There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when drag racing was really, really cool. Drivers were gladiators, teams were small bands of nomads, motel parking lots were all-night parties, and the cars were not only identifiable as cars, but just oozed with character and wild paint.
And in the Funny Car era – when the Fuel-Altereds of the mid-’60s were replaced by short-wheelbased, front-engine dragsters draped in fiberglass – drag racing became a real cult of personality. Lots of fueler teams got into the Funny Car race and the team of John Keeling and Jerry Clayton was no different.
Except that Keeling & Clayton ran some of the most beautiful Top Fuel cars to ever come out of the early Seventies. And when they turned to a Pinto Funny, they brought all their blue paint and airline industry fabrication experience with them to this fairly new class of drag racing.
They campaigned the Keeling & Clayton Pinto from ’74 through ’77 before hanging it all up, but not before making this epic photograph possible. While both Jerry and John were from Illinois, they spent their formative racing years in California and, as we all know, you can’t spend any time on the West Coast without hitting a Jack-In-The-Box drive-thru. Especially between the hours of 10pm and 7am. But we digress.
Far as we can tell, the Keeling & Clayton team wasn’t sponsored by Jack, but this sure does seem like a promotional photo, no? Absolutely nightmare-inducing clown aside, it’s evidence of how much fun pro dragster teams used to have – and be – while chasing that low E.T. But, who took this photo? What was the scenario that put all these elements in front of a camera? Where was this photo made? What’s a Bonus Jack?
Can’t wait to solve some of these mysteries with you, good readers…