Super Shaker: Terry Hedrick Takes Control
A familiar orange and white Nova sat in the pits. The same stripes decorated the roof, hood and decklid. It had the same Logghe Chassis and the big rat motor still rested inside the frame rails. Terry Hedrick remained the hot shoe.
There was one major difference, however. Only a month before, the Nova had appeared at Detroit Dragway as Seaton’s Super Shaker. Now Seaton’s name had vanished. Gold chroma-color lettering now identified the flip-top Nova as simply the Super Shaker.
I have to admit this was a major shock. As a huge fan of the Seaton’s Shaker race cars, I had eagerly followed the progression from match-race Chevelle to steel Corvair, which was followed by a fiberglass flip-top Corvair and the current state-of-the-art Nova. To see the car without Seaton’s name was unthinkable, especially at Detroit Dragway, which was more or less the team’s home track.
The end of Seaton’s Super Shaker
Hedrick wasn’t near the car, but a solitary crew member was relaxing on the back of the hauler. I marched up and disturbed his reverie by demanding, “What happened to Seaton?” My surprise was readily apparent in the tone of my voice.
He turned and grinned at me. With his back to the race car, he took a sip from a Coke and shook his head. “Well, Seaton just got married. His new wife told him it was her or the race car. He chose her.”
To this day, I don’t know whether this story was true or if the guy was just messing with me. Crew members get bored answering the same questions all the time, and some of them have been known to entertain themselves by spinning yarns for spectators.
Did Seaton give up the funny car for his new wife? Or was it merely time to pull away from the sport? Whatever the case, he sold the race car and hauler to driver Terry Hedrick.
I was concerned that Seaton’s withdrawal might affect the car’s performance. Seaton’s cars were consistently among the top Chevy-powered entries in the country and both the Corvair and Nova accumulated very impressive win/loss statistics. Could Hedrick continue this success on his own?
A good evening to spend in the lights
Following an exciting first round, it occurred to me I had never watched funny cars from the top end. My friends declined to join me, so I left them near the starting line. I hiked the quarter-mile to the lights and found a secluded spot near the pit side fence. It was lonely and dark, but the track lights clearly showed the end of the 1320.
The first pair was a bust. Both cars shut off early and coasted by me. I could have seen faster vehicles standing by the side of nearby I-75. The following pair wasn’t much better. When his opponent lost fire, Roger Lindamood laid down an unremarkable single.
By now, I was regretting my choice to view the round from the top-end. I missed out on the burnouts and the launch. There would have been far more action down by the starting line.
Super Shaker versus the Star of the Circuit
The nearest loudspeaker wasn’t close enough for me to hear the announcer clearly. Still, I could pick up enough to know the next pair would be Hedrick against Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick.
Instantly, I started kicking myself for wandering up into the lights. While I couldn’t see much of what was happening a quarter-mile away, I could see clouds of smoke and header flames winging over the roofs of both cars. I was missing it!
I never heard of a feud between Beswick and Hedrick, but it was evident that both drivers were determined to put the other man on the trailer. It was simply another pass at a local funny car show. Yet from the flames, smoke, and noise, you would have thought it was the final of the US Nationals.
The cars staged, and even from a quarter-mile away I could see the lights on the tree blink green. Then both cars began charging toward me, their location marked by flames from their headers.
Neither car ran perfectly straight. They weren’t crossed up, but I could see them shifting back and forth with both drivers on the brink of losing control.
On they advanced, like fire-breathing dragons in the night. They were savage, primeval, untamed.
A race to remember!
Despite the thousands of drag races I have watched, that race between Hedrick and Beswick remains the most outstanding run I ever witnessed. As they approached the finish line, the world narrowed to just those cars. For that instant, there was only the Super Shaker, The Star of the Circuit, and the finish line in the dark. Nothing else existed.
As they crossed the stripe, it was impossible to pick a winner. I was situated obliquely to the win lights, so I couldn’t see the lights clearly. Eventually, I detected a faint halo around the lamp in Hedrick’s lane.
Did I care who won? Not really. I liked both drivers and the run was so spellbinding that naming a winner was anti-climatic.
As I rambled back to where my friends waited, however, I found myself smiling. It looked like Hedrick would do just fine on his own.
Paul Stenquist’s profile of Terry Hedrick
Captured with a Kodak Instamatic on Kodak 126 film. Not bad for a plastic lens!