Some say that top-fuel racing in Utah is being reborn. There is, now, at least a heartbeat. In one case, it's coming from two old vets one a racer, the other an engine.
Glenn Pearmain, a longtime drag racer who returned to the track this year after a self-imposed four-year retirement, has a new car and renewed interest in running in the sport's fastest class.And at the heart of all of this is an old engine from an old top-fuel war-horse. Pearmain is using the engine from the old "Iron Horse," at one time the king of top fuel in Utah.
And there centers the whole story of this return to racing.
Pearmain's long-time goal has been to run the quarter mile, from start to finish, in the range of five seconds. At Bonneville, it's only been done a couple of times, and that was a half-dozen years ago.
The question is, of course, can an engine with more years on it than most cars live up to today's faster-pace racing?
"No question. I've only made four complete passes with the engine, but it feels fantastic. It's there, I know it. With each run I'm going faster. Right now I'm kinda feeling my way along. It's been a while.
"But the engine is running well. I know it's there. It'll take some time to get it down, but I know it can be done," he said.
The engine does have five-second runs in it. When it belonged to Pearmain's brother, Rex, back in the heydays of top fuel when there were anywhere from 10 to 12 cars at the track on a given weekend, it became the first of its make to run in the 5s.
Now it's the heartbeat of Glenn's new car, which was pieced together over the winter by Frank Parks.
Thus far, Pearmain has won every race where he's made a complete pass two for two. And, he doesn't see things changing this Saturday when Bonneville opens for Budweiser Drag Night.
"I plan on getting into the 6s for the first time at this race," he said with determination. "I'm still trying to feel my way along with this, but I feel good. First run I'd like to break into the 6s.
"As for the engine, as it sits now I think it's capable of getting into the low 6s. It's more me getting used to the car than anything."
The Saturday race will feature Gary Swenson in a jet funny car. He will race against Les Jackson in a AA, engine-powered funny car. Jets are noted for slow starts and fast finishes, hitting speeds close to 230 miles per hour, while nitro-burning funny cars are noted for quick starts and increasing speeds well over 200 mph.
Also racing will be Jim Dunn, known as "Fireman" Jim Dunn, one of the top funny car drivers in the sport; funny car driver Ron Sutherland; AA altered driver Mark McCord; and a full field of bracket cars.
Gates will open at noon, with time trials at 3 p.m. followed by eliminations at 7 p.m. Special discount tickets are available at all Auto Parts Unlimited stores.
Pearmain said he got into racing 25 years ago, starting like most in the stock classes. In 1972, he jumped into top fuel, then back into alcohol dragsters and funny cars until four years ago when, as he said, "I found I just didn't have the time to do it right."
Given the opportunity to move back into the sport, and into top fuel, he didn't hesitate. It put back on track his dream of pushing a top fueler into the 5s.
"That, and the chance to drive a top-fuel car again, made up my mind. It wasn't fun driving funny cars. With those things you just try to keep it on the track. With top fuel you can really put 'em down the track. It's exciting.
"Then, too, it was nice being out there before Bonneville fans again. They're great. They're excited about the fact that top fuel racing is back."