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Boredom will send anybody in search of kicks. Testosterone-addled motorheads living in the prosaic plains of Wichita, Kansas can only cruise the drive-in malt shop on opposite sides of town for so many revolutions before the dreariness of repetition sends them into orbit, and they scatter and burst like a meteor shower across some kind of cosmic chalkboard.
These are the mad ones, the men with hyperactive souls. Hyper-intense. Hyper-real. Hypersonic. Men who can’t understand the monotony of why the Earth spins in a circle when there has to be a direct route to wherever it is we are headed.
In Wichita Kansas, Glen Leasher fought the banality of human existence anyway he could, whether terrorizing the movie theater with his motorcycle or racing jalopies round and round the bullrings of the County Fairs on a Saturday night. He raced the jalopies furiously, like he was trying to hasten the earth’s rotation. True, it was small time and mercenary, but the payoff was manifold. In addition to the chump change, it also provided Leasher with experience behind the wheel of a hot job, a cache of expertise that would bolster his confidence enough to leave the flat lands in his rear view mirror and Horace Greeley it to the drag strips of California.
Before bailing all together, Leasher hitched his wagon to the mechanical prowess of “Kansas Al” Williams, driving his Hypersonic AA/Fueler. In 1959 they lit the up the automotive trade papers with reports of a 1/4 mile Top Speed of 185 miles per hour — the fastest ever on a drag strip. And although this feat was performed on a race track improvised on an Air Force base in Kansas, the spit-and-bubble gum nature of the venue was not enough to taint the credibility of this momentous accomplishment. Leasher’s star was rising and Kansas would soon be in his rear view mirror.
His résumé now read “Fastest Man On A Drag Strip,” and Leasher finally motored to the Left Coast, more specifically to San Mateo in the South City of San Francisco where he found gainful employment as a bonafide, rootin’ tootin’ Top Fuel driver. His bossman was an ill-tempered Italian who answered to the handle of “Terrible Ted” Gotelli. Aka “the Goat.”
Gotelli and his boys, the Organ Grinders, were formidable drag racers. The Goat, in specific, had accumulated a pronounced reputation for generating prodigious amounts of horsepower using nitromethane for a fuel and supercharged Chrysler hemi as a powerplant. In Leasher Gotelli found his natural foil, a young cocksure ramrod with a heavy right foot.
“Leasher was as go cat wild with his right foot as Gotelli was with his nitro percentage,” I say.
“When he climbed into that jet car, it was like Space Age America was a tiger that Leasher grabbed by the tail,” I tell BZ.