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Nitro Revival celebrates the golden era of drag racing


The Nitro Revival (November 4-5, 2023) held at the new Irwindale Dragstrip, not far from the old location in California, is a step back in time. Steve Gibbs (Hook), former VP of competition for the NHRA and founding father of the Nitro Revival, says: “It’s a means of bringing the sights and sounds from the early days of hot rodding in a nostalgic reflection that shows and experiences fans a drag-racing museum come to life with those who built and raced them back in the day.

“It’s not only a Revival of nitro-powered dragsters but a reunion of the veterans, the ones who fought the drag-racing wars together. A lot of these old guys have gone out and restored or replicated these old race cars specifically for the fire-breathing ‘nitro cackle fest’ and this event. And, I must mention, my daughter Cindy has become the driving force, and at some point I’d like to have her turn it over and continue this ‘giving back’ for me and her two boys, who are the next generation.”

I once asked Don Ewald (media director) why he did it, and he blurted out: “It keeps me alive.” Gibbs agrees, saying: “It probably keeps many of the geezers’ foot on the pedal a couple of extra years.” 

The first Nitro Revival (2017) was held at Barona Speedway in Lakeside, California and was a successful event, but the second Revival moved north to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula with the backdrop of the mighty Pacific Ocean. Jump start to 2019, when the Revival found its new home at the rebuilt 1/8-mile Irwindale Dragstrip in the San Gabriel Valley in California. 

Now, it’s in its sixth edition of an eye-watering weekend of static starts of the diggers in the pits, smoky burn-outs of the muscle cars, wheels up of the Outlaw Gassers, the screaming Fuel Altereds, and the visual excitement of header flames from about 70 fire-breathing front-engine ‘cackle dragsters’ throwing bright flames into the night sky.

The autograph session was the icing on the cake when a grouping of iconic drag racers gathered for a massive autograph signing of posters, cars and memorabilia for the hundreds who lined up to meet their idols. Among the personalities greeting the fans were Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme (above), ‘TV’ Tommy Ivo (below), the first woman of drag racing Linda Vaughn, Bones Balogh, John Force, Bob ‘Floyd’ Muravez, Danny Thompson (Mickey Thompson’s son) and many more.

Some of the nostalgic cackle cars in the line of fire were Beebe & Mulligan, Kansas John Wiebe, Dunn & Reath Rainbow, Beach City Corvette, Freight Train, Tom Hover Fishbowl, Burkholder Bros., The Vagabond, Checkmate, Samurai, Veney’s Vega, Groundshaker, Jr and a whole coral of colourful slingshot dragsters. Next year’s Nitro Revival is already in the hearts of many all over the country, with anticipation of the camaraderie and of rekindling friendships from long ago. 

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