November 30, 2022

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

The Twist of Lemon funny car at Milan Dragway

Ventresca and Lane with the Twist of Lemon Alcohol Funny Car

Ventresca and Lane with the Twist of Lemon Funny Car

My first visit to Milan Dragway came in late ’75. Although most mid-west tracks had closed for the season, Milan booked in a thirteen-car Pro-Comp program to wrap up the year. A single flip-top funny car stood out among the blown-alcohol and injected-fuel rails.

Louis Ventresca was at the wheel of the Chevy-powered Twist of Lemon Challenger. According to Ventresca’s son John, the car was named after his father’s favorite form of iced tea.

The Twist of Lemon flopper was Ventresca’s second major race car. Ventresca and partner Ron Lane began campaigning an A/Fuel dragster in 1970. Utilizing an injected 354 Chrysler Hemi on nitro, the rail was destroyed in a fire in 1971. The Ohio team regrouped to field a funny car for the ’73 season.

The Former Color Me Gone

When I first encountered the Challenger in ’75, I had no way of knowing the car’s impressive pedigree. Ventresca and Lane acquired the highly successful Seaport Automotive entry from Dick Titsworth in 1973.

But it gets even more interesting. According to John Ventresca, Titsworth had bought the car from nonother than Roger Lindamood, making this car the 1970 version of the famous Color Me Gone. This appears to be the first of two Challengers Lindamood match-raced in the early ’70s.

As a former Color Me Gone, Twist of Lemon was equipped with all the good stuff, including a Logghe Chassis and Bergler tin work.

When they first obtained the car, Ventresca and Lane installed a nitro-burning injected big-block Chevy in the car. An experienced fabricator, Ventresca narrowed the chassis and lowered the body.

Twist of Lemon becomes a BB/FC Pro Comp Entry

As the Pro Comp category came into the mainstream, the team abandoned nitromethane and added a supercharger. Still with Chevy power, the alcohol version of Twist of Lemon funny car became a true BB/FC.

The afternoon I saw the car at Milan, Ventresca survived his first pairing, then got crossed up and shut off early in round two.

Ventresca and Lane ran the car from ’73 – ’78. The most successful outing came when Ventresca won a UDRA race at Thompson Dragway in Ohio. The team parked the Challenger after blowing a coupler at another UDRA event at Milan in 1978.

The car sat in a trailer for a couple of years before Ventresca and Lane found a Michigan buyer for the car. John Ventresca says he was contacted two years ago by a Canadian racer who had bought the car. It appears the Challenger has never been raced after breaking at Milan in ’78.

From Flopper to Top Fuel Kawasaki

Ventresca wasn’t through with racing, however. He put together a blown top fuel Kawasaki drag bike in the ’80s. According to John Ventresca, the Kawasaki “was cool, but never ran well.”

Louis Ventresca passed away from cancer nearly a decade ago.

Tom Bonner