DI CLASSIC: Billy Glidden Looks Back on Racing His Father’s Project 514 Mustang
Where would drag racing be without its stories? Performance is impressive and the cars can be stars, but without the stories of the men—and women—behind them, what would be the point? Inherently based on a collection of arbitrary numbers—weight, horsepower, valve clearance, reaction time, ET, speed, margin of victory—drag racing requires its memories and stories if only to provide context and meaning for its very existence.
[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of a story that originally appeared in DI #62 in February of 2012.]
Seriously, no passenger car is going to wind up with better brakes or more dependability, or God knows, better fuel economy because Tony Schumacher went a record-setting 327.90 mph in a thousand feet at Charlotte last year. But you can be darn sure there’s a story to go with that record and that’s what makes it important beyond mere numbers. You just know Schumacher and his crew chief and his clutch guy and his truck driver all have memories of that day to last a lifetime and will entertain who knows how many friends and acquaintances with those stories along the way.
The stories may be humorous, they may be serious, dealing with triumph, tragedy, victory or defeat; they may be intimately personal or dramatically public, but no matter what, they give meaning.
So when Drag Illustrated asked competitors from all walks of drag racing for a few simple stories reflecting their careers, it came as no surprise that they drew on so many varied experiences. From Billy Glidden recounting his first passes down a drag strip, to Mike Hill describing a long-standing rivalry, to Whit Bazemore recognizing a part failure that paid off, their recollections, their stories, provide a glimpse into what gives each one of them meaning. But that may be why the stories are told in the first place, because each storyteller is a meaning seeker of sorts, too, while much the same goes for his audience, learning how each story reinforces its teller’s point.
2008 ADRL Extreme 10.5 World Champion
12-time NMCA Super Street Champion
Growing up, I was always about doing whatever I had to do to make Dad win because that’s how we survived. I knew that at a really, really young age. We survived off of how well we did at the races, so I always just worked at that really hard.
I never really even thought of racing myself until other people brought it up about (my brother) Rusty or me driving the car. It was the Project 514 car that Donnie Walsh Sr. and the late Steven Grebeck were working on and had actually been racing. My very first run ever in any kind of race car was actually in that car at Milan, Michigan, at a booked-in event that Dad was going to match race somebody. That was my very first run in any kind of race car. It went like 10.41, I think, my very first run. It was very exciting, but somewhat frightful, too.
I actually bracket raced that thing at that race. There were 113 cars and I got beat in the final round. I think it was 1986. Then I raced it again later in the year at Muncie, Indiana, and there were 93 cars at that race, and I got beat with three cars left in the semis.
Those were the only two times that I raced that car. Then unfortunately, at the same time, I was playing semi-pro basketball and I was doing well at that. I actually won the league MVP and had the chance to go to any pro summer basketball camp I wanted to.
But that’s also the year Dad crashed so bad in Atlanta. When he crashed like that, I quit. I didn’t play basketball for two years. Anyone who knows anything about me knows I think everything of my parents and I spent most of my life chasing my father around and to see him flipping upside down, there’s so much dust and you can’t even see the car, it just made a huge impact on my thinking in life and I felt like it was more important for me to help keep things with my family going.