 2008 in a Nitro FC, I was being asked back to drive. The fact that I didn’t have a Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car was not going to be a problem, as Lex had already made arrangements with the Nitro driver and team owner of the 1973 Chi Town Hustler, Troy Martin.
Troy and I had met a year earlier when he kindly stepped down for the evening and let me climb back behind the Chi Town controls for a race at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH. That evening had produced the best time the Chi Town car had ever run, so I was looking forward to another fast night. I accepted the offer, booked a flight and then had to wait several months for the big race.
As the event drew near, I was also excited to hear that I was being inducted into the Maple Grove “Walk of Fame” alongside drag racing superstars Raymond Beadle, Dale Pulde and Don Prudhomme (who would also serve as the Grand Marshall of the event). This was an honor I’d not expected.
I’m the type of person who gets easily bored in hotel rooms, so despite having arrived at the hotel in Reading at 3 o’clock in the morning due to bad storms in Philadelphia, I got up early and headed to the track. After stopping by to say hello to Troy and the crew, I started to roam the pits looking for folks I’d not seen in a while. When you’ve all but lived at the race track your entire life, you make a lot of friends. Even if you haven’t seen the people in years (or decades), you can still strike up a comfortable conversation as though you’d had another talk just last week. Of course I spoke with the aforementioned Prudhomme, Pulde and Beadle, but I also ran into Dale Emory, Dee Gant, Paul Smith, Peter Gallen, Mike Lewis, Steve Nichols and others. We talked about old times, our families, business, politics (we always talk politics) and other stuff. We were just a bunch of old racers enjoying some time at the track and with each other.
The afternoon was hot, but I actually didn’t mind it that much. I suspect since I have lived in Florida for close to 30 years, it appears that some people—certainly me—can kind of get used to the heat. But the heat would affect the performance of the cars, so Troy and the crew were making some adjustments to the Hustler to prepare it for those conditions. They added a little more timing, made an idle adjustment during the warm-up, and a decision was made to “not make a decision” on the nitro until closer to run time. Meanwhile, the fans were stopping by for autographs, pictures and conversation. When I get a chance to do these events, I’m always impressed and humbled when fans pull out an old photograph they had taken of one of my old race cars from the 1970’s. These are original photos that these people have saved for decades, and they dug them out and brought them along for me to sign. This is always a very cool thing to do. I just don’t like the part when they tell me they were 5 years old when they took the picture.
Just before the parade of featured cars, the “Walk of Fame” inductees were summoned to a stage they had erected in front of the grand stands. Prudhomme, Beadle, Pulde and I were interviewed by Bob Frey and presented commemorative plaques made by my friend Scott Weney at S&W Race cars.
The format for the race tonight would be “Chicago Style,” where everyone makes two laps, with the quickest two from the first round running against one another in the second round to determine an overall winner. My first round opponent was Mike Lewis in the Sein and Langford Mustang. Mike is General Manager for Don Schumacher Racing, and in addition to being a former grad of FHDRS, has spent time behind the wheel of a few cars (including the A Fuel car of Tom Conway). It was Mike’s first night, however, in this Nostalgia Funny Car. I’d rather win than lose at anything I do, so I decided I was finished with driving tips for Mike (although I’ve watched him race and he really doesn’t need any).
First round…light ‘em up! Right at the end of my BIG 400’ Chi Town burnout, the air line that supplies the pressure to the transmission to put it in (and keep it in) high gear blows off the trans! This is a problem. Without air pressure, I’ll only have low gear and will have to shut down at half track or risk over-revving the engine and damaging Troy’s car. I downshift to stop the air leakage, select reverse and back up. As I near the start line, I’m pointing frantically at the loose air line and Troy sees it. He reaches in the side window and pushes the line back into the fitting. Mike Lewis is pulling to the line and I don’t want to hold him any longer, so I pull cautiously forward.
I have a few things to think about in my last several seconds before launch. How much air have we lost? There are 2 popular bottle sizes that I’ll call big and small. I don’t know which one Troy’s car has. If we don’t have any air, the car won’t shift to high and I’ll have to shut down. If we have a small amount of air, the trans will try to shift but not have enough pressure to do so and will just burn the clutch pack in the Lenco trans. If it does shift solidly, we’ll have enough to go the distance, but I start thinking about why the line came loose in the first place. If it comes loose while in high gear near the finish line, the trans will go into low gear and cause an instant over-rev and possibly big damage.
So with a typical drag racer’s mindset, I stage with Mike and away we go! The run feels great. We are out in front by a wide margin as Mike’s car had some early problems. The shift point is coming. I press the shifter button and…nothing. It does not shift and I lift off the throttle instantly. A brief moment later Mike goes roaring by for the win. After a short review with the crew in the shut down area, we’re back to the pits.
Between rounds it’s more autographs, a bottom end check and a look at the transmission. Good news…no trans damage. I discover that Troy has the smaller of the two sizes of air bottle, and we agree that by the time I staged there was probably almost no air left.
In the second round we are paired with the Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max. The Chi Town Hustler and the Blue Max have probably raced one another a hundred times or more over the years. In fact, I raced the Beadle while driving the Hustler many times in the 1980’s. Tonight, however, veteran Ronnie Young is at the wheel. Another BIG burnout for the Chi Town and I back up to face the Max. This time we have a new air line and a full air bottle.
I floor the throttle. I’m coming up on the shift point, press the shifter button, it shifts and I keep on going. The finish line is coming and I don’t see the Blue Max. We win! I shove the chute levers forward as I close the throttle and grab the brakes. No chutes. This can be a problem. I reach over and get the fuel shut off while still pulling the brake lever as hard as I can. The car makes a few big hops at the end as the safety crew is motioning me to take the additional run off space. I stop safely about 200’ from the end.
A quick inspection of the equipment revealed the problem and it was fixed for next time. Our eight mile time showed we were on track for running in the 5’s, but the engine lost a little steam in the back half and we ended up with a 6.09 ET, which was about third quick for the last session. I think it was a pretty good performance overall.
Chad Head, son of NHRA Nitro funny car racer Jim Head, was the overall winner and had produced a low ET performance of 5.88 in the first round. Mike Lewis came back strong in the second session with a 5.93.
What a great night. Thanks to Troy and his team for giving me a chance to drive again. Thanks to Lex for inviting me and putting on a great show and thanks to the fans for coming out. I’d love to do it again.
Now it’s time for me to get back to teaching people how to race in Gainesville, Norwalk, Houston, Denver, Indy, Vegas and….Maple Grove!
If you want to contact me about racing, driving or anything else – go to www.frankhawley.com, call 866-480-7223 or Tweet me @Frankhawleydrs.
Cool promotion, isn’t it?
This offer is good this summer on our Super Comp/Super Gas and
Bring Your Own Car classes for the following dates:
Norwalk, OH – July 16-17
Denver, CO – July 24-25
Reading, PA – August 21-22
Houston, TX – September 25-26
Please click on the following link for complete details:
Mickey Thompson Free Tires 2012
Contact us NOW at
Houston Grads Flying High With the school making several visits each year, Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, TX is a familiar location for Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School. On this trip, the school hosted returning grads along with new drivers. Sisters Ashley and Crystal Peterson returned with their own 7-second dragsters, John Williams and his son Kyle joined in driving the Super Gas car and the Super Comp Dragster, while veterans like Tina Stull were there to get a better handle on tuning their Super Comp Dragster. After graduating from the school’s recent Houston course, Major Matthew ‘Burt’ Reynolds is one of the newest Hawley alumni. Burt is a USAF F-16 pilot currently stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX and a long time drag racing fan. “I was first exposed to drag racing at Pomona Raceway in California. My Dad took me there as a kid and I loved it,” Burt said. “Frank and I met a couple of years ago in Las Vegas. At the time, I was flying F-16’s and was in the Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base. I was at the track coordinating a fly over for the National event when Frank approached me. He introduced himself and we started talking. We quickly found out that we had an interest in each others occupations.” “I am a huge supporter of the men and women in our armed services,” said Frank. “For me, meeting Burt was like meeting a rock star. I have always thought I may have had “the right stuff” and in another life might like to have pursued a military career, so getting the opportunity to hang out with a fighter jock was very cool. Burt and I stayed in contact and he was actually scheduled to take our class in Vegas over a year ago. Just a few weeks before the class however, he got sent to Baghdad for six months!” The deployment didn’t cool the Major’s desire to get behind the wheel, however, and he rescheduled for the Super Comp dragster program in Houston when he returned from the Middle East. “I’ve met a number of the drivers and although I got a chance to sit in Tony Schumacher’s ARMY Top Fuel car, I’d never been in a dragster with the engine running until Frank’s school. It was a great experienc e,” said Burt. “My first run was amazing. Although I am trained to withstand 9G turns in a jet fighter, the first run is something I’ll always remember. It didn’t take long…but it was beyond cool.” Although the similarities between fighter jets and dragsters are small, there are some things that helped the Major adapt quickly to the dragster. “As pilots, we train for hours on end before we are allowed to fly any aircraft. This habit of practicing and visualizing the aircraft’s cockpit, controls and procedures is every bit as important in preparing to drive a race car,” said Burt. “Frank teaches how to train for best performance, and in fact he asked me to write an article about ‘chair flying’ (which is what pilots call it) for his class. He distributes the article to his students.” According to Hawley, the Major ‘aced’ the course and received his NHRA S/C license in the minimum number of runs. “That’s what I expected,” added Hawley. The Major was high in his praise for the school. “Frank and his staff did a fantastic job, he said. “The cars, the curriculum, the staff…everything was first class, fun and set up in a great learning environment. I’m looking forward to returning and trying something a little faster.” For now, it’s back to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, where Burt’s latest assignment is teaching a course called Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) to newly certified T-38 pilots. “The course could be titled ‘Fighter Pilot 101’ and introduces the pilots to the art of air-to-air combat,” explained Burt. “We take these young pilots that already know how to fly the T-38, but now teach them how to employ the aircraft as a weapon. I really enjoy teaching these eager pilots and sharing my experiences in the F-16 with them.” “Burt’s teaching is similar to what we do…except those guys do it at closure rates approaching 1000 mph, it’s 3-dimensional, they turn at 9G’s, they use guns, missiles and rockets and they all have engineering degrees!” said Hawley jokingly. To view our Super Class video or obtain more information on all available classes, dates and locations for Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, visit the school’s website – www.frankhawley.com – or call 866-480-7223 (Outside U.S. 678-804-8835). The school’s also on Facebook, Twitter @Frankhawleydrs, Instagram – frankhawleydragracingschool and YouTube! A decision to attend Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School is an easy one. “I am often asked how come it looks like I know what I am doing in a fuel funny car and my answer is ‘I listened to everything Frank Hawley told me.’ I do not have natural talent. Frank’s instruction on how to drive a Super Comp car is exactly what you need to drive a Funny Car. If you have the desire and listen to Frank, you too can drive any type of race car. Honestly, I think the classroom part of the course is much more important than the racetrack part of the course. He is the most thorough teacher I have ever met.” – NHRA Funn y Car Driver Robert Hight “The information I received at the School from Frank has improved my life professionally and personally. Everyone that wants to improve their mind and their skills should take this course.”- NHRA Top Fuel Driver Antron Brown “I started at Frank’s in his Alcohol Funny Car class. It was a great program and got me started in the right direction. I’d recommend his course to anyone. I always say you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Hawley’s School is a heck of a place to start.” – NHRA Top Fuel Driver Tony Schumacher “Frank knows what he’s talking about. He understands the demands placed on drivers today and is able to work with drivers at all levels, from novice to Pro. If you’re thinking about race instruction, you need to go to Frank.” – NHRA Top Fuel/Funny Car/Pro Modified Driver Melanie Troxel Upcoming SC/SG Classes Listed Below. Call for PSB, Top Dragster, Top Sportsman, TAFC and TAD dates! July 10-11, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL July 16-17, 2012 – Summit Motorsports Park, Norwalk, OH July 24-25, 2012 – Bandimere Speedway, Denver, CO August 7-8, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL August 21-22, 2012 – Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, PA September 11-12, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL September 25-26, 2012 – Royal Purple Raceway, Houston, TX October 1-2, 2012 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV October 3-4, 2012 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV October 16-17, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL November 6-7, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL November 19-20, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL December 4-5, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL December 27-28, 2012 – Auto Plus Raceway, Gainesville, FL