a story from the net...
*a close encounter with a Legend - 1966*
If you were competing in Top Fuel in the 60's, the biggest race of the year was the Smoker's March Meet in Bakersfield, California. The US Nationals was NHRA's biggest event at the time, but they couldn't match the March Meet for sheer size and the numbers of competitors who would show up.
In 1966, the modest-yet-mighty Surfers won the event, beating a Top Fuel field that included over 100 competitors. That's right. Over 100 Top Fuel cars were at the event in 1966.
This photo was taken by a young fan at the top end, right after the Surfers driver: Mike Sorokin had pulled off of the track on their final winning pass.
The 17 year old fan in the photo is Frans Vanderbroek. He was a huge Surfers fan, and this was a defining moment for him. This is how Frans tells the tale of this photo:
"My friend and I had been watching the races all day. When the time came for the final run between the last two cars, we were about half track. My friend and I had to choose where we wanted to see the run from. We saw the huge crowd at the starting line, so we decided to avoid the crowds, and watch the run from the top end, beyond the finish line. We thought we might be able to get a good picture from there."
"When we got there, we looked back up at the starting line. We couldn't see the Christmas Tree, and the cars were just tiny dots, as they were half a mile away from where we were standing."
"We certainly knew when the race began, by the roar of the Surfers' car. It very, very quickly became larger as it raced to where we were. The car in the other lane had red lighted, so it remained a spec on the horizon. The track at the top end was rough, and as the parachute bloomed behind the car, and the engine went quiet, we could hear a distinct "scrape...scrape...scrape" sound as the bottom of the car bounced off of the track surface. When the car came to a stop, he was right in front of us! We couldn't believe our luck."
"The race win wound up being the greatest moment in the Surfers' racing career, and yet everything was totally silent. The only people there were Mike Sorkin (the driver), my friend, and I."
The engine was going "ping-ping-ping" as it was cooling down from the run; and Mike had yet to even get out of the car, when I told my friend to take my picture. I walked up to the car, and shook Mike's hand, and congratulated him on the win."
That is the moment captured here.
It was only seconds later that the Surfers' push car and entourage arrived ceremoniously to enjoy the win together, and bring Mike and the car back to the starting line for the trophy presentation.
They were about the leave when Tom Jobe; one of the Surfers' Team Members, asked young Frans and his friend if they wanted a ride back with them.
The boys couldn't believe their luck. Not only had they been at the top end to congratulate their hero on his win, they also got a ride back to the starting line celebration with the team.
The Surfers disbanded a year later to pursue other interests, and Mike Sorokin was tragically killed in another Top Fuel car in late 1967.
Fast forward 50 years...
Frans was attending a drag racing reunion only a couple of years ago, and he happened upon the lone surviving member of the Surfers: Tom Jobe. They struck up a conversation, and Frans showed Tom this photo, and shared his own memories of that great day.
Remarkably, Tom remembered Frans, and remembered that they rode back to the starting line with them on that remarkable day. Frans asked Tom why he had so graciously offered them a ride back to the celebration that day.
Tom said that the drag racing community was a family back then. Without fans, there would have been no point in being a racer.
That same sense of family, community, and brotherhood permeates through this entire hobby.
(Sources: Frans Vanderbroek , Bill Pitts, Tom Jobe)
Tom Jobe: the last surviving member of the legendary top fuel team “the Surfers”, passed away on Saturday.
Bob Higginson is probably the most knowledgeable Surfers historian, and he and Tom Jobe were great friends. Bob built “the Surfers” recreated top fuel car.
He said the following upon the news of Mr. Jobe’s passing…
“Hi everyone.... it is with the heaviest of hearts and the deepest of sorrow that I report on the passing of Thomas Henry Jobe. He had been hospitalized for the last two weeks while doctors were diagnosing an issue with muscle strength and coordination when he passed unexpectedly.
I and a few select friends were with him nearly around the clock for these few weeks, laughing and sharing stories of his life and adventures.
Mr. Jobe never showed any fear or sadness and remarked how fortunate he was for all he got to learn and build and the friends he made along the way. He fulfilled every goal he ever had in what we would call a "Bucket List" today.
With all the visitors he had, and the hours we spent with him ..one of the nurses approached me and asked it Mr. Jobe was some kind of celebrity or special person. I replied to her... " You can’t even imagine."
Thank you all for your wishes for Mr. Jobe on his birthday! I printed them all and made them into a giant card for him. We had a little party for him with cupcakes and balloons and sang him "Happy Birthday" which embarrassed him thoroughly.... and then I read all your messages to him and that touched him dearly.
In lieu of any flowers , Mr. Jobe asked you to make a donation to your local Salvation Army, which was Tom's favorite charity. I will have more information in the coming weeks about a Celebration of Life for Mr. Jobe.
As he had lived his whole life, even his final weeks were conducted with honesty, truth, and dignity. He was completely at ease with whatever was going to happen, and that made things somewhat easier on us too.
Thank you Mr. Jobe, for everything you taught us about life, both on and off the race track. You're teachings and inspiration will live on forever.”