Mendy “Nitro Kitty” Fry would earn her first nitro win Saturday at Auto Club Famoso Raceway’s Good Vibrations Saturday Night Nitro event, but the celebration was short lived with sad news of a fellow competitor’s fatal crash.
Photo Credit: Dave Kommel
Good Vibrations Saturday Night Nitro
The Saturday Night Nitro event features a unique one-night format for racers: each of the competitors only has one qualifying opportunity in which to secure a spot in the Quick 8 race format. Those top 8 then battle in a single round for the the fastest pass of the night to take the win.
Mendy Fry and her Smokey’s Darkside 1978 Challenger Nitro Funny Car crew were able to post a 5.97 second quarter-mile elapsed time at 236.46 mph. This was good for the No. 6 qualified position, earning her a spot in the show out of the dozen-plus entrants vying for the top 8 positions.
The Darkside team would scramble to make some tuning changes between rounds to their Arias Hemi Chevy program, adding timing and increasing the nitromethane percentage.
The first pair in the Quick 8 program would be Roger Garten in the War Horse Funny Car against Matt Bynum in the Nitro Nick Funny Car. Tragedy would strike shortly off the line when Roger crossed the centerline, crashing into Bynum. Bynum was uninjured, but emergency personnel at the track worked to extract Roger from the wreckage, and transported him to the hospital.
When racing resumed, Smokey Alleman’s tuning calls would net an impressive two-tenths improvement, catapulting Fry and the Darkside Challenger straight to the top with a 5.72 second performance at 252 mph. This was a career-best pass, not only for Fry but for the Darkside team and the Arias Hemi engine program. Mendy’s nearest competitor, the California Hustler, posted a 5.81 at 253 mph, netting her the first nitro funny car win of her career by over a tenth of a second.
The team was elated with the win, receiving the AA/FC Good Vibrations trophy and an outpouring of support from the community congratulating their success.
Wow, what a movie. We come dragging up to our front doorstep after 4 am, trophy in hand as evidence of my first nitro win EVER, full of elation and pride in my crew chief and crew.”
But the celebration would be short-lived, as the following morning came news that fellow competitor Roger Garten had succumbed to the injuries he sustained in the crash during the event. The entire racing community was stunned and saddened by the news.
There really are no appropriate words. I am stunned that Roger lost his life in that crash, and offer my deepest condolences to his family.”
For Mendy, the win is bittersweet. Though she did not know Roger personally, she was crushed by the news of his passing. Understandably, her previous evening joy and excitement was instantly deflated at the unfortunate dangers of racing and the loss of a fellow competitor.
“Drag racing sure is a sport of contradictions,” she said of the sport’s risks and rewards.
Mendy Fry in Smokey’s Darkside