HAWARDEN—In his 1965 Dodge Coronet, Jim Anderson, 65, of Hawarden will set out to compete in the IHRA Summit World Finals in Memphis, TN.
Jim is an elapsed time (E.T.) drag racer. Most recently, he won first place in his division — Top E.T. and qualified top of his class in win/loss ration to clinch his spot at the prestigious event coming Oct. 17-19.
He’s is thrilled to be representing his track, Thunder Valley Dragways in Marian, SD. Races start the first of May and run through the second week of September.
“We mostly race at that track and this year they are sending four different cars in four different classes,” Jim said. “Kenny Ludwigs raced in this event back in the day, he always wanted to go too, this is a big honor to represent the track.”
Winning the IHRA Summit World Finals would make Anderson a world champion, win him a trip to Aruba, a diamond ring and a new golf cart, not to mention make him $20,000 richer. This feat is doable as in the past four years, the Marian track has had two world champions.
Jim doesn’t have a pit crew or anything like most racers, but he does have his wife, and fellow racer, Kristi, 66, who drives a 1963 Plymouth Sport Furry.
“I can virtually race my car myself, but it is really nice having her help me,” Jim said. “As the race goes on, between time during races lessens and lessens.”
The couple got married in January of 1992.
“Jim raced back in high school some, then together we got into it 20 some years ago,” Kristi said. “He drove a 1973 Dodge Charger for two years, and I took over that car for a couple years while Jim built the car he drives now.”
That car, named the Red Light Bandit, was built start to finish by Jim and a group of his buddies who were into racing.
“Larry Epperly kind of came up with the name,” Jim said. “The red light in racing is if you leave too soon from the start, then you are automatically out of the race. Back in the olden days, every car had a name.”
Jim has driven the Red Light Bandit for about 20 years now.
The couple, competing in the same class, rarely have to race each other, but when they do, Kristi admits Jim usually wins.
“It is a friendly competition but we do tease with each other a lot,” she said. “ I have beat him once or twice, but Jim has won most of the time we have raced.”
Jim talked Kristi into racing all those years ago — saying “she was coming with me anyhow.” Every other weekend, for as long as they can remember they have gone racing together but only Jim races both Saturday night and Sunday.
“I only donate once a weekend, not twice,” Kristi said, with a laugh implying her racing is mainly for fun. “I rarely win any money!”
Jim’s car runs 134 miles per hour and takes just 9.88 seconds to complete a race. The track is straight and the length of the run from start to finish is a quarter mile. While that seems fast, the biggest factor in winning or losing the race is the drivers own reaction time.
“What our whole race is about is how close you can get to a perfect light and how close you put a dial in on the car,” Jim said. “I want my car to run within a hundredth of a second every time my car makes a pass. It isn’t just as simple as go down the track.”
“The variances are your reaction time, going straight, etc.,” Kristi said. “You never know how good your car is going to hook up either.”
Jim said the delay box controls the trans brake in the car, which puts the car in reverse and low gear at the same time making the car unable to move. Then, when you take the foot off the break, floor the car and let go of the button, that is when the car takes off down the track.
“We are at 5500 rpm when it comes out of reverse,” Jim said. “It hits the tires, and if they turn more than just a little bit, that is considered spinning and screws up the run. We don’t care whether we race first, last or in between because when we go to the start, we just want to think about having a good light, that is it.”
This couple has gone every other weekend for as long as they can remember to race, but this is the first time Anderson has earned the trip to compete in the world finals. Anderson will race the weekend of Oct. 17-19 in Memphis — good luck Jim and we are hoping for a “perfect light.”