The Biggest Pontiac Event Ever - The 2006 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals
With 1,044 Pontiacs Participating, It Was the Biggest Pontiac Event Ever!
From the April, 2007 issue of High Performance Pontiac
By Don Keefe
Photography by Thomas A. DeMauro
The Bag Boys face off with...
The Bag Boys face off with Jeff Sams, both piloting recreations of Arnie Beswick's '63 SD racecars in an exhibition run.
All of the key ingredients for a great Pontiac celebration came together at the same time in Norwalk, Ohio. The weather was great, the preparation was first rate, and the venue, of course, was really as good as it gets.
The 2006 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals, held at Norwalk Raceway Park (now known as Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park), was the 15th anniversary edition, having evolved from the original "Tri-Power Sunday" format, which debuted in 1992. In recognition of this milestone, Super Duty Promotions pulled out all of the stops, featuring two legendary figures-drag-racing pioneer Don "Big Daddy" Garlits and veteran Pontiac racer Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick.
"We knew we were going to have a great event," says Super Duty Promotions official Pete Woodruff, "but the numbers surpassed even our expectations!" Indeed, a total of 1,044 cars were registered-524 racecars and 520 show cars. This is a substantial jump from the 957 cars registered in 2005, especially in light of the $3-plus-per-gallon fuel prices seen over the summer.
Similarly, 138 swap-meet vendors occupied 224 swap spaces, and the spectator gate was up 10 percent as nearly 11,000 people attended over the three days, a jump of about 1,000 people. Despite some formidable odds, the Pontiac hobby seems to be healthy and growing.
Former Knafel "Tin Indian"...
Former Knafel "Tin Indian" Pontiac driver Arlen Vanke (red shirt) stands next to '66 "Tin Indian GTO" owner Merle Green.
Pontiac-GMC Division was well represented with the large, traveling Pontiac Motorsports display rig positioned at the end of the midway, courtesy of GM Racing Marketing Director Fred Simmonds. Axelrod Pontiac in Parma, Ohio, the sponsoring automobile dealer for the event, brought several new vehicles out for display.
Interestingly, market research personnel were also on hand, collecting feedback and suggestions from event participants. It was refreshing to see Pontiac-GMC actively seeking opinions from enthusiasts. This is a trend we hope continues.
The show side of the event displayed some exceptional examples of Pontiac, Oakland, and GMC vehicles. Of particular note was Bill Bolin's incredible Pro Street '70 GTO (a recent HPP cover car), which sports a two-stage supercharged and intercooled Pontiac V-8 engine and a retina-piercing Orange Glow paint scheme. Even more incredible is the fact that the Goat was rebuilt following a trailering accident while heading to this event last year.
Longtime readers of HPP may...
Longtime readers of HPP may recognize the name DGP, a company that built fiberglass body panels for '80s-era Firebirds and Fieros. This early production '84 was given to DGP by Pontiac for use as a prototype for its Fiero body panels. It's owned by Richard Borecky of Cleveland.
One of the special displays...
One of the special displays at the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals was a gathering of Knafel Pontiac racecars and special editions. In the foreground is Mike Guarise's '70 GTO Judge, originally driven by Norm Tanner; behind it (from left) is the '70 Magnum 400 replica, owned by Paul Glasgo; the original "Running Bear" '63 SD-powered Tempest, raced by Arlen Vanke and owned by Tim Benko; the '66 "Tin Indian" GTO, raced by Arlen Vanke, Larry "Doc" Dixon and the late Bill Abraham, now owned by Merle Green; and a replica of the original "Mrs. B's Grocery Getter," owned by Chuck Tongi.
Of all the cars at The Ames...
Of all the cars at The Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals, Bill Bolin's delightfully insane, two-stage supercharged '70 Pro Street GTO is the one that garnered the most attention. Many were left scratching their heads, but no one questioned the world-class workmanship. It won the HPP Editor's Choice Award.
Owner Mike Guarise (left)...
Owner Mike Guarise (left) and Norm Tanner stand in front of Mike's Knafel '70 Judge.
As well as Bolin's GTO, there were many other Pontiacs of note, including dozens of full-size machines, Firebirds, GTOs, both old and new, and one '66 Grand Parisienne-a Canadian version of the GP. Several flathead-powered machines were in attendance, as well as a variety of Oaklands, late-model machines, and some GMC trucks.
Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals' (APPN) midway area was the largest in the event's history, with displays as diverse as the Mallett Cars LS7 Solstice to Don Garlits' "Swamp Rat I" dragster. The midway also featured two tribute displays-a multi-car salute to Bill Knafel and Knafel Pontiac, featuring original racecars, replicas, and some Knafel personnel, including "Akron" Arlen Vanke, Norm Tanner, and Larry "Doc" Dixon.
The second was a memorial to Super-Duty collector Randy Williams and his original '63 Packer Pontiac "Swiss Cheese" Catalina. His wife, Jean; close friend, Scott Tiemann, who restored the Catalina; and Scott's family were on hand to meet and greet. On Sunday, Jean presented the second annual Randy Williams Memorial Award of Excellence to none other than Arnie Beswick himself.
Larry "Doc" Dixon poses with...
Larry "Doc" Dixon poses with the '66 "Tin Indian" GTO. This car and its twin were Knafel's most successful racecars ever. Dixon was one of the Knafel drivers at that time.
Additionally, Awards of Appreciation were presented by Pete and Andrea Woodruff of Super Duty Promotions to a variety of people and organizations who have supported the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals since the beginning, including Steve Ames; Jim and Barb Mattison of Pontiac Historic Services; Arnie Beswick; the Bader Family, who own Norwalk Raceway Park; and the Kauffman family, from Kauffman Racing Equipment (KRE). A birthday cake was also presented to Jim Wangers in celebration of his 80th birthday this past June.
With over 500 cars racing all weekend, there was as much racing as anyone could hope to see. Last year's Chief of Pontiacs, Lonnie Meade Jr., was driven by chauffeured limousine to the starting line to kick off the eliminations.
The winners and runners-up look like a virtual who's who of Pontiac drag racing, with Jerry Loan and his '68 Firebird taking the AllPontiac.com Top on Saturday over Jim Gnadt and his '70 GTO. Dave Hillard and his '67 GTO took the Indian Adventures Modified title the same day, beating out Roy Hess Jr. and his '66 GTO (a past HPP shootout participant).
This tube-frame Second-Gen...
This tube-frame Second-Gen Firebird lunges off the Norwalk starting line.
With their natural engine...
With their natural engine setback and great styling, it seems strange that there aren't more '69-'72 GPs used as racecars. Tom Moon's '69 has no trouble lifting the front wheels!
A '61 "Batwing" Catalina is...
A '61 "Batwing" Catalina is a rare sight to see, especially at the strip. This gorgeous example heats the hides at the Norwalk starting line.
On Sunday, Michaelangelo Campolucci bested runner-up Jimmy Jammel for the KRE Quick 16, while Mike Cooper and his blown '63 LeMans won the Butler Performance Frantic Four title over John Welter and his turbo'd '02 T/A.
The APPN car corral had some...
The APPN car corral had some very nice deals available. This low-mileage '81 Turbo T/A pace car was offered at a very reasonable $11,900.
As the last day wore on and more cars ended up on the trailer, the final elimination for the title of Chief of Pontiacs was down to the weekend's class winners. The competition was quite fierce, and as the field got smaller, people began to take notice of the road-worn '92 Grand Am that kept coming back for more. Round after round, Barb Spishak, of Collins, Ohio, with a stuffed "Pokey" doll in the back seat of her $250, high-18-second racecar, waded through all of the FWD racers, even beating Saturday's class winner, Chris Yates and his heavily modified '00 GTP, in the final.
Then, Spishak-"the soccer mom from hell," as she was referred to by at least one FWD racer-continued winning. Out of 524 racecars, she made it to the Chief of Pontiacs semifinals, where she finally lost to Cliff Ruggles driving his '73 Ventura. Barb ended up winning $500, double the cost of her ride-a stellar performance all around!
In turn, our Mr. Ruggles lost out to Dave Hillard, who took the '06 Chief of Pontiacs crown. It was a long but exciting process to watch, concluding at nearly 8 p.m. Sunday night. A cooler of water was dumped on Dave, photos were taken, and everyone was happy.
As in previous years, participants were served catered meals-as well as free coffee and doughnuts in the morning and iced tea and lemonade in the afternoon-courtesy of Steve Ames and Ames Performance Engineering. The hospitality tent was also the scene of the awards ceremony and prize drawings.
If you missed the '06 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals, don't despair-dates were announced for the 2007 event. Mark your calendars for August 10-12, and check out the Web site (www.pontiacnationals.com) for more info. Be sure to attend the largest all-Pontiac event in the nation!
Pontiac-GMC's display showed...
Pontiac-GMC's display showed off the new Solstice and other new models. Market researchers were on hand to get showgoers' opinions on current and future offerings.
Dave Hillard took all the...
Dave Hillard took all the marbles to become Chief of the Pontiacs!
Jean Williams brought her...
Jean Williams brought her '63 Packer Pontiac "Swiss Cheese" Catalina to Norwalk, where it was displayed in the midway. Jean also presented the Randy Williams Memorial Award of Excellence to Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick.
|Chief of the Pontiacs-Dave Hillard|
|Chief of the Pontiacs-Runner-Up-Cliff Ruggles|
|Long Distance-Paul Dotson|
|Spotts Performance Box Gamblers Race||Mark Carroll||Jerry Loan|
|Ram Air Restoration Ent. No Box Gamblers Race||Duke Jefferson||Kevin Burns|
|Winner-Jerry Loan, Rockville, VA||'68 Firebird ||0.053 ||9.39 ||9.398 ||141.46|
|Runner-up-Jim Gnadt, Fairport, NY ||'70 GTO ||0.117 ||8.47 ||8.473 ||162.20|
|Indian Adventures Modified|
|Winner-David Hillard, Springfield, OH ||'67 GTO ||0.046 ||10.71 ||10.717 ||124.03|
|Runner-up-Roy Hess Jr., Xenia, OH ||'66 GTO ||0.140 ||10.25 ||10.200 ||129.34|
|Tin Indian Performance Stock|
|Winner-Cliff Ruggles, Mt. Vernon, OH ||'73 Ventura ||0.053 ||11.64 ||11.782 ||98.02|
|Runner-up-Keith Buettner, Ft. Jennings, OH ||'69 GTO ||0.228 ||13.66 ||13.699 ||99.77|
|Super Duty Promotions FWD|
|Winner-Chris Yates, China Grove, NC ||'00 GTP ||0.067 ||12.05 ||12.054 ||110.69|
|Runner-up-Greg Was, Warren, OH ||'98 GP ||N/A||12.10 ||12.096 ||111.57|
|Winner-Bob Biser, Columbus, OH ||'78 T/A ||0.002 ||10.20 ||10.208 ||130.97|
|Runner-up-Jeff Maynard, Belleville, MI ||'68 GTO ||0.010 ||10.52 ||10.528 ||125.81|
|Indian Adventures Modified|
|Winner-Douglas Chell, Fellston, MD ||'67 Firebird ||0.037 ||10.34 ||10.383 ||129.70|
|Runner-up-Tom Fredericks, Wheeling, WV ||'69 Bird ||0.074 ||11.08 ||11.066 ||118.23|
|Tin Indian Performance Stock|
|Winner-Dan Albright, Strasburg, MD ||N/A||0.098 ||12.82 ||12.814 ||105.28|
|Runner-up-Mike Janotta, Waukesha, WI ||'68 Bird ||0.126 ||12.58 ||12.525 ||107.45|
|Super Duty Promotions FWD|
|Winner-Barb Spishak, Collins, OH ||'92 Grand Am ||0.035 ||18.98 ||19.025 ||72.93|
|Runner-up-Chris Yates, China Grove, NC ||'00 GTP ||0.010 ||12.09 ||12.070 ||103.40|
|Butler Performance Frantic Four|
|Winner-Mike Cooper, Eldorado, KS ||'63 LeMans ||0.133 ||N/A||8.023 ||130.44|
|Runner-up-John Welter, Mitchelville, IA ||'02 T/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Kauffman Racing Equipment Quick 16|
|Winner-M. Campolucci, Woodbridge, Ontario ||'96 GTP ||0.034 ||8.48 ||8.536 ||158.20|
|Runner-up-Jimmy Jammel, Pembroke Pines, FL ||'92 Bird ||N/A||8.24 ||9.420 ||94.97|
Mallett Cars brought out their...
Mallett Cars brought out their wild LS7-powered Solstice. With over 500 hp and a curb weight of under 3,000 pounds, this is the Banshee of the 21st Century.
As is the norm, the Royal...
As is the norm, the Royal Pontiac Club made a very strong showing at the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals. This is a club that likes to get its cars on the track!
Ron Kintz Pro Street '62 GP...
Ron Kintz Pro Street '62 GP wowed the crowd with its eye-popping hue and meticulous attention to detail. It took first place in the Pro Street class and is slated for a full feature in HPP.
|Long Distance Award-||Jim Lynch, Mesquite, NV, '68 GTO hardtop|
|Axelrod Pontiac Dealer's Choice Award-||John Collins, Elkhart, IN, '56 Starchief two-door|
|HP Pontiac Magazine Editor's Choice Award-||Bill & Christine Bolin, Shadyside, MD, '70 GTO|
|Smoke Signals Magazine Editor's Choice Award-||Kathy & Chris Warfield, Byron, MI, '65 GTO Convertible|
|PE Magazine Editor's Choice Award-||Dave Alger, Lexington, KY, '76 T/A|
|Ames Performance Engineering Best In Class-||Full-Size: Kenneth Kucia, '66 Bonneville|
|GP: Dale Krasienko, '62 GP|
|GTO/Judge: Ken Swint, '66 GTO|
|Firebird / T/A: Dave Armstrong, '69 Firebird 400|
|Open: Pete Rust, '77 Can Am|
|Class P-0 Pontiac & Oakland Pre-War ||James Barnhart, '39 Quality Six|
|Joseph Reitz, '36 Business Coupe|
|Class P-1 Pontiac Post-War to '54 ||Sherry O'Rourke, '53 Catalina|
|Scott Pavolka, '50 Silver Streak|
|Class P-2 Pontiac '55-'60 ||Joe Lipovsky, '60 Bonneville|
|Terry Green, '55 Star Chief|
|Bill Hughes, '56 Star Chief|
|Class P-3 Pontiac '61-'65 ||Steve Kott, '63 Ventura|
|Jack Pinchot, '65 Catalina|
|John Misny, '64 Bonneville|
|Class P-4 Pontiac '66-'70 ||Matt Schilkowski, '66 2+2|
|Dennis Scygiel, '66 Catalina 2+2|
|Ron Himes, '68 Bonneville|
|Class P-5 Pontiac '71-'86 ||Jeff Glasgo-'81 Bonneville|
|Jen & Jon Saulnier-'78 Bonneville Brougham|
|Class P-6 Pontiac '87-Current ||Michael & Jennifer Nixon-'98 Bonneville|
|Class GP-1 GP '62-'68 ||Mike Giuliano, '63|
|Walter White, '66|
|Class GP-2 GP '69-'72 ||David Risner, '69 |
|Chris & Tracie Avenmarg, '71 |
|Arthur Nardy, '72 |
|Class GP-3 GP '73-'77 ||David Graham, '74 SJ|
|Dave Rust, '76 SJ|
|Mark Pfeiffer, '74 |
|Class GP-4 GP '78-'87 including 2+2 ||Eric Neal, '84 LE|
|Tim Kniffel, '83 |
|Class GP-6 GP '97-Current including STE, GTP, Pace ||Vicki Smith, '04 GT Spec. Ed.|
|Robert Johnson, '06 GXP|
|Bryon Carman, '98 Pace Car|
|Class GT-1 GTO '64-'65 ||William & Joan Hash, '65 |
|Keith Carter, '65 |
|Bill Bauer, '65 |
|Class GT-2 GTO '66-'67 ||Tom Hamilton, '67 |
|Barry Caucci, '67 |
|Dale & Lisa Brenstuhl, '66 |
|Class GT-3 GTO '68-'70 ||Stan Ubben, '68|
|William Taylor, '70 |
|Hillis & Claudia Mathes, '68 |
|Class GT-4 GTO '71-'74 ||Terry Wortman, '72 |
|Darrell Davidson, '71|
|Rich Barnet, '71 |
|Class GT-5 GTO '04-Current ||Chris White, '06 |
|Steve Sunyak, '04 |
|Dan Fowler, '05 |
|Class JD Judge ||Jack Scott, '69 |
|Scott Hudler, '69 |
|Jack Scott, '69 |
|Class Fb-1 Firebird '67-'69 ||David & Vicki Brown, '69 |
|Ardyn Dempsey, '67 |
|Doug Hopkins, '67 |
|Class Fb-2 Firebird '7011/42-'81 ||John Glasgo, '73 Formula 455|
|Class Fb-3 Firebird '82-'92 ||Matt Carter, '89 Formula 350|
|Keith Sorgen, '86 |
|Scott Burggraf, '88 |
|Class Fb-4 Firebird '93-Current including Formula ||Chuck Miller, '00 |
|Nathan Call, '02 Formula|
|Shirley Sunyak, '95 Formula|
|Class T/A-1 T/A '69-'74 ||Richard Winkles, '74 |
|Carl Alger, '74 |
|Jay DeLaigle, '74 |
|Class T/A-2 T/A '75-'81 ||Jon Limes, '77|
|Mike Leggio, '81|
|Dave Alger, '76 |
|Class T/A-3 T/A '82-'92 ||Steve Reichow, '84 T/A 15th Anniv.|
|Wayne Peters, '86 |
|Dave Clark, '84 |
|Class T/A-4 T/A '93-Current including GT/A ||Silvio Kimmel, '94 T/A 25th Anniv.|
|Jack & Debra Soulidis, '00 WS6|
|Mark Friedel, '94 T/A 25th Anniv.|
|Firehawk Class was split into three classes.|
|Class Fh-A Split Firehawk '93-'95 ||Brian Nieman, '94 |
|Gene Lease, '93 |
|Ryan & Grace Corcoran, '95 |
|Class Fh-B Split Firehawk '96-'01 ||Robert & Jill Gaydo, '99 |
|Bill Daffron, '01 |
|David Billups, '01 10th Anniv.|
|Class Fh-C Split Firehawk '02 ||Ron & Chong Schriner, '02 |
|Christina & Gordon Heissler, '02 |
|Laurel Von Helms, '02 |
|Class CT/A Comp T/A ||Kevin Shar, '96 |
|Kevin Day, '95 #4|
|Dan Ruggiero, '95 |
|Class F-1 Fiero Coupe/SE ||Mary Ann Huster, '87 |
|Ot Huster, '84 SE|
|Paul Houdek, '84 |
|Class F-2 Fiero GT ||Jerry Eveleth, '88 |
|Bruce Bender, '88 |
|George Johnson, '85 |
|Class Ga-1 Grand Am '73-'80 RWD ||Larry McCauley, '73 |
|Jamey Gladden, '73 |
|Class LM Late-Model Compact ||Leonard, '06 Solstice|
|John Roe, '06 Solstice|
|Jim Oller, '06 Solstice|
|Class SP Tempest/LeMans/Can Am |
'61-'81 including Canadian models
|Nicole Miller, '64 LeMans|
|Ted & Kim Harmon, '67 Acadian|
|Ary Van Harlingen, '71 LeMans GT 37|
|Class SU Aztek, Transport, Montana, Vibe, All Years ||Dorman Scott, '04 Montana|
|Class ST-1 Street Full-Size Pontiacs ||Richard & Marcia Larabee, '62 Catalina|
|John Collins, '56 Star Chief|
|Gary Gribben, '67 Catalina|
|St-2 Class was split into four classes. |
Class ST-2a Split Street Tempest/LeMans through '77
|Matt Marinelli, '72 LeMans|
|Michael Haynick, '71 T-37|
|Robert Esposito, '65 LeMans|
|Class ST-2b Split Street GTO '64-'67 ||Dave Gido, '66 |
|Walter Clark, '66 |
|William Bartlett, '64 |
|Class ST-2C Split Street GTO '68-'74 ||Steve Hawkey, '69 |
|Elmer Montgomery, '70 |
|Scott Bacon, '69 |
|Class ST-2D Split Street GTO '04-'05 ||Josh Jackowski, '05 |
|Chris White, '04 |
|Kirk McFarland, '04 |
|St-3 Class was split into two classes.|
|Class ST-3a Split Street Firebird/TransAm 1st & 2nd Generation ||Jerry Brushaber, '76 T/A|
|Bill King, '79 T/A|
|Rachel Lamb, '78 Formula|
|Class ST-3b Split Street Firebird/ T/A 3rd & 4th Generation ||Terry Greenleaf, '00 T/A WS6|
|Mark & Debbie Steward, '00 T/A WS6|
|Dan Kirchner, '00 Firebird Formula NHRA|
|Class ST-4 GP ||Matthew Lavelle, '02 GTX|
|Jeff Helkaa, '92 GTP|
|Richard Goe, '68|
|Class St-5 Street Pontiac Open ||Scott Swisher, '85 Fiero Coupe|
|Rick Laney, '86 Fiero SE|
|Don Springer, '86 Fiero|
|Class St-6 Street GMC ||Rick Patrick, '68 2500 Pickup|
|Jeff Hosier, '05 Sierra|
|Class C-1 was split into two classes.|
|Class C-1a Split Custom '09-'69 Firebird/GTO ||Lacey & Mary Lou O'Quinn, '65 GTO|
|Fred Mazzoni, '67 GTO|
|Mark Redmond, '66 GTO|
|Class C-1b Split Custom '65-'69, All Other Models ||Duane Hoffert, '57 Chieftain|
|Bud & Carole Schiefer, '60 Catalina|
|Steve Rayburn, '62 GP|
|Class FX Factory Show or Experimental Cars ||Richard Borecky, '84 Fiero Prototype|
|Class C-2 was split into two classes.|
|Class C-2a Split Custom '70-'89 ||David Clark Jr., '74 T/A|
|Nick Buzzelli, '79 T/A|
|Robert Holtz, '86 Fiero GT|
|Class C-2b Split Custom '90-Current ||Nick Breeding, '05 Sunfire|
|Dave Servey, '96 T/A|
|Dan Powell, '95 T/A|
|Class Pro Street Vehicles ||Ron Kintz, '62 GP|
|Bill & Christine Bolin, '70 GTO|
|Jerry Steinbrick, '78 T/A|
The only way you could get...
The only way you could get a shaker scoop on a '73 Formula was to order the (very) limited-edition 455 Super Duty. Just 43 people were successful in ordering that combination, and John Glasgo's gorgeous example is one of those rare machines.
The swap-meet area was full...
The swap-meet area was full of rare and desirable parts and options, such as this trio of beautifully restored Tri-Power systems.
Barb Spishak of Collins, Ohio,...
Barb Spishak of Collins, Ohio, standing behind her daughter, certainly had reason to smile as she took the FWD crown on Sunday and made it to the last three cars in the Chief of the Pontiacs competition. Her $250 '92 Grand Am didn't have enough power to even spin the tires, but her superb skill at the tree brought down much faster cars.