Posts tagged ‘arley langlo’

October 7, 2010



October 7, 2010, K-Bomb Centcom, Los Angeles, CA—In what is arguably a drag-strip journalism first, both Cole Coonce’s Top Fuel Wormhole (his collection of drag racing essays), and its predecessor, Infinity Over Zero (an impressionistic history of the Land Speed Record), have both gone electric. Which is to say these may or may not be the first books on the topics to have a presence on’s Kindle store, but, arguably, these are the first essential ones.

With new, paper-less versions of both of Coonce’s rocket-fueled books now specially formatted for e-readers, modern motor-sports esthetes can download these delicious digital documents and enjoy them with the knowledge that the trees spared by the lack of pulp-processing can now serve as emissions credits for burning rubber and fouling spark plugs.

To that end, K-Bomb Publishing, the imprint that produced both the electric and paper versions of these thick tomes, encourages all consumers to brandish their Kindles at the drag races and, as the next pair of monopropellant-powered Funny Cars blasts by, exclaim to anybody who can hear over the noise that with enough pulp-free purchases of Top Fuel Wormhole, drag racing could ultimately be considered carbon neutral.

Indeed, with an electronic acquisition of Top Fuel Wormhole, the drag-racing reader can enjoy Coonce’s exhaustive essays on San Fernando Raceway, Arley Langlo, Lions Drag Strip, “Wild Willie” Borsch, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, “Jocko” Johnson, Blaine Johnson, the “Surfers,” Tony Pedregon, Mendy Fry, John Force and others, guilt-free! A similar, relaxed experience is available with the consumption of Infinity Over Zero, which recounts Andy Green’s smashing of both the Land Speed Record and the actual Sound Barrier in a jet-powered car, and explores the intrepid exploits of other fearless land-speed racers such as John Cobb, Mickey Thompson, Glen Leasher, Craig Breedlove, Art Arfons, Gary Gabelich and more.

These thorough, stout books are available for wireless auto-delivery to one’s e-reader for the nice prices of $6.95 (Infinity) and $7.95 (Top Fuel Wormhole).

And for old-school consumers, hard copies of both Wormhole and Infinity Over Zero can still be purchased, of course, at Amazon and elsewhere. But that’s hardly cool these day, is it?


Top Fuel Wormhole is now Kindle-ready



May 19, 2009

BangShift Book Review: Top Fuel Wormhole, the Cole Coonce Drag Strip Reader

In reviewing Top Fuel Wormhole, online motorhead daily (“The Car Junkie Daily Magazine”) pontificates thusly:Part travel log, part history lesson, part social commentary, sometimes frustrating, always thought provoking, and ultimately an awesome read, Top Fuel Wormhole; The Cole Coonce Drag Strip Reader is one of the most challenging and interesting books on any form of racing, drag or otherwise, we have read in some time.”

The review concludes that: “This is the most unique and thought provoking drag racing book we have read in 10 years, if ever. We say that even though we had to hit the thesaurus a couple times to figure out what the hell the guy was saying. The forward is written by Robert Post and it’s clear from the get-go that the not one punch will by pulled. None are.” Book Review: Top Fuel Wormhole, the Cole Coonce Drag Strip Reader

Top Fuel Wormhole is available on Amazon as well as here: K-Bomb Store

May 22, 2008


by Cole Coonce

(excerpted from the collection TOP FUEL WORMHOLE)


(photo by Dave Kommel/Auto Imagery)

Despite the inevitable encroachment of Corporate America into a once idiosyncratic sport, one man still burns the torch of individualism in contemporary Top Fuel drag racing.

In the nether regions of the Pomona Fairplex (home of the NHRA World Finals), far beyond the cozy confines where the Fortune 500 park their 18-wheelers, one could find the seemingly innocuous, inconspicuous Arley Langlo, Jay Roach, and their Titan Xpress race team in their pit area. A ramshackle trailer, a 10-year old short (260-inch wheelbase) Top Fueler, an anti-matter black 1967 Dodge camper, and a race crew whose uniform consists of straw cowboy hats and stark white coffee-stained T-shirts, are the elements which define their existence, at least tangibly. Dwarfed by a phalanx of massive transporters, race teams with matching polyester uniforms, not to mention the copious off-the-shelf spare parts, all of which are de rigueur for modern day multi-million dollar operations, Langlo, Roach, and cohorts looked like they made a wrong turn on Fairplex Avenue in 1984, got lost in the Mojave Desert, mistakenly entered the vortex of the Twilight Zone, blinked, and somehow wandered back into Pomona, only to find ten years had elapsed. It was now 1994, but somehow the mayonnaise and the baloney in their Styrofoam cooler had not spoiled. In reality, no matter how anachronistic these guys were, their presence at the Winston Finals could not be ignored, nor swept under the carpet.

Sure, a lot of the hullabaloo was focused on the culmination of superstar Don “the Snake” Prudhomme’s “Final Strike” tour, Shelly Anderson’s dramatic 4.71 Low E.T., and Kenny Bernstein’s shocking 314 mph blast in his indomitable Budweiser King. I maintain that all this was anticlimactic, however, compared to the incendiary, apocalyptic exploits of the Titan Xpress bunch. Indeed, among Arley Langlo’s attempts to “qualify” into Top Fuel Eliminator at Pomona were a pair of the most curious, surreal meltdowns ever perpetrated on the ol’ 1320.

Langlo and Roach probably had no hope of “getting into the show against these store-bought dragsters,” as Arley put it, but the World Finals did provide an excuse for them to “test the new fuel pump.” (This fuel pump, like virtually every piece of kit on their dragster, is homemade by Jay Roach in his hard-to-find J&S East Valley Garage, reclusively nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County.) At the end of the weekend, whether the new fuel pump worked satisfactorily or not seemed entirely beside the point—although a point was made by the Titan Xpress at the NHRA Finals. What that point was, however, is subject to serious interpretation…

During Top Fuel qualifying on Thursday and Saturday, Langlo demonstrated some genuine human characteristics that are conspicuously absent from modern Top Fuel racing—specifically driving skills, i.e., how the driver responds to the nuances of an unrestrained technology gone gloriously amok. Traditionally, that is the drama of Top Fuel: It is about man and machine and their relationship to each other. Unfortunately, it is an increasingly rare occurrence for us—the gearheads and the punters—to feel overwhelmed or inspired by the exploits of the driver; when Bernstein goes 314, when Shelly runs 4.71, when Don Prudhomme feebly breaks traction and spins the tires on his “final strike,” these runs were about the dynamics of technology—the drivers were merely passive. Anderson’s clutch management system had been programmed brilliantly. Prudhomme’s, on the other hand, had been set up erroneously—therefore the car overpowered the drag strip, the tires smoked ferociously but momentarily, and fluids puked out of the cylinder heads feverishly as the car shut itself off. That was it: dragster interruptus. Having been emasculated, Prudhomme limped impotently down the drag strip, naked and vulnerable. The shame of this “not with a bang but a whimper” finale, however, was the onus of Prudhomme’s crew chief, the esteemed savant Wes Cerny, not the “Snake” himself. Likewise, the bravado and chutzpah requisite of a 314 mile-per-hour salvo are the machinations of Budweiser King crew-chief Dale Armstrong, not driver Kenny Bernstein who merely stomped on the go-faster, hung on, and then dumped the laundry before he ran out of real estate. Lowly Arley Langlo, however, laid down the gauntlet; this time, just once, it’s gonna be about the driver.

On Thursday Arley fired what could only be interpreted as the first of two salvos of civil defiance. It started innocently enough with a nice smoky burnout—so far, so what. He gingerly and methodically staged the car, just another of 30 Top Fuel cars trying to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations. As soon as the light goes green and he drops the hammer, however, something goes very wrong; the car lurches spastically, the sound of the motor changes pitch in an ill glissando, and a ball of flame the size of the Manhattan Project shoots out the back of the race car, scorching a big chunk of Parker Avenue. This is all within the first 60 feet of the run.

Arley feels the car nose over; he should shut ‘er off, right? He should abort the run—something is amiss—cut his losses, see ‘ya tomorrow, Mr. Amato. But au contraire and let the pyrotechnics begin. Arley kept the throttle nailed, even though the head gaskets hydraulicked as soon as he swapped pedals, allowing the billowing fuel and oil to feed an inferno that ballooned into a 30-foot mushroom cloud by half-track. Langlo stubbornly refused to void the run (even though he later acknowledged “it was a little on the rich side”), and he stopped the timers at 5.65 seconds—not bad for an experiment gone horribly awry—but the hijinks continue because this massive fireball burned off his parachutes. The ticket-holders are shaking their heads in disbelief, trying to come to terms with what they are witnessing, but ol’ Arley methodically rides the hand brake, milking what is left out of the hydraulic brake fluid that has not been boiled to molasses by the inferno—he does not disengage the clutch lest the car pick up more velocity, preferring instead to let the torque of the motor slow the car down. The car decelerates under power, and Langlo swerves to avoid the catch net while wrestling the slightly yo-yoing fueler onto the border of the Fairplex parking lot. O-kay…

Come Friday the fuel pump is still “too rich.” No boom-boom this time, and the car leaves hard, but Mr. Langlo shuts it off at half-track as it starts dropping cylinders, the hyperactive fuel pump frothing so voluminously that the spark plugs are being extinguished from the torrent of nitromethane. The next session ditto. There is one qualifying session left, and Jay and his acolytes are thrashing maniacally to rebuild the motor that has been stripped to the cylinder heads. Meanwhile, a bemused Langlo drawls, “We’re progressively leanin’ it out.”

So it is last call for Top Fuel qualifying, newly crowned NHRA champion Scott Kalitta is clinging to the bubble with an eleventh hour go of 4.88 and who is strapped into the last dragster rolling into the staging lanes? None other than the Ayatollah of the Automotive Apocalypse hisself, Arley Langlo, replete with a new eleventh hour “leaner” tune-up. He and his accompanying East Valley Garage Hezbollah are faced with the daunting challenge of trying to compete with the Uber-fuelers on their terms, not only bumping the NHRA champion out of The Show, but also sorting out this damn fuel pump. The quickest the Titan Xpress has run was a 5.28 at Palmdale; a potential 4.87 that would bum Kalitta’s trip seemed highly unlikely, but who knows?

As soon as the tree flashed green, everyone in Pomona knew. An epiphany crystallized in the collective craniums of everyone assembled: bleacher bums, track officials, National Dragster paparazzi, the racers themselves (especially Scott Kalitta), and even the hot dog vendors—this was not about “qualifying.” Once again, instantaneously, in a virtual doppelganger of Thursday’s horrific absolute-zero flameout, Langlo kicked out the head gaskets as soon as he stomped on the throttle, creating another comet of fire that mushroomed exponentially as he rocketed down the quarter-mile. Amidst the terrified and confused looks of the spectators, Langlo once again ignored anything as banal as logic and refused to shut off this missile of the millennium, once more burning off his ‘chutes and boiling his brake fluid into an ineffectual muck.

No, this was not about “getting into The Show.” This was about the nobility of experimentation, freedom of expression, and the recapturing of the spirit of Zen anarchy vis-à-vis the manifestation of the Chaos Theory—which is what I thought Top Fuel is all about. It was a paean to all resourceful Americans everywhere who, if they can not afford a “store bought” fuel pump, will build it themselves, thus enabling the Titan Xpresses of this world to exist on their own terms, not Kenny Bernstein’s. For these are the true beacons of “Go! Fever” in this wonderful sport, not some Stepford yuppie automaton for whom “driving ability” is a euphemism for how well they can splutter “I’d like to thank all my sponsors: Joy Jelly, Scientology, and the Trilateral Commission blah, blah, blah…” on TV—hey man, we see these names painted on the side of your car, we’ll give all these people our money if you just shut up, okay?

Drag racing could stand to benefit from an influx of experimental, outside weirdos like Messrs. Langlo, Roach, and friends. And that was no mere oil fire, my friends. Arley Langlo was carrying the torch of freedom for all of us. Someday soon the drag strips will be ours again…

(Originally published in Super Stock & Drag Illustrated)