Queenslander Steve Easton is set to steer Bob Godfrey's "Burn'n Money" Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car at the 2013 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion in October.
For the 29 year old Aussie it's a dream come true after coming to the US in December 2011 to live and work full time. "I've vacationed here twice a year since 2007. I've spent plenty of time at Bakersfield and started out by crewing on a Nostalgia Nitro funny Car for fun," said Steve.
"A good friend of mine Dennis Holtz encouraged me to try for a full time gig on a Nitro Funny Car. So when I came back in 2011, I headed to Vegas to speak with a few crew chiefs and after the interview process came away with a job with John Force Racing."
While working as the clutch guy on Courtney Force's Nitro Funny Car Steve maintained his passion for driving. "Before coming to the US I drove my Alcohol Funny Car in Supercharged Outlaws. I've driven quite a few blown cars after getting my ANDRA licence back in 2005."
"When I first saw a Nitro Funny Car I fell in love with the idea of driving one and that's one of the main reasons I'm here."
It didn't take Steve long to realise his dream. This July at Bakersfield the opportunity to licence in Bob Godfrey's "Burn'n Money" black 1970 Cuda came up and Steve grabbed it with both hands.
"We aimed to run a 6.20 on the first pass. I remembered the words of my mentor, the late Mick Atholwood, and tried not to set the world on fire to get my licence – just make a nice clean pass and get the car down to the other end of the track."
"Well the first pass didn't go to plan. On the step it picked up the front wheels and headed for the wall. I couldn't see a thing so I lifted to fight another day. Ended up we ran 0.989 to the 60', much quicker that we had expected so we took some timing out."
"The next pass was better, strong to the 60 foot mark and I clicked it at a 1000 foot as planned. I was pretty surprised when I got the time slip, a 6.05 @ 211 mph on the shut-off. Bob was really happy with the job I'd done but I did get pretty close to the cones. At one point in the run I quickly looked down to make sure it was in second gear but that's all the time it took for the car to move to the centreline."
"The next day we came out for the third pass and I felt really comfortable in the car. She went straight down the groove to run a 6.08 at 217mph. Bob and Mike Halstead signed off on my licence so now I'm all set for the Hot Rod Reunion in October."
But before Steve gets behind the wheel of a Nitro Nostalgia Funny Car he has a job to do as the clutch guy on the Traxxas Ford Mustang of Courtney Force.
"Working for John Force Racing has taught me a lot and I'm loving what I do. Sure it's a lot of work and a lot of hours but it's all worth it when I've been part of the team to help put Courtney into the winner's circle."
"Everyone can make the power over here so it's the little things that make the difference. Crew Chief Ron Douglas says we are 'pro-stock funny car racing'. Attention to detail is the key to going rounds."
"To give you an idea of what I mean we have a full time track interpreter. His job is to look for high and low spots in the track, test how much grip the track has, check and record the temperature plus a stack of other variables. He then creates this amazing topographical map which the crew chiefs use to tune the power to the track."
"And before you ask, yes, John Force is exactly like he is on TV. We have a lot of fun but business is racing and racing is business."
Looking forward towards the 2013 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, Steve's first ambition is to qualify in what will be a tough field of Nitro Nostalgia Funny Cars.
"The Hot Rod Reunion is one of the biggest nostalgia races in the world. While I expect it will be both exciting and terrifying, I know the car's got what it takes and it's up to me to bring my A game. This is something I've been working really hard at since I came over here in 2007 and I can't wait to go into eliminations for the first time in the United States of America."
"With this first step I've got some pretty big goals for the future; racing part or full time in the USA on nitro. Racing in the NHRA would be the ultimate."
"I do have plans to return to Australia at some point and I still have my Alcohol Funny Car in the shed at home; if I could spend my time between both countries that would suit me just fine."
"But right now I'm focusing on my job with JFR and getting excited about going racing. I' like to say a big thank you to Mike Halstead who has been like a big brother to me, for all his advice and encouragement."
"To Bob Godfrey and his crew, Bob Bradley and Steve Dickerman; thanks for making licensing in a Nitro Funny Car so easy and helping me out with such a big opportunity."
"Thanks to my sponsors Peter Leahy Custom Imports Gold Coast Australia and P.E. Customs Capalaba Australia for helping me realise my dream."
"And to my family and friends, I couldn't have done it without your love and support."
Stay tuned folks; this young Aussie is going places in a hurry.