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SPORTS WEEKEND | MOTOR RACING / JERRY CROWE

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

July 30, 1999|JERRY CROWE

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.

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