Congratulations to Rich Guasco for being inducted into the 2011 International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Rich Guasco started his love affair and racing career by building his first street roadster at the ripe old age of 12. His first actual race didn’t come until he was 14 and that was at the old Belmont, California 1/8th mile track. By the time he was 15 he was involved in building and driving a flathead powered belly tank. Next came an A/Street Roadster that he entered for the first time in 1959 at Kingdom Raceway.
Shortly after that he went into the Army but upon receiving his discharge in ’61, he built his first Chevy powered gas dragster. One of his most memorable outings was at the old Denver, CO track where he won top eliminator in AA/Gas dragster class then proceeded to add nitro and beat the top fuel dragster of Kenz & Lesli. After that event he sold the car and built a new AA/Fuel dragster. This car was very competitive from day one but on January 13, 1963 Rich had a terrific accident that nearly took his life. A year later, Rich completed the rebuilding of the dragster but traded it to his friend Pete Ogden for a nearly completed roadster Pete was building. Rich debuted the car, a Chevrolet powered, 92 inch wheelbase Bantam bodied roadster designed by his friend Rich Railton. This was to become the first in a series of “Pure Hell” cars. Rich drove the roadster for its shakedown runs but shortly after that permanently retired from driving and focused on building and tuning the engines for the now famous series of roadsters. The original Pure Hell roadster was the first FF/FA to run over 180 mph and under 8.50 seconds. In 1968 the Chevrolet engine was replaced with a Chrysler that made its first appearance at the Winternationals that year and set a new class record of 207 mph. By this time there was also a new driver was also at the wheel, Dale Emery. Dale set the Fuel Altered class on fire, eventually turning a best speed of 218 mph and a low ET of 7.27 seconds. The combination of one of the most beautiful cars ever raced, Dale’s unique and colorful driving style and the speed and et’s turned by the car made it into one of the most famous cars of the sport still today.
Rich is still the only hot rodder in the history of the sport to win the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster crown with his purple ’29 roadster in 1961 and his front engine top fuel dragster the next year.
After the unbelievable success of the first “Pure Hell” roadster and his success in the Top Fuel arena, Rich decided to switch to a Dodge Demon bodied AA/ Fuel Funny Car in 1970 and in 1973 notched his first NHRA national event win when, with Dave Beebe at the wheel they won the spring Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. While they were on tour later that year, the Demon was destroyed in a highway accident. His next AA/Funny Car was a Lil John Butera production that was successfully driven by some of the most noted drivers of that time including, Dave Beebe, Richard Tharp, Pat Foster and Elwin Carlson.
In 1992, Rich restored the original Pure Hell roadster and with Larry Huff driving debuted the car at the Goodguys vintage drag races that same year. With more horsepower than the original car ever had coupled with the original short 92 inch wheelbase, the car was plagued with handling problems. To solve this problem, Rich had his friend Dave Uyehara build a modern, longer wheelbase version of Pure Hell that, with Larry Huff driving, eventually went on to set a record time and ET of 238 mph and 6.30 seconds.
While Rich Guasco retired from active racing in 2000 he hasn’t given up his love of cars and has spent his time since, focusing on restoring some of his original cars and building some new ones. He also still attends selected events such as the Goodguys 1st Nostalgia Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky where he served as the official “Hot Rod Hero” for the event and most of the NHRA Hot Rod Reunions.
Rich is a member of the Roadster Show Hall of Fame, the San Francisco Roadster and Custom Motorcycle Hall of Fame, he has served as the Grand Marshall for the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, Hot Rod Hero for the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association in Bowling Green Kentucky, and is a 2011 inductee into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. In addition to running the Pure Hell fuel altered and funny car, Rich has crewed on Raymond Beadle's Blue Max funny car and Dante Pastorini's Coors Light top fuel dragster
Likes and Interests
Special thanks to: Red Line Oil, Webster Billet Cylinder Heads, John Lawson Motorsports, Hedman Husler Hedders, Applied Racing Components, Goodguys Rod and Custom Association, Dale Emery Billet Engine Blocks, S&S Automotive, Mike Fuller Motorsports, Richey Motorsports, and John "Big June" Drummond (Fire burnout photgrapher).