Just a Drag


Richard Railton


You know all of those bench race sessions among elite racers that you’ve heard about? You’ve always wished you were a fly on the wall during certain moments? You wanted to head on one of those crazy roadtrips? Here’s your chance.

Railton was a Bay Area racer. You can tell this quickly when you see that Pete Ogden writes the forward and the Introduction is by Andy and Sue Brizio.

Just like all benchrace sessions, some of the stories are probably embellished though I won’t try to guess which. Still, the entire piece gives a very accurate image of the evolvement of racers from buzz-boxed Model As with flatheads to professional dragsters with blown nitrated Chryslers. And this book not only covers the racing sections of life, but living, partying, building and reaching the tracks.

You’ve seen pictures of Cadillac engines in modified coupes and roadsters, here are the snippets of how some of them got there. This includes the many local auto parts outlets and speed shops used, all of the drive-ins and hangout, and the trouble gotten into betwixt and between.

The names involved are an incredible who’s who of NorCal racing – Jim Davis, Roy Thode, Ted Gotelli, Rich Guasco, Dale Emery, Dave Jeffers, George Santos, Sammy Hale, Paul Sutherland, and dozens of others. And, if the author somehow forgot any of his circle’s names, their nickname is there anyway.

That Mr. Railton crossed all of these paths over a few years is impressive indeed. Furthermore, he developed friendships that have lasted and shares all of it inside Just A Drag! And, if Railton developed a less-than-friendly relationship with one of the list, he elaborates that as well, calls that person a few names, and we share the whys. It is very refreshing.

As time evolves, many of the local NorCal racers toured up and down the coast (and further) and made names for themselves. Others went to work at some pretty famous spots. Then they headed for events like the March Meet, the Winternationals and Nationals, and added such innovations such as “zoomie” headers to their cars. We ride along on all of it. Did you ever want to know how touring racers washed and maintained their parachutes on the cheap? It’s in there too.

Just A Drag! is a superb accounting on the formative years (about 1958-1966) of drag racing and a whole bunch of experiences by dozens of true characters.