Limited-Edition Print of 350 (13x19)
Signed and numbered by the Artist.
By the time June rolled around, California had already hosted 4 major Drag Racing events, including NHRA, AHRA, UDRA, and Bakersfield, with all four races being won by different teams. The “Hot Rod Magazine” Championships at Riverside was the next major race in 1966 schedule.
The 66 HRM meet, (in the words of Hot Rod Magazine writer Jerry Gross) would be known as “The Great Tire Showdown.” Leading engine builders such as Ed Pink, Keith Black, and Dave Zeuschel had been screaming for ‘more traction!” Claiming that they had all the horsepower in the world but they couldn’t get it connected to the track…
M&H RaceMaster, along with Goodyear had heeded the call as they arrived at the race with truckloads of newly developed tire (slicks) combinations. M&H’s new “Silver Streak 350” tires were 11.08” in width and 30.5” tall. The tire provided a 7” footprint, and would grow in circumference to 34.5” at top end speed while maintaining the same 7” footprint. As the tires grew in circumference at the top-end, they acted as a high gear allowing the cars to gain higher speeds and lower ETs.
Goodyear had their new 4-ply “Blue Streak” tires on hand, measuring 31”tall and 11” wide. The Goodyear tires did not grow radically at high speeds, and were said to be more stable while maintaining a wider surface area for more traction.
All the teams (with the exception of four) competing to qualify for the top 32 spots, were on M&H slicks, and by the end of the first two qualifying sessions on Friday, Tim Beebe was holding down the number 1 spot with a 7.48 at 210.28mph.
On Saturday morning, Connie Swingle driving Ed Pink’s “Old Master” shattered McEwen’s old track record with 7.38 at 212.26 on M&H slicks. The best was yet to come, as John Mulligan driving the Adams & Wayre Fueler, set a new all time low ET with 7.24 at 219.50, again on M&H tires.
Now McEwen being the UDRA President at the time, had his sites set on winning this race (his first major event), so much so, that he was the first to send in his application and received entry Number 1. Being only one of four teams running Goodyear slicks, Tom came out Saturday and ran a 7.42 at 208.80 to insure him a top eight position in the sixteen-car field. By the end of Saturdays qualifying, M&H tires could boast the top four spots, and eight out of the top ten qualifying positions.
First up on Sundays elimination runs, Ronnie Rivero (filling Norm Weekly’s vacated driver’s seat) in the “Frantic Four” car, set low ET of the first round with a 7.33 at 221.66mph. Low qualifier John Mulligan, red lighted against Mike Sorokin in “Surfers” entry. McEwen ran a 7.51 pulling his foot off the throttle in the traps slowing his speed 175.43mph, as per the Baney-McEwen-Pink’s strategy to save the engine.
In the second round, McEwen legged it to an even better 7.48 again lifting in the lights to save the motor, running a 195.64mph. By the end of round two, seven of the eight remaining competitors were on M&H slicks, with only the “Mongoose” as Goodyear’s final placeholder.
In the third round, McEwen once again took it easy running a 7.50 at 192.70 to defeat Hank Clark. “Rookie” Gerry Glen with his second hole shot of the day, put away Rivero with a 7.55 at 211.76, to Ronnie’ quicker and faster 7.44 at 215.82. However, the Winkle and Trapp entry driven by Glenn suffered parts damage, which allowed Rivero back into the Semi-finals.
McEwen and Rivero both came out on top in the Semi’s, with McEwen running a 7.61 at a slowing 191.08. This set the finals with Goodyear’s “Mongoose,” up against M&H tire’s “Frantic 4.”
Rivero had previously run a 7.33 at 221mph at Pomona with his strong 389ci. 56 Chrysler hemi, so the team of Baney-McEwen-Pink knew they had their hands full in the finals. Ed Pink, acting as crew chief for the “Mongoose, had only run their 57 Chrysler 392 hemi on 75% nitro in the previous rounds, knowing they would need to step it up for the finals, he would tip the can to 90%. As the car had run higher ETs on each of the preceding runs, McEwen decided to put fresh set of Goodyear slicks on the car just to make sure everything was at it’s ”best” for the final sprint. However, the finals wouldn’t be without its controversy.
Back in the staging lanes (which was turn 9 at Riverside Raceway,) the two finalists flipped a coin for lane choice, McEwen won the toss and he chose the left lane. As they push-started the cars towards the starting line, the “Mongoose” was first to fire and he did quick burnout to get tires evenly scrubbed and scuffed. With the spectators on their feet, and hanging off the fences in anticipation of a scorching final race, the two cars crept towards the starting line. The “Mongoose” quickly rolled into the beams and staged the car, hoping to rattle Rivero by staging quickly. Rivero inched forward ever so slowly, trying to counter-act McEwen’s quick stage. He lit the pre-stage bulb, and then slowly inch-by-inch, moved forward enough to cause the staged-bulb to flicker. When the staged-bulb flickered the starter hit the switch. Because of Rivero’s shallow stage, the car’s vibration was causing the staging light to flicker on and off, so as the tree started to count down, as soon as the first amber light went out the Red light immediately came on in Rivero’s lane, even though he hadn’t moved. The Starter seeing this quickly recycled the tree and started the countdown again. At the same moment, Rivero had grabbed the brake handle to hold the car still and was pointing at the tree to show the Red light had came on for the second time. In the meantime, McEwen unaware of what was transpiring as he was concentrating on his side of the Tree, while patiently holding his beast in check, saw the lights countdown and at the green he was gone, while Rivero just sat there.
Making his best run of the event, McEwen sped through the lights at 7.39 seconds at 202.70mph, seemingly to win his first major race. Meanwhile back at the starting line, Rivero had unbuckled, gotten out of the car, and was throwing a hissy-fit over what just transpired. By the time McEwen was towed back to the starting line, all the cussing and swearing had subsided. It was agreed that Rivero was the victim of a freak occurrence, and in a gentlemanly fashion, the “Frantic 4”team sided with Officials to allow McEwen’s victory to stand…
The first round of the “Tire Wars” had gone to Goodyear, and the 29-year-old Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen had won his first major event and received a whopping $3,700 dollar check for his efforts.
Thanks to Jerry Gross for the technical data for this story..