Retro Rumblings – Ed Kanaschitsky
In the pages of the Goodguys Gazette many years back used to be a monthly vintage drag racing column called “Fuel & Gas Gossip with Ed Kanaschitsky.” At the time, Goodguys ran one of the most prominent race series for vintage drag racers in the country. Events at Sonoma Raceway, Bakersfield, Sacramento, Pomona, Indianapolis, Bowling Green, and other tracks generated a lot of buzz, great racing and of course, lots of news and gossip.
Ed Kanaschitsky was a pen name I used made famous by Goodguys founder Gary Meadors. Gary had funny names for fictitious characters. Ed Kanaschitsky and Joe Dokes are top of mind when reflecting on the good ol’ days. Ed Kanaschitsky was the perfect fit for an anonymous pen name.
To write the Fuel & Gas gossip column, it was mandatory to attend the races and get to know everyone to get scoops. Who was running what combination, who was coming in from out of town, what people were doing in town after hours, and what kind of breaking news – usually sponsor or team related – was sure to come. Keep in mind this was the days before web forums and social media. It took a month to get “the scoop.”
I learned a lesson really quick about being careful when talking about nighttime activities and naming specific racers, even if writing under a pen name. A Top Fuel driver was in a hotel bar during the March Meet one night and got into fisticuffs. I wrote about it in the column and dropped his name. Not only did I catch wind he was pissed off, I saw him charging at me from a distance during the next race on the calendar. With the rage in his eyes, it was fortunate some security people got to him to hold him back before my face was rearranged.
Back then, Fuel & Gas Gossip was different from the standard race coverage of “this happened, that happened, and this person won.” It was in-depth (sometimes three pages) and served as a good source for racers, sponsors, and fans in other parts of the country to keep up with the scene. It was loosely modeled on the opening editorial columns the late, great Chris Economaki wrote in his Speed Sport News publication.
The column and the Gazette itself served as a perfect platform to grow the VRA racing program. We were very proud of the media teams we had onsite covering the races and all the related events that happened on race weekends.
As the years went by the distribution of information evolved. With the popularity of the internet, people wanted the information from race weekends quicker. At the time the NHRA was doing live timing results through the new Drag Race Central website. So naturally, we recruited (more like convinced and prodded) Rick Green to come to all the way out to Famoso Raceway to do live race reporting. Sounds easy but it wasn’t.
The process was a labor of love. Rick and his team had to set up an entirely new database and all of the necessary details (classes, ET, MPH, and a notes section) from scratch. It took a few races but eventually, vintage drag racing fans around the world soon had the ability to log on to DragRaceCentral.com and see the numbers right from the timing tower.
Even with live timing, Kanaschitsky still roamed the pits to dig up scoops. A few funny scoops or incidents come to mind.
One time we got the bright idea to Express Ship event credentials to race teams a week prior to the event to cut down wait-in-line times at the track. It went really well! During the race, we got a call some racers were out at the front gate scalping Xerox copies of their event credentials!
Another race team used to fill their motorhome shower with beers, and then surrounded the tower of beer cases with dry ice. They were pretty friendly with their stash. Whenever someone got thirsty the code phrase was “Can I get a shower?” Boom, 30 seconds later you were drinking a cold one.
Or there was that one infamous time when a few of us “borrowed” the ’70s-era Honda pit bikes of Jeff and Mike Norton. One of the kids who “borrowed” a bike got a little aggressive at a motocross track adjacent to the Pacific Raceways quarter mile. I happened to be riding alongside of him when he launched the bike off a jump. We agreed to take it easy. Yeah, right. I sat slack-jawed as the guy was flying 10 feet off the ground on a little old vintage Honda putt putt. It kinda snapped in half. The guys replaced the bike, eventually.
We had a lot of fun back in those days, we really did. Kanaschitsky was there to report it all.