As Far as Boyd Is Concerned, It's Not a Drag Getting Old

Drag racer Jim Boyd of Redondo Beach is a walking, talking time capsule--a man trapped in a bygone era who sees no reason to escape.

"I never found anything that great about the '90s," he says, "so I stayed in the '60s."

Boyd, 61, hasn't cut his flowing blond hair since 1965. He wears the same bell-bottom jeans, complete with holes in the knees, that he wore 30 years ago. He still favors the music of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He displays three Lava lamps in his apartment. He pulls his dragster behind a 1964 El Camino. He rides a 50-year-old bicycle to work every day. And he refers to his 47-year-old wife, Nancy, as "my old lady."

One aspect of the '60s lifestyle, however, never interested him.

"I had my choice to go druggin' or go draggin'," he says, laughing, "and I went draggin'."

He is still hooked.

"This is such an addiction," he says of drag racing, "that you can't not do it. Once it gets in your blood, you can't not do it."

Boyd will do it again this weekend, driving Red Turkey--his old-style, front-engine top-fuel dragster--against some two dozen other competitors Saturday and Sunday in the Goodguys Hot Rod Happening at Pomona Raceway.

The event, part of the Goodguys Vintage Drag Racing Assn. series, showcases the type of racing that was featured in weekly shows at tracks from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley during the Southland's golden age of drag racing in the '60s, before high costs and corporate sponsorships forced drivers such as Boyd to the sidelines.

Boyd, who operated on a shoestring budget while competing against drag racing legends such as Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen, thought his racing career had ended when he blew out the engine and blew off the body of his funny car on the night in 1972 when Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach staged an event called "The Last Drag Race" before closing its doors.

"We had nothing left," he says.

For the next 15 years, Boyd and his buddies talked about almost nothing other than "the good ol' days," when every Saturday night was reserved for racing.

So when so-called nostalgia drag racing started to take off in the late '80s, the father of four didn't hesitate to get involved.

"To all of a sudden have a chance to do it again was unbelievable," he says. "It's like those golfers who are done--they're through, they're finished--and all of a sudden they have a senior citizen's tour."

But it's not cheap.

"We thought it would be a little hobby," says Boyd, who works as a mechanic restoring classic cars and hot rods at a garage in El Segundo. "We knew things were a little more expensive. The last car we built in the '60s cost about $5,000. On the new car, we used swap-meet parts and it cost about $25,000--and that was the weakest, barest essentials. We went past $100,000 years ago.

"Since then, I don't even want to talk about it. Everything I make goes right into the car."

The 6-foot-6 Boyd, who races about four times a year, is so serious about competing that, after putting on some unwanted weight in the early '90s, he took up bicycling to stay in shape. In less than a year, he dropped 40 pounds to 195, his racing weight in the '60s, and he has kept the weight off by continuing to ride about 50 miles a day on a 1949 one-speed Schwinn that weighs a hefty 72 pounds.

This time, he says, he's in racing to stay.

"I have no desire to quit at all," he says. "Everybody tells me they're going to bury me in the car. I've got a big long slot all ready to go. Just put me in the car, drop me in the hole and cover me up."

IRRITABLE AT IRWINDALE

In hopes of staging a reprise of the closest all-time finish in a NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series event, officials at Irwindale Speedway began hyping Saturday night's Food 4 Less 100.

On May 15 at the track, Greg Pursley of Newhall held off hard-charging Keith Spangler of Chatsworth by .019 of a second, or about a quarter of a hood-length.

With the crowd on its feet for much of the race, Pursley led all 100 laps on the Irwindale half-mile while Spangler worked his way up from 24th starting position to what was described as a gap of less than 20 inches short of the victory.

Pursley, though, won't be around for a rematch Saturday after he and car owner Tom Fry were suspended by NASCAR this week because of Fry's tirade last Saturday night after tech inspectors at Irwindale took a victory from the driver because of an equipment violation.

Fry was suspended until Aug. 11, fined $250 and put on probation through the end of the year for "actions detrimental to auto racing," including "verbal abuse of a track official" and "threatening to do bodily harm to a track official," according to a NASCAR penalty notice. Pursley was assessed the same fine and probation and will be suspended through Wednesday.

Reached Thursday night, Fry was unapologetic.

"It was time to stand up and let the powers that be [at Irwindale] know that we don't want to continue to be pushed around," said Fry, noting that Pursley has had three victories taken away this year.

Earlier in the week, Fry said: "I don't want to be a whiner, but it just seems strange to me that they can find all kind of reasons to DQ us, and it doesn't happen to anybody else."

Spokesman Doug Stokes denies that Irwindale officials are picking on Pursley, adding that as many as 10 other winners have been disqualified because of equipment violations this year, and says it's disappointing that Pursley won't race Saturday night.

"It leaves a hole in our event," Stokes said. "People come to see that guy race. We need talent like him. He's a very exciting driver. We'll miss him terribly."

Spangler also will miss Pursley, though it was Spangler's spectacular run through the field--and not Pursley's victory--that made their May 15 race so memorable.

"I still have people come up and talk to me about it," Spangler said. "Everybody I talk to says I won the race. They don't even talk about the [No.] 98 car winning because nobody really cared. To me, that's just like winning. I didn't get the trophy and what have you, but a lot of people were very appreciative of a good race, and that felt good."

With Fry feuding with Irwindale officials, though, Spangler and Pursley may never get a rematch at the San Gabriel Valley facility.

Asked if he'll race again at Irwindale, Fry paused.

"I like to race there," he said. "It's a nice track, a beautiful facility. I just think we need to get to the table and have a discussion about why is it they've been on this witch hunt, if you will.

"Let's resolve the problem, if there's a problem. If it's between me and someone, let's get it on the table and resolve it. And if we can't resolve it, then I guess I shouldn't go back. It doesn't do any good to work as hard as our team does to have it taken away."

IT COULD BE A LONG RECOVERY

Just because two-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher is out of action because of a broken leg doesn't mean he's out of the money.

Although the German driver, injured in the British Grand Prix on July 11, could be sidelined the rest of the season, he won't have any financial hardship.

After paying $3.8 million in insurance premiums over the last year, Schumacher is collecting $108,000 per day while he recuperates.

Should he not be able to drive in the last eight races of the 16-event season, he would collect $12 million.

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This Week's Races

BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL, Gateway 250

* When: Today, first-round qualifying, 5 p.m.; Saturday, second-round qualifying, noon; Saturday, race (TNN, 6 p.m.)

* Where: Gateway International Raceway (egg-shaped oval, 1.25 miles, 11 degrees banking in turns 1-2, 9 degrees in turns 3-4), Madison, Ill.

* Race distance: 200 laps, 250 miles.

* Last race: Andy Santerre got his first NASCAR Grand National victory, holding off Tim Fedewa by less than a second to win the NAPA AutoCare 250. Santerre was making only his third start this season because of a broken leg.

* Next race: Kroger 200, Aug. 6, Clermont, Ind.

****

CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS, Pennzoil-VIP Discount 200

* When: Saturday, qualifying, 1 p.m.; Sunday, race (ESPN, 9 a.m.).

* Where: New Hampshire International Speedway (oval, 1.058 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns), Loudon, N.H.

* Race distance: 200 laps, 211.6 miles.

* Last race: Greg Biffle held off several challenges late in the goracing.com 200 at Michigan Speedway for his second consecutive, and fourth in his last six.

* Next race: IRP 200, Aug. 5, Clermont, Ind.

****

INDY RACING LEAGUE, Mid-Atlantic 200

* When: Saturday, qualifying (Speedvision, 9 a.m.); Sunday, race 9:30 a.m. (Channel 11, noon, tape).

* Where: Dover Downs International Speedway (oval, 1-mile, 24 degrees banking in turns), Dover, Del.

* Race distance: 200 laps, 200 miles.

* Last race: Scott Sharp got his first IRL victory of the year in the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 in Atlanta. Sharp jumped from fifth to second in the season standings with 159 points, 21 less than Scott Goodyear.

* Next race: Colorado 200, Aug. 29, Fountain.

****

FORMULA ONE, German Grand Prix

* When: Saturday, qualifying (Speedvision, 4 a.m.); Sunday, race (Speedvision, 4:30 a.m.)

* Track: Hockenheimring (road course, 4.239 miles), Hockenheim, Germany.

* Race distance: 180.755 miles, 45 laps.

* Last race: Eddie Irvine won the Austrian Grand Prix, boosting Ferrari's hopes of its first Formula One championship in 20 years. Irvine held off David Coulthard to win for the second time this season.

* Next race: Hungarian Grand Prix, Aug. 15, Budapest.

****

NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSN., Prolong Northwest Nationals

* When: Today, first-round qualifying, 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, second-round qualifying, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2, 7 p.m.); Sunday, final eliminations, 11 a.m. (ESPN2).

* Where: Seattle International Raceway, Kent, Wash.

* Last race: Jeg Coughlin beat brother Troy and set an elapsed-time track record while winning the pro stock final at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver. In other events, Joe Amato earned his third top fuel victory of the year and Tony Pedregon got his third funny car win of the year.

* Next race: Autolite Nationals, Aug. 6-8, Sonoma, Calif.

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