BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - (Sept. 13, 2007) - The Ace is back! Actually, Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, the legendary drag racer, never left. McCulloch, who is the Grand Marshal of the Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley (Oct. 12-14, Bakersfield), is still heavily involved in drag racing, serving as crew chief for the Ron Capps-driven Don Schumacher- owned Brut Funny Car.
McCulloch who moved to Oregon from central California at a young age earned his "Ace" nickname early in his career when he outran the self- proclaimed "King of the Northwest," Jerry Ruth. In the 1960s he drove a series of dragsters, the most notable of which was the full-bodied, Fuller- chassied Albrich-McCulloch-Floyd Northwind. The Car led "The Ace" to the number one spot on the Drag News "Mr. Eliminator" list from Pete Robinson in 1965.
Funny Cars were becoming popular in the late '60s and McCulloch relished the constant match racing that was available to them. He won the first time he raced at the U.S. Nationals in 1971. In the early '70s, Ed's Revellution Duster won five of seven finals. In 1980 he won his third Indy in the Super Shops Funny Car. Joining Larry Minor's team in 1983 he appeared in at least one national event final round every year until his retirement from behind the wheel in 1993.
The last of his six Indy wins came in Top Fuel at the '92 U.S. Nationals making him one of an elite few to win Indy in both dragsters and Funny Cars.
His 22nd and last NHRA national event win came in Top Fuel in 1993 at Houston. He was named to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2000 and was voted No. 19 on NHRA's All Time Top 50 list in 2001. Since his retirement from the cockpit he has tuned for the Kalitta and Prudhomme teams and now has a home with the Schumacher team. In this Fast Five interview, McCulloch talks about the Reunion and the excitement of vintage drag racing.
1. How does it feel to be named Grand Marshal to the 16h annual Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley?
Ed McCulloch: It is an honor to be a part of the CHRR, a very special feeling to be the Grand Marshal. It will give me the opportunity to see a lot of old friends.
2. Are you surprised that people remember your racing exploits?
EM: Not really, it seems they forget when you are not around. The fact I am still racing makes people remember.
3. What are some of your fondest (and funniest) memories about your early days in drag racing? What do you miss most? Do you still see any of your old drag racing friends?
EM: I think it taught us how to survive without much money, away from home and family, and to do it all with not much help. I really don't miss much about the old days. It was more fun back then, but very hard.
That is what the CHRR is all about - to have fun and talk about the old days. I still see a lot of my old friends. In fact, Jack Coonrod one of my old pals has rebuilt "The Northwind" Top Fuel dragster and it will be at CHRR.
4. Are you surprised at the popularity of vintage drag racing? Why do you think people enjoy it so much?
EM: People want to go back and have fun. Most of the guys today have made it in the business world, and can afford to do it now better than back then. No pressure: just go have fun!
5. What do you think of today's drivers compared to those from your era?
EM: Today's drivers have a different role than in the old days. They have sponsor commitments and race press all week, and then drive on the weekend. Not many of them work on the car. Not only did we drive the race car, we worked on them, and drove the tow vehicles down the highways.
Today we race 23 three-day events. Back then we could race 100 one-night stands!
The 16th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley, is part of the museum's Hot Rod Heritage Series which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.
Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods, classics, customs and muscle cars of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.
A three-day credential for admission to all events is available for $55 by calling 800/884-NHRA (6472) or by completing a form found in the Reunion section of the Museum's web site. Auto Club members receive a $5 discount off Adult credential prices. Credentials include a goodie bag with a dash plaque, lanyard and event program. Children 15 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Daily general admission tickets/pit passes will be available at Auto Club Famoso Raceway gate, (www.famosoraceway.com). Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Auto Club discount is also available at the gate: $2 off Friday and Saturday and, $1 off Sunday.
The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:
* NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some of the sport's most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks.
* Hundreds of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, street rods, custom cars, rat rods, classics and muscle cars. "Memory Lane" will have a display of nostalgic race cars. The Justice Bros. Spotlight Award will fall on the U.S.
Drag Teams that in 1964 and '65 introduced drag racing to the U.K. The teams included Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo.
* Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bakersfield, Fri., Oct. 12, from 7 p.m.- 10 p.m. Open to everyone at no charge, it's a tribute to the Reunion's Grand Marshal, legendary drag racing champion Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, and the other Honorees . The reception offers a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes.
* Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front- engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the "old days."
* The swap meet and Manufacturer's Midway are filled with vendors and manufacturers making it easier than ever to find that hot rod part or special souvenir.
A full activities schedule, entry forms, tickets and more information are available through the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at http://museum.nhra.com. Requests may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds of the Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by Holley directly benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif. The museum houses the very roots of hot rodding.
Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.
The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non- members is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five.
Auto Club members receive discounts on admission and at the gift shop: show your card and save.
The Museum is also available for private parties, meetings, corporate events, weddings and special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, Calif. 91768.
For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit http://museum.nhra.com.