Gasser Showdown

Old-School, Heads-Up Drag Racing from the Southeast Gassers Association

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography by the Author

The ’60s marked an important time in drag racing history, as the “gasser wars” raged at backwoods dragstrips, national events, and match races across the country. Enthusiastic youngsters ran to the fence to watch their local heroes blast down the track. Back then, track prep was non-existent and race tire manufacturers hadn’t perfected compounds or sidewall construction, so the cars were unpredictable. As the years went on, drag cars became more civilized and much faster, but through the process, they lost the excitement that brought people to their feet. Now, more than 50 years later, the Southeast Gassers Association is bringing excitement back to drag racing with old-school, heads-up action.

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002 SS camaro drag race

Quain Stott and his crew that operates the Southeast Gassers Association puts a strong emphasis on authenticity when it comes to the cars that are eligible for competition. The cars are heavily scrutinized for proper vintage appearance, and there is an extensive rules package that keeps the racing intense for all classes. There are no indexes, no brackets, no handicaps—just true heads-up racing where the first car to the finish line wins. Our favorite part of the formula is that every car in competition must have a manual transmission. Although that wasn’t a rule carried over from the ’60s, it adds “wow factor” to the Southeast Gassers Association races. It’s not uncommon to hear 10,000-rpm burnouts, and you won’t hear the cars banging off a two-step on the starting line. These cars are hard to drive and exciting to watch, and that’s exactly what keeps racers and spectators coming back.

003 corvette gasser drag race

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Missed Last Year’s Coverage: Period-Correct Gassers Race Heads Up at Knoxville Dragway

We had the chance to see the Southeast Gassers in action at Knoxville Dragway, located in Maynardville, Tennessee. Thousands of spectators filed in and turned back the clocks to 1967 as they watched and listened to the gassers, Super Stockers, and A/FX match racers do battle on the eighth-mile track. The weather was hot, and the racers worked hard to tame their machines as track temperatures climbed throughout the afternoon. Even with the hot weather, it was still common to see the cars leave with the wheels in the air and bring them back up on each gear change.

004 huge meats burnout drag strip

Chevrolet dominated the Knoxville event, taking home victories in Super Stock, A/FX, A/Gas, B/Gas and C/Gas. In Super Stock, it was Rick Varner in his ’67 Camaro getting the job done on the mandated 7-inch-wide slicks. Rob Walden won the A/FX category driving Rocky Platt’s “Dixie Twister” Nova. C/Gas saw an old favorite back in the winner’s circle, as Todd Oden wheeled his ’58 Impala to victory after a lengthy dry spell. The B/Gas division has several Chevy II contenders, and it was the local favorite Ted McKee in his “Rocky Top Missile” ’67 Chevy II taking home the win. The big dogs in A/Gas put on a show, and it was Kenneth Phillips in the “Silver Streak II” Corvette taking the win over heavy hitters Leslie Horne, Gabriel Burrell, and Ben Christopher. The side-by-side racing was intense all day with very little downtime, so the fans stayed glued to the action until the final pair of cars went down the track.

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005 chevy wheely bar burn out drag strip

Knoxville fans will get a second dose of Southeast Gassers Association racing on September 9, but there are several other races in South Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, and a new event for 2023 at Gulfport Dragway on October 7, which happens during the Cruisin’ the Coast event. For more information on the Southeast Gassers Association you can check out southeastgassers.com.

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