Blue Suede Cruise rewards the sleek and the snarly.

Junkyard Dog defends a 55-year reputation.In the old days, Jim Oddy shopped in the junkyard.

NORWALK, Ohio – The launch. The roar.

Both drivers wanted it, hunched forward over the steering wheel and mashing gas hard.

The final round of AA Gasser eliminations captured the hold-your-breath type of fun of the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise on Sunday, July 21, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

On a hot mid-afternoon track, the Junkyard Dog owned by Jim Oddy and driven by Junior Ward thrashed bumper for bumper against Code Blue driven by Michael Campolucci, Caledon, Ontario, Canada.

And what a show! The unassuming gray Junkyard Dog and light blue Code Blue turned out the quickest Gasser side-by-side of the weekend, according to announcer Bill Bader Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park.

Junior Ward, Lynchburg, Va., launched the 1934 Willys Sedan in 0.156 second, and hauled metal for a 5.043-second elapsed time on the eighth mile, at 139 mph, compared with Michael Campolucci in a 1933 Willys Coupe with a launch of 0.206 second and a 5.132-second elapsed time at 137 mph.

One round earlier, Junior Ward in the Junkyard Dog and Nelson Bilyk, Missassauga, Ontario, Canada, in Beyond Berserk, a red-orange 1933 Willys Coupe, turned out another low E.T. side-by-side effort won by Junior Ward on a holeshot.

Perhaps the Junkyard Dog revs the Gassers got class and sass!competition while defending the reputation: Jim Oddy, your Gasser is bad!

In an old-style shootout waged through the weekend, four historic BB Funny Cars in the Great Lakes Nostalgia Funny Car Circuit screamed their finicky best at speeds approaching 200 mph.

On Championship Sunday the low elapsed time and highest mile per hour bragging rights belonged to Monty Stotz, Edgerton, Ohio, in Blue Thunder, a 1969 Camaro, with a reaction time of 0.121 second, and an elapsed time of 7.162 seconds at 189 mph.

In that round Blue Thunder ran against Nick Tilley, Clarkston, Mich., in Shyster, a 1978 Corvette, 0.079 second, 7.449 seconds at  181 mph.

Chris Massarella, Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, raced Total Insanity, a 1975 Monza; and Jerry Streb, Youngstown, Ohio peeled pavement in Dazed and Confused, a 1969 Camaro.

In all of the racing classes at the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise, figuring out the difference between show cars and work horses on the race track proved difficult. What collections of beauties!

For example, the final round of Nostalgia Super Stock lined up a sleek black 1966 Ford Fairlane owned by Glenn and Linda Steiner, Bucyrus, Ohio, against a blues and greens 1964 Dodge owned for eight years by Joe Midile Jr., Medina, Ohio.

Glenn Steiner edged Joe Midile Jr. out by shavings at the tree and a little more in the lanes for the event win.

Glenn Steiner bought the Fairlane in 1972.

“I bought it white,” Glenn Steiner said. “Ever since I had it, it was black. The only thing in the garage is black. If it isn't black, it doesn't make the garage.”

In Nostalgia Drag Racing League Pro Gas, the final round paired two 1937 Coupes: Burning Money, a bright orange Chevy owned by Sam Patrick, Sand Point Beach, Mich., and a white American Pie, owned by Dave and Donna Mullin, Lemont, Ill.
Through an American Pie red light gift, Burning Money hauled home the Briggs & Stratton Summer Jam trophy.

Sam Patrick said he's owned Burning Money for 10 years, and she wins dependably.

“I won two Good Guys here, in 2008 and 2009,” Sam Patrick said. “And Bowling Green last month. I follow this circuit.”

Part of the winning secret, Sam Patrick said, includes two favorite old T-shirts worn by Sam and his crew chief. Sam's shirt shredded in the back, held together by the painted logo.

“See this old used up shirt with holes in the back, falling apart?” Sam Patrick said. “When we put these shirts on, we win. These are nine-year-old shirts.”

The Dave Mullin family adoped American Pie about 1995.

“Took five to six years to build it,” Dave Mullin said. “It was an empty rolling hulk. I think they wanted to turn it into a Pro Street car. I saved it and made it a Gasser.

“This was my dream car my whole life, even when I was a kid,” Dave Mullin said, adding in 1967 he attended his first race as a 15 year old in Oswego, Illinois.

“All the Gasser greats were there,” Dave Mullin said. “I dreamed from that day on of getting my own blown Gasser.”

One of the founding members of the NDRL, Dave Mullin said he appreciates the group's invitation to the event by Bill Bader.

“I've never had a track bring me watermelon in the staging lanes before,” Dave Mullin said. “There was a break down. It was hot. He sent a kid around with watermelon. It was just great!”

Dave and Donna Mullin shared the pit and track experience with two of 10 of their grandchildren, 12-year-old cousins Alex and Tanner Mullin.

“They have been fabulous!” Dave Mullin said.

In hard-mashing NDRL Pro Comp action, Don “the Bad Santa” Nave and Sleigh Ride, his trusty red front engine dragster, snatched the final round win light from Dan Mannor, Jackson, Mich., in Ol' Skool Fun, a red 1927 Ford, by a difference of 0.002 second in the lanes and 0.09 second at the tree.

Don Nave, South Whitley, Ind., said he acquired his nickname through racing razzings.

“Everybody gave me a hard time about looking like Santa Claus with the red car and red racing suit and I wear suspenders,” Don Nave said. “I tell everybody it's the gray beard; it's not the fat belly.”

A “Bad Santa” pictured on the top panel of the dragster looks like the Grinch, from a children's story by Dr. Seuss, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Don Nave acquired Sleigh Ride in 1998, and races in the NDRL with the help of crew chief Rich Kreider.

“It crashed at Indy October 1, 2011,” Don Nave said. “We rebuilt it with an amazing amount of help from friends, and this is the first win since then.”

The rebuild started in December of 2011 and finished on June 14, 2012. The challenge to regain a competitive edge lingered.

“We had a terrible year last year,” Don Nave said. “But we runnered-up at the Hot Rod Reunion. Today we won it. It's a big thing.”

For his day job, Don Nave is a body man. He says his hometown of South Whitley, Ind. “Translates to Mayberry RFD. We have a Barney, too.

“So this car has had a lot of help from friends,” Don Nave said. “But it's pretty much homemade: Body, engine, paint, everything. Today I'm pretty proud of it.”

Pat and Theresa Freels and their son, Robbie Freels, drove 800 miles from their Island, Kentucky home to Summit Motorsports Park, for some good old fashioned competition in the Nostalgia Drag Racing League.

On their first visit to Norwalk, Robbie Freels won NDRL Pro 7.00 in a blue 1994 Hal Canode altered they affectionately call, “It,” because of the many questions, “What is it?”

Robbie Freels started racing with a Junior Dragster, Pat Freels said.

Pat Freels' 1966 GTO, The Islander, which is red with a white top, bowed out in the second round of NDRL Pro 7.50.

After 22 years of pulling trucks, Pat Freels, a truck driver who hauls blocks of aluminum cans to recycling, changed to drag racing in 1996.

In the final round of NDRL Pro 7.50, Wayne Sears, Middletown, Ohio, stole the cheese in his 1999 Bantam altered, Super Mouse, on a holeshot over Pat Malloy, Buchanan, Va., in a white 2003 Tuttle front engine dragster.

“This thing moves you a little bit,” said Wayne Sears, who's been racing for 28 years. “I bought Super Mouse in 2006, and took one year putting it together. It's got a Chevy 406 motor in it.

“I wanted a small-block-themed car,” Wayne Sears said, “and the mouse is associated with a small block.”

The “Super” refers to accomplishments, because Wayne Sears and Super Mouse tucked away four NDRL Pro 7.50 season championships, along with two event wins out of three 2013 events.

Wayne Sears says his arch rival in NDRL Pro 7.50, Michelle Lewis, pilots Scary Thought.

“We're like brother and sister off the track,” Wayne Sears said, adding he appreciated the entertainment at Summit Motorsports Park.

“That fireworks show last night was first class,” Wayne Sears said. “The food was great, the show, everything.”

Mark Vaught, Crawfordsville, Ind., bowed to Robbie Freels in the final round of NDRL Pro 7.00 in Phase 3 Racing, a green front engine dragster with a gold shell motif on the top panel.

“I'm an electrician,” said Mark Vaught, 62. “Phase 3 is backwards from 3-phase. I started really in 1996. I bought our first car when my son graduated from high school, and we've fiddled with it ever since.”

Ron Baker, 68, crews for Mark Vaught.

“We're in the Cluster Busters Hot Rod Club Inc., in Indianapolis,” Mark Vaught said. “It's the second oldest car club in the United States. It's the 65th anniversary this year. We meet every Tuesday night. They've never missed a year.

“It started with three guys in a drug store,” Mark Vaught said. “They were big in the NHRA.”

Donnie Gould, a painter who is a friend of Mark Vaught, designed the motif on the top of the dragster. The bottom body panels honor Beebe & Mulligan with two-toned green stripes.

Mark Vaught says driving a front engine dragster peels back a few years.

“It usually handles very well,” Mark Vaught said. “Long cars are more stable than short cars. It's like a Cedar Point roller coaster.

“But the big thing is in the end of the day you still have that excitement; you can't sleep at night; there's the adrenaline rush; and you feel like you're 16 years old.”

In the Flaming River Car Show on Sunday morning, Jeanette Ladina, president of Flaming River, praised the efforts of car owners as she passed out awards voted on by participants in the Car Show.

Then the Cruisin' Times build off encouraged car enthusiasts on both sides of the track.

“We are very fortunate to have a magazine like Cruisin' Times here in Ohio,” said Bill Bader Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park.

John Shapiro, editor of Cruisin' Times Magazine, said the build off concept emerged a year ago from an idea session to stoke interest in the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise.

“This build off program turned out to be huge,” John Shapiro said. “Most of our attendees here build cars in their garage.”

Cruisin' Times interviewed candidates for the build off and chose two guys with good personalities. The contest rules required the body style year and Wanda blue suede color, John Shapiro said. But the choice to chop or not to chop, rested with the builders.

“They thrashed right up to the moment,” John Shapiro said. “There was no sleep to get these cars done.”

John Shapiro added that people contacted the magazine with a recurring question: “Do they have jobs?”

“I'm just so proud of our builders: Bill Huff, Canton, Ohio, and Jeff Shuman, East Rochester, Ohio,” John Shapiro said.

Mark Rapson, North America representative for Wanda AkzoNobel, said Bill Huff and Jeff Shuman visited the Wanda Training Center in Detroit for a day. Neither one brought along finishing experience.

“We started from ground zero,” Mark Rapson said. “They both did an awesome job. They're both winners here.”

For their efforts, Wanda AkzoNobel awarded the builders with trophies created from actual DeVilbiss spray guns.

With a narrow fan vote margin of 352 to 321, Mark Rapson awarded Bill Huff with the People's Choice award.

Next year the build off category, customs and mild customs, features a 1949 Ford or Chevy with no air bags, painted Wanda blue suede, John Shapiro said.

In the Flaming River Car Show, for the Wanda's Choice award, Wanda chose a yellow pearl 1951 Chevy.

“Hey, I'm a chick and color matters,” Wanda said.

In the staging lanes, Frank Bernard, Akron, Ohio, tried racing for a year after 11 years in the Blue Suede Cruise Car Show with his white 1967 Plymouth Satellite with a 440 engine.

With his 1967 Plymouth, Frank Bernard also tools to the Monster Mopar Weekend Sept. 13-15, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park. But August 2-4, 2013, he lines up with a 1966 Pontiac GTO in the Ames Performance Tri Power Pontiac Nationals.

“It's what I had when I was 19 years old,” said Frank Bernard, who makes himself at home at the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise.

“I come in here Thursday night and I don't leave 'til it's over.”

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