The cars are flashy, eye catching and, most importantly, fast.
But what, exactly, is a Gasser? Stott says the name comes from when NHRA founder Wally Parks created the original Gas class in the 1950s. The chief requirement, beyond utilizing a street car style body, was that the cars had to run on gasoline.
“They named the class Gas Coupes and Sedans. Well, that name was just too long for an announcer to say,” Stott said. “So they nicknamed it The Gassers because they had to run on gas and it just stuck.”
The Gasser class was discontinued by the NHRA in the 1970s, but has remained popular for those looking to enjoy the nostalgia of yesteryear.
The success of the Southeast Gassers Ass’n can be seen in the car count at the race track, the fans in the grandstands and the following the series has garnered on social media.
The series has more than 34,000 Instagram followers nearly 100,000 fans on Facebook.
“It’s real racing. It’s the last of a dying sport,” said Oden. “You can bring any person, I mean any person, to the races and they understand it. It’s simple. The first car to the finish line wins. The rules make all the difference in the world.”
The series has become a home away from home for many competitors, most of whom treat race weekends as an opportunity to hang out with their friends while having a little fun on the side.
“We’ve got little kids that just come and walk into our trailer,” said Oden. “Everybody knows everybody’s name. Everybody knows what car that those people belong to. You let one new person join in, the next week everybody knows them. It’s not like they’re going to sit over there at their trailer and people are going to walk by and not speak to them.
“Everybody joins together and makes this into a family. That’s what makes this popular. That’s what makes this family.”
Jeff Madden, a 55-year-old resident of Charleston, S.C., fell in love with the Southeast Gassers Ass’n after attending an event in Greer, S.C., during 2016. He’s since become a driver, though, he is taking this season off to help out a friend and fellow competitor.
“If you like cars or go to a car show or just like it, you need to come to our races because it will blow you away,” Madden said. “Stop by any of the pits. Stop by, we’re all open. Kids want to get in the car? Put a kid in the car and just see them light up. That to me is just fun. Put a little kid in a car and he’s sitting behind the wheel and you know that’s going to stick with him, you know? We’re open to everybody.”
Rod Burgener, 53, a native of Texas who recently moved to North Carolina with his wife, Roxanne, discovered the Southeast Gassers Ass’n through a YouTube video more than two years ago.
In 2019, he competed in every event on the schedule.
“Once you become involved with this group of guys, it actually becomes less about drag racing and more about the group of people,” Burgener said. “When people say it’s a big family, that’s exactly what it is. When I wasn’t able to make the London, Ky., race because I was prepping for our move, you had a dozen people calling to make sure I was OK. When somebody isn’t there, he’s missed. It’s a whole package, this organization.”
With the series gaining popularity, Stott says he doesn’t want the Southeast Gassers Ass’n to lose what has made it popular in the first place.
“We really don’t want it to get much bigger because I’m afraid if it gets much bigger it’ll take away (from the series),” Stott said. “I’ve had two opportunities to go to Bristol (during) NHRA and run our Gassers.
“I flat turned them down both times,” Stott explained. “That’s not the image we’re looking for. We don’t want to be at a national event. The last thing I’m ever going to do to my racers is let them be downgraded to a filler for John Force.”
Instead, Stott is going to stick to what has worked. He’s going to keep putting on entertaining races with unique cars that have as much, or more, personality than the drivers.
It’s tried, it’s true and, so far, the fans, drivers and families are enjoying it.
“We can’t advance. If I advance, I ruin it,” Stott said. “I sat down and I said, ‘How did football, baseball and basketball survive without advancing, without anything new to strike people’s interest?’ It’s the competition. People love to see real, true competition. They love to see man against man. Football teams, there’s no crutch out there. It’s all physical, it’s all physical and mental.
“Well, think about what I’m doing with these Gassers. I’ve put the person back in the car. It’s all mental and physical and I’ve got really, really close competition. It’s a kind of racing that people can relate to.”