Honorees Named for National Hot Rod Reunion

April 12, 2005
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A moonshiner, a racing team with a limousine and a man who wore a tuxedo to work at drag strips are among those named honorees for the 3rd Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by DuPont Automotive Finishes, June 18-20 at Beach Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Ky.

This year’s honorees are Joseph “Corky” Coker, the Dead End Kids, Hubert Platt, Eldon “Sy” Sidebotham and “Akron Arlen” Vanke.  The Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight will fall on the S & S Racing Team while the Grand Marshal will be “Gentleman Joe” Schubeck.  They will be feted on Fri., June 17 at a reception in the Holiday Inn and Convention Center, host hotel for the event.

“Our honorees are just one part of what makes the Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion unique,” said Sam Jackson, executive director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, which produces and benefits from the annual event.  “As part of our ‘living museum’ focus, we’re bringing together these legends in the sport with fans who may not have seen them for many years.”

 "Gentleman" Joe Schubeck
 "Gentleman Joe" Schubeck. NHRA photos.
Joe Schubeck
built his first flathead-powered dragster in 1955 while still a high school student in his native Lakewood, Ohio.  In the early 1960s, he was one of the dominant dragster pilots in the Midwest in both gas and fuel.  In 1962, he formed Lakewood Industries and began manufacturing dragster chassis which received numerous Best Engineered honors.  By the mid-60s, he was approached by George Hurst to drive the twin-engine “Hurst Hairy Olds” funny car with which he played up his “Gentleman Joe” nickname with a firesuit fashioned as a tuxedo.  In 1967, he retired from the cockpit to devote more time to his business.  Concern over more frequent and violent clutch explosions led him to develop the hydroformed Lakewood total containment bellhousing.  His company eventually became part of the Mr. Gasket empire.  He moved to the west coast in the 1970s and developed twin-plug hemi cylinder heads, the Eagle overhead cam racing engine and precision valvetrain components.  He served five consecutive terms on the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) board of directors and was chairman of its safety committee.

Joseph “Corky” Coker is president of Coker Tire Company, the
 Corky Coker
 "Corky" Coker, president of Coker Tire and chairman of SEMA.
world’s largest distributor of antique and classic automobile tires.  Coker was a founding member and former chairman of the Automobile Restoration Market Organization (ARMO), the restoration council of SEMA.  After several years on the SEMA board of directors, he became chairman in 2003 making him the first chairman to come from the restoration/street rod segment of the automotive aftermarket.  He is an avid supporter of the hobby with his personal garage of more than 70 collector cars and motorcycles.  In 2004, he received the Meguiar’s Award as the Collector Car Hobby’s Person of the Year.

 The Dead End Kids
 The Dead End Kids at Pocono Dragstrip with Miss Pocono.
The Dead End Kids were a Top Fuel dragster team from the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y.  Red Lang, Spider Razon and Joe Anahory grew up together and eventually formed a formidable team that despite its unlikely origins became a formidable force in the 1960s at drag strips from Sanford, Me. to Long Beach, Calif.  In 1963, the trio bought a Tommy Ivo chassis and began touring the country using a 1950 Chrysler limousine as a tow car.  They were one of a handful of race teams to beat Don “The Snake” Prudhomme during the Greer, Black and Prudhomme dragster’s incredible winning streak in 1963.  Their car even made the cover of Popular Science magazine.  Anahory and Razon eventually moved to California and worked closely with Don Alderson in the development of his Milodon racing components.  Lang was the first NHRA Division 1 Top Fuel champion, winning the title in 1965 and ’66.  He retired from dragster racing in the early ’70s and briefly dabbled in Funny Cars before retiring from the sport completely.

Hubert Platt, born in South Carolina, did his share of moonshine
 Hubert Platt
 Hubert Platt
hauling between Georgia and Carolina in the mid-1950s.  Moving to Atlanta later that decade, he began drag racing a series of Chevy gassers.  As teammate to “Dyno Don” Nicholson on the Nalley Chevrolet team, he ran Super Stock in 1962-63.  When Chevy pulled out of racing, he moved to Ford and a long series of altered wheelbase Georgia Shaker funny cars including his famed wheelstanding Falcon.  A series of tube-framed fiberglass-bodied Mustang Funny Cars brought numerous wins and record performances.  In 1967, Ford moved him to Super Stock, where he ran the popular Eastern Ford Performance clinics.  In the early ‘70s, he became a Pro Stock racer until his retirement from racing in 1977.  He is a member of several drag racing Halls of Fame and has served as Grand Marshal of the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.

 Eldon "Sy" Sidebotham
 Eldon "Sy" Sidebotham competed against the Dead End Kids.
Eldon “Sy” Sidebotham
is one of the most dedicated of a famous group of New England hot rodders.  He began drag racing with partners Dave Crehan and Harvey Richardson in 1956 with an Olds-powered roadster.  By 1959, the team had the fastest gas dragster on the east coast at 161 mph in their TE-440 chassis using a blown Olds for power with Sy as the driver.  All were members of the Orientals car club of Reading, Mass.  In 1963, Sy built his own fuel dragster chassis and when not running the strip at Sanford, Me., competed against touring racers such as fellow honorees, the Dead End Kids.  In 1966, Sy, along with his very supportive mother Eleanor “Ma” Sidebotham, was among those who founded New England Dragway at Epping, N.H.  It’s the sole drag strip surviving in New England.  Since 2002, Sy has enthusiastically participated in nearly every Cacklefest, hauling the restored King and Marshall Top Fuel dragster all the way to Bakersfield, Indy and Bowling Green from his home in New Hampshire.

“Akron Arlen” Vanke’s involvement in drag racing dates back to the
 "Akron Arlen" Vanke
 "Akron Arlen" Vanke won the U.S. Nationals in 1968.
mid-1950s with flathead coupes, ’56 Chevys and one of the first blown gassers in Ohio.  He first came to national prominence behind the wheel of a whole series of Pontiacs fielded by Bill Knafel and his Anderson (later Knafel) Pontiac dealership.  He raced everything from station wagons to Tempests, winning Super Stock class honors at the ’62 NHRA Nationals behind the wheel of a ’62 Catalina.  In a V8-powered Tempest, he set a ’63 A/FX mark of 11.89 seconds at 123.98 mph.  Switching to the Mopar brand in the mid-’60s, his career continued to build when he won the ’68 U.S. Nationals Super Stock Eliminator title at the wheel of a factory-backed ’68 Plymouth Barracuda.  He became known as one of the masters of shifting a four-speed transmission at wide open throttle.  He raced into the early ’70s as one of the most popular builder/drivers in the newly created Pro Stock category.  As one of the “Hemi Heroes,” he was named an honorary starter for the Super Stock Hemi Challenge at the 50th U.S. Nationals in September, 2004.

S & S Racing Team has been named to the Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight.  Running out of Chuck Stolze’s S & S Parts Company in Falls Church, Va., the popular team from the 1960s consisted of top drivers in both the supercharged and unblown gasser categories.  Members included the legendary K.S. Pittman, Gene Altizer, Dave Hales, Porky Zartman, Malcolm Durham and Fred Bear.

The Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by DuPont Automotive Finishes, is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm.  Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, located in Pomona, Calif., the National Hot Rod Reunion is part of the museum’s “living history” focus, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.  The Reunion encompasses a wide variety of activities and events, including:

  • NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport’s most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks
  • Street rod “show and shine,” presented by SoffSeal, with thousands of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, custom cars, classics and muscle cars.  Memory Lane” will have a display of nostalgic race cars.
  • Cruise Night through historic Bowling Green on Thursday
  • National Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the Bowling Green University Plaza Hotel convention center ballroom on Friday evening, June 17.  Open to everyone, it’s a tribute to the Reunion’s Grand Marshall and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing’s heroes.
  • Parish Heacock Pit Pass Barbeque on Saturday afternoon at the oval track.
  • Concert by Gary Lewis and The Playboys, presented by GMP, on Sat., June 18, 5 -7 p.m.
  • Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the “old days.”
  • Swap meet and Reunion Midway filled with manufacturer exhibits and demonstrations
  • A separate amusement park with rides and games for all ages adjacent to the park.


The third annual National Hot Rod Reunion will be held Friday through Sunday, June 17-19, 2005, and be held at Beech Bend Park, 798 Beech Bend Rd., Bowling Green, Ky.

Information, including a full activities schedule, entry forms and tickets, is available through the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at http://museum.nhra.com or by sending a post card or note to NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, P.O. Box 2345, Pomona, Calif. 91769.   Requests can be emailed to themuseum@nhra.com.

 Proceeds of the Holley Hot Rod Reunion, presented by DuPont Automotive Finishes, will benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

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