Super Senior: Frankie Woodward & John Keefer
GRAND ISLE, Vt. (WCAX) - In the summer of 1965, Frankie Woodward experienced the fright of his life. It was his first time behind the wheel at the Milton Speedway, a drag racing facility that closed in 1971.
“I was probably like 27 maybe,” Woodward said. “Nothing like it is now. It’s pretty well grown up.”
Pictures capture the era long gone in Vermont. They include Woodward and his crew chief, John Keefer.
“First time you ever went down the drag strip was in this thing,” Keefer said. “Were we nuts or what?”
The name of their race car -- The Vermonster. It was a beast that could reach a top speed of close to 200 miles per hour on the quarter-mile track in about eight seconds. “Them days never to return,” Keefer said.
During those days, Woodward and Keefer were inseparable, spending their weekends competing at tracks in both the U.S. and Canada. But between family commitments and traveling, racing became a drag. “That’s why it’s called a dragster. You drag it to the racetrack and you drag it back home,” Keefer said.
So they sold The Vermonster and life went on. It wasn’t until years later that Keefer saw the car for sale on Craigslist and the love affair was rekindled. The pair have lovingly restored it over the years.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You can fit in that thing?
Frankie Woodward: Yup. You want me to get in?
For both men -- now in their 80s -- this is like going back to their youth. “Do not pull the parachute,” cautions Woodward, pointing to a red button.
“Do not pull the parachute,” adds Keefer.
The chassis is mostly original. The engine is from an old Chevy Suburban. It emits a deafening explosion as Woodward fires it up.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Yeah, that’s loud.
John Keefer: You think?
Frankie Woodward: Huh?
The Vermonsters days on the track may not be over. The two plan to cross the border to Napierville, Quebec, this summer to compete. “First, I have a goal of going at least 150 miles an hour again. That’s compared to what it used to go. It’s kind of slow, but that was my goal,” Woodward said.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Eighty-three years old, going 150 miles per hour.
Frankie Woodward: Hopefully 160.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You support him doing this?
John Keefer: Ah, yes. I made it clear to him that he doesn’t have to go down a drag strip for me.
Frankie Woodward: It’s a good adrenaline rush, you know, for a few seconds.
The races only last a few seconds but the memories between these two friends last a lifetime.
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