Love of sport keeps drag racer Noel Felton on track
By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen
He hasn’t made much money drag racing, but the smell of burning rubber, the sounds revving engines, the scent of oil and racing fuel has kept local drag racer and mechanic Noel Felton on the track since his high school days at Mackenzie High in the early 70s.
Although he is 60 years old, Felton isn’t thinking about packing it in and getting out the rocking chair just yet. The love of cars has never left him and likely never will.
“This is my livelihood,” Felton said from his garage on 6 Mile and Rutherford. “I have at least five more years as a driver as long as my health holds out.”
Delton says he and his teammates race for fun — and for free. “We travel and sleep in my motor home when we drive to drag meets. We have to pay our own entry fees to race,” he said.
The team races in the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA), which has a circuit of eight drag meets a year: Milan, Mich.; Bowling Green, Ky.; Joliet, Ill.; Commerce, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; Bradenton, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Columbus, Ohio.
“My five-man team and I have raced out of our pockets during my entire amateur and professional career. I never had a major sponsor. We can bump and grind with the big teams and their budgets.”
And he has. Felton has been in the top ten in drivers’ points in the NMCA over the last six years against teams with more expensive cars, equipment and bigger budgets. In 2010, Felton was third in National driver’s points in the NMCA; in 2011, he finished fifth. He won a NMCA Meet at Milan in 2010, and in 2011 he was runner up. He didn’t race last year because one of his crew members fell seriously ill.
Felton started racing in 1970 at Mackenzie High with a ‘69 Chevrolet Nova with a 396 cubic-inch V-8. He raced a lot of meets with the Nova at Detroit Dragway, Motor City Dragway and Milan. In 1975, he raced in the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) B/Gas Division. As always, he raced in local meets at the local drag strips. He raced out-of-state for the first time in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1987, Felton moved up to the professional ranks when he competed in the NHRA Pro Stock Division with a 1987 Pontiac Firebird he built from the ground up. His professional debut was at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida where he qualified 17th in a field of 35. In 1991, he raced a 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass with nitrous oxide racing fuel in the NHRA Sportsman Class. From 1996-1999, he raced a variety of pro-modified cars for other teams in the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). In 1999, he won The Halloween Classic at Norwalk, Ohio racing a 1969 Camaro.
Felton currently races a 2004 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 with co-owner Denny Haver in the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA) Pro Street Class. It’s powered by 728 cubic-inch V8 prepared by Chris Holbrook Engineering of Livonia, Mich. The engine block is made of aluminum to save on weight. Powered by a racing fuel of nitrous oxide and mounted on a set of Mickey Thompson drag racing slicks, the bow-tie machine can reach a top end speed of 218 mph in the quarter-mile. He’s raced the car for the past nine years, and Felton isn’t slowing down yet.
“I’m going to get my racing on now as long as I have the energy and the funds to do it,” he concluded. “I just do it because I enjoy it!”