Drag Racing, Feature Article, Washington — September 17, 2004 at 4:47 pm

Greg Springer and John Berry (issue 61)


By Steve Heeb

When Greg Allen Springer arrived for work at King County Metro, he was a long-haired hippie. But when he announced to diesel mechanic co-workers in “Hogan’s Camp” that he was building a race car, he caught the attention of former Green Beret John Berry.

The two teamed up, and can be found at Bremerton Raceway as team Bad Gas, fielding Springer’s ’67 Camaro in the Super Pro bracket.

“The car is bad, and my initials are GAS,” Springer says with a laugh, adding that he had been sketching cars with Bad Gas logos as far back as high school.

Springer recalls racing 13 different hot rod Mustangs back in the mid-70s. In 1981 he picked up the Camaro that would become a project spanning the better part of two decades.

“I built it one paycheck at a time,” Springer explains. “I couldn’t afford to hire it done, so I had to do it myself.”

After starting work on the car in 1983, Bad Gas was finally ready to compete at the tail end of the 1999 season.

Springer and Berry estimate that 400-500 hours of blueprinting and assembly went into the motor alone.

The car’s 540-cid motor and dual quad carburetors produce as much as 950 horsepower, pushing power through the Powerglide tranny to the 9-inch rearend and 17-inch wide Hoosiers.

“We’ve been pretty lucky with that engine,” Springer says, noting that he has made 240 runs in two seasons for the engine. His best runs are in the 8.69-second range at 161 mph.

But luck may have little to do with it. Springer confesses he is a real stickler for how things are organized.

 “How you win is by doing the same thing every race,” Springer says of the team’s adherence to procedure.

“It takes years, season after season, of seeing a particular situation to learn to recognize it,” Springer says of the importance of post-race analysis to react well during future runs. “You’ve got to make those decisions in a hurry.”

As soon as the car is back to the pits, Berry is busy analyzing the stats for each run with a family software drag racing program on one of the team’s two laptop computers. A second computer is used to keep an eye on the weather forecasts.

Many of Springer’s passes are videotaped for future analysis and Berry’s passion for photography was put to use in the early days to help get the car set up.

Special heaters are hooked up to maintain constant proper temperatures for the water, oil and transmission to help reproduce consistent starts and performance.

But even the most organized teams can’t be in control of everything.

When Bremerton hosted its third annual Nostalgia Drags Aug. 7-8, the dragstrip shifted gears to focus on the historic cars and a veritable Who’s Who of the Northwest’s drag racing legends.

Simple changes like tree lamp shields installed at the starting line could throw a driver’s routine.

“It took us out of our element with the covered lights,” Springer said between rounds. “I haven’t had to cut my own Christmas tree in three years.”

He doesn’t offer excuses, just explains that drivers have to move around with the things that change.

“Just like the Miami Dolphins must hate it when they have to play in six inches of snow in Minnesota,” he laughs.

Springer describes the team’s racing attitude as very aggressive.

“We never take any performance out,” he says. “We try to run a big mph. If they’re going to beat me, they are going to have to go by me.”

They notched their first win at Bremerton last year, and finished the season a respectable 17th in a field of 60 cars.

“The guys you race against come up and help,” Springer says of the competition and the assistance he and Berry received when they first unveiled the car at Bremerton. He recalls the huge amounts of help from guys like parts magician Mike Stravono; welder elite Pascal Warren; Rick Weir with body fitting and painting; and fellow Super Pro driver Doug Arthur, who he credits as a mentor at the track.

“He taught me how to do it,” Springer says of Arthur’s racing help.

“He’s become like a little brother to me,” Arthur says of Springer. “I don’t know of anybody with a more competitive will. He’s going to be good.”

Springer and Berry have set their sights on a Super Pro championship.

“We’re looking forward to a trip to Pomona,” Berry says.

The duo already has logged four trips north of the border to compete at Mission Raceway Park, and showed up to Bremerton’s annual Nostalgia Drags event after running at Pacific Raceways the night before.

“We push ourselves pretty hard during the season,” Springer says.

The traveling doesn’t bother Springer and Berry too much.

“It’s like going camping,” Springer laughs. “With 270 good buddies.”

Berry is joined on the road by sons Ryan, 26, and Adam, 21. Springer’s father James, a spritely 76, is another regular in the Bad Gas camp.

“We’ve been together a long time,” Springer says of the partnership with Berry. “We never argue. It’s a great thing.”

“But we have to have ice cream,” Berry adds with a laugh.

“It’s a real tough sport,” Springer says seriously of drag racing. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to do it. Getting up and going to work every day for 30 years is paying off.”

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