In addition to the Dragstalgia Showmanship Trophies presented by Santa Pod Raceway, BDRHoF member Pete Crane presented his dedicated ‘Spirit of ‘76’ award for outstanding contributions to nostalgia drag racing in the UK which this year was awarded to the Original Hot Rod Drags team: Alan Martin, Steve Tristrim and Martyn Payne – members of the National Street Rod Association.
The trophy was devised and founded in 2016 by Pete, who is a legend of UK drag racing for his own outstanding achievements at the 1976 10th anniversary Internationals at Santa Pod (hence the name). He ran the first 5 second pass (5.97s) outside of America with the Crane & Edmondson Top Fuel Dragster ‘Stormbringer’ an beat visiting American legend ‘King Rat’ Don Garlits during eliminations. The Spirit of ’76 Award is to acknowledge those involved in any aspect of Nostalgia racing from racers to admin staff, crew members and anyone else involved in running or shaping the nostalgia racing scene. The award is also in association with Santa Pod Raceway.
Born from an idea put to Long Marston track and airfield owner Anthony Hodges by Alan, Steve, Martyn, and along with the fourth member of the group Mark Fullard, the ‘Gang of Four’ as they were later to be known, also enticed one of the largest hot rodding groups in the UK – National Street Rod Association to be involved with the idea of a nostalgia drag meeting, something the NSRA hadn’t been involved with since the early seventies National Drag Racing Club Roadster Register, which later morphed into the NSRA in 1972.
The first, and billed as the ‘Original’ Hot Rod Drags, took place at the renamed Avon Park Raceway (formerly Long Marston) in 1989. That first meeting was so popular with the hot rodders and drag racers that a second meet entered the tracks calendar making it an annual affair. In fact, the Hot Rod Drags became so popular that the Gang of Four created a second event five years down the line and aptly named it the Nostalgia Nationals, still following its RWYB approach for pre ’73 hot rods and American classics with both events running right up until Shakespeare County Raceway’s final years.
As the events gained more popularity, the lads started to introduce further elements with the introduction of the ‘dusk to night’ Cacklefest at the 2008 20th anniversary Hot Rod Drags. This also found its way into the Nostalgia Nationals event with something similar called the Ring of Fire cackle for featured classes. Again, further introductions led to some of the country’s popular nostalgia classes having rounds at both events. These included the Wild Bunch, Outlaw Anglia, Nostalgia Fuel Altered Association and Supercharged Outlaws and the NSRA’s adopted Gasser Circus class. They also introduced the Flathead Meltdown Challenge for the legendary and varied selection of Flathead powered hot rods and dragsters.
With the imminent closure of Shakespeare County in 2017 both events moved to Santa Pod in 2018 to further highlight the NSRA’s involvement with the raceway and Dragstalgia.
The award was presented on the start line during Sunday’s Dragstalgia eliminations by Pete to Alan, Steve and Martyn who now join previous recipients that include the late Stuart Bradbury, founding chairman of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame, Wild Bunch administrator Claire Meaddows , author, photojournalist and commentator Keith Lee , Wild Bunch and Supercharged Outlaw founder and racer Roy Wilding , photojournalist and Nostalgia Fuel Altered Association founding member and team owner Lawrie Gatehouse , and last year British Drag Racing historian and hot rodding enthusiast Nick Pettitt.
NB: There was no award presented in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Peter Crane was inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2011; https://britishdragracinghof.co.uk/peter-crane/.
National Street Rod Association was inducted in the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2022;
Photo courtesy of Julian Hunt on behalf of Eurodragster.com.