In the late ‘60s the dynamic of drag racing was shifting. West Coast T/F heavy hitters were staking their claim for national supremacy by challenging their eastern counterparts on their own turf. One of the “foreigners” leading the charge was Tom “The Mongoo$e” McEwen at the helm of his Tirend fueler. Prior to the famous Mattel sponsorship that forever changed the face of drag racing, McEwen had brought the first non-automotive deal to the sport, Tirend Activity Booster.
During the 1968-69 season, he campaigned his new 186-inch Woody Gilmore ride throughout the nation, setting records and winning from coast to coast. Out west he captured the prestigious Las Vegas Stardust Nationals, one of the nation’s biggest independent events. Goo$e took two Lions events, the 14th anniversary race and C. J. Hart’s fabled Perpetual Motion Top Fuel Show. He also chalked up the year-ender Orange County race.
He was low ET at the U.S. Nationals, winning several rounds of competition both seasons. Goo$e was very close to John Mulligan and Tim Beebe of Beebe & Mulligan fame. After Mulligan’s tragic death at the ’69 Indy race, he took the nosepiece off his Tirend ride and finished off the season as Beebe, Mulligan and McEwen.
The Tirend dragster has the distinction of being the first drag car to use a computer. Terry Cook and his crew at Car Craft Magazine featured it on the cover, spending several weeks and several dozen runs on the project. The results of the information they gathered? Just as today, if you can’t make use of the data, it’s pretty much worthless.
Perhaps the Tirend’s biggest claim to fame was participating in Orange County International Raceway’s “Richest Race Per Second In The World.” In the 1968 race celebrating OCIR’s first anniversary, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, $14,000 in cash was put up for one race, winner take all.
The participants were determined by running the two quickest ETs during OCIR’s first season. The Mongoo$e with a 6.64 matched up against Springs, Oklahoma’s Benny “The Wizard” Osborn, who’d recorded a 6.72, for all the money. The hoopla went on for weeks prior to the race. That night a Brinks armored truck hauled in a wheelbarrow filled with $14,000 in silver dollars, which was taken to the starting line. Bennie and Goo$e had to sign an agreement not to split the winnings, but only those two know what really happened after the smoke cleared.
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Text by Pete Ward
Photos by Pete Ward and Tom McEwen Archives