It’s Winternationals week, baby! I’m excited to get started with my new job and I’ve been piling up notes and stories all winter. This one is basically without compare in NHRA drag racing lore.
It is one of the most amazing drag racing stories that the NHRA Winternationals has ever produced and it involved lots of parts, a massive wreck, friends, and a thrash for the ages. The story of Eddie Hill’s 1989 Winternationals weekend will make you tired just watching the video of it. If you can believe it, the massive blow over and ensuing terrible crash was not the end of the story, but the beginning.
The story was so good it dominated the first part of the NBC Sports broadcast as Gary Gerould and Steve Evans take us through the entire scene. To begin with there was the blow over which was caused by the failure of the front wings on the dragster. When they moved the downforce of the rare wing levered the car up and it was over for Hill as a driver at that point. Flying through the air and smashing to Earth the car skidded to a stop and Hill actually jumped out. His cheery demeanor when Evans interviewed him in the ambulance is pretty amazing.
Rather than give up the team decided to press on. They located a bare chassis that belonged to Darryl Gwynn and hauled it back to their pits. Working 24 hours straight and led by crew chief Fuzzy Carter, they completely assembled the dragster out of the stuff that they had in the trailer along with a pile of things that were borrowed from other teams. They fired the car as fans literally chanted Hill’s name behind him. With a bare body in grey primer, the normally screaming yellow dragster looked weird as it rolled to the water box but the crowd did not care. Pumping his fist triumphantly as the car headed to the water, Hill prepared himself to land on the gas in a final qualifying round that he needed a 5.35 in to survive. Amazingly they did it but not without a cost. Let’s not waste any time considering the bravery of doing this the day after surviving the disaster of the previous morning.
The engine ate itself up going down track and blew the blower off at about 1,000ft. Smiling, Hill tells Evans that they are out of parts and likely done for the race. What happens after that you have to see.
Finally there’s an interview with Darryl Gwynn who Hill had to race in the first round.He talks about what he thinks of Hill and his team and that if he were ever in need that the kindness and generosity would come back to him in spades. These words became more true to Gwynn than he could’ve ever imagined when he uttered them to Steve Evans in Pomona. You never ever know, do you?
Press play to see the amazing story of Eddie Hill and the 1989 Winternationals