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||Wally Booth

Wally Booth

Like most other competitors in the sport, Wally got his start in his teenage years but his most visible years were when he headed up the entrance into the sport by American Motors (AMC). He was making a name for himself with his Booth-Arons Chevrolet Camaro pro-stock car but when he got the call from AMC he saw the opportunity it offered for both factory backing and a highly visible effort.

When Wally began the project there was nothing in the way of performance parts available for the AMC’s, they were very boxy and un-aerodynamically designed. Fortunately, AMC did produce some very special blocks for their NASCAR and Trans-Am participation so Wally paired up with cylinder head guru, Dick Maskin, to produce their own reliable heads. AMC gave them part numbers and they went racing. Wally started the AMC program in a Tom Smith built Gremlin X but soon discovered that, while still a box, the Hornet was quicker and faster and in 1973 he debuted an all-new Hornet race car. Along with Maskin and Rich Lamont, the group also had to design their own cams, pistons, rods, and get the various manufacturers to produce them.

The Gainesville, Florida, Gatornationals in 1974 gave Wally his first national event win and actually saved the AMC drag racing program. After that Wally became a part of history when he qualified the AMC number one at the 1975 NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana, and followed up by defeating fellow AMC pro-stock competitor Dave Kanners in the final round of the 1976 NHRA World Finals in Ontario, California. In addition to his 1974 Gatornationals her and the 1976 work final wins, Wally’s overall performance net him a total of five NHRA national event wins that also included: the 1976 Springnationals in Columbus Ohio, the 1976 US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the 1976 Fallnationals in Seattle, Washington. Other prominent wins included: the 1976 AHRA Drag Nationals in Kansas City, Kansas, the 1975 Popular Hot Rod Nationals in Martin, Michigan, the IHRA 1975 US Open Nationals in Rockingham, North Carolina, and the 1975 IHRA Winston All-American in Bristol, Tennessee. While he fielded the only AMC race car to ever win in NHRA’s Pro Stock class. In 1976, Super Stock and Drag News wrote, “In the finest drag racing tradition, Wally Booth transformed the unheralded AMC into pro-stock’s most formidable machine”.

While he continued to successfully campaigned the AMCs through 1979; he chose to retire from driving and devote all of his time to his engine building business.

After his discharge from the Navy in 1959, John bought a 1950 Chevy Coupe powered by the factory tri- powered 348 cubic inch engine that was very competitive around that era. Being a typical gearhead, it wasn’t long before that combination was too tame. So, John decided to design and build his own dragster chassis and install a highly modified 331 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi on gas with periodic attempts on nitromethane for power. John campaigned this car successfully locally during the 1961 and 1962 seasons. He was also following what was happening across the country as far as the speed and ET’s. So, in the winter of 1962 he had a couple buddies build him a new chassis while John was putting together a 400 cubic inch 6:71 blown nitro burning Pontiac engine for its power. This combination worked well for John and he was able to run as fast as 190 MPH in Denver’s rarified air and at the same time pickup his first major sponsor which helped him see an even greater future in the sport.

As much success as John had with the Pontiac powerplant he knew that to be competitive in this arena he would have to make the move to a Chrysler Hemi. So, in 1966 he teamed up with his friends Jerry Keating and Bobby Geer to field a new Woody car. Bobby built and painted the sleek full body and John built the blown 392 Chrysler Hemi engine. The trio unveiled the new car for its maiden run and were able to set a new Colorado state ET record of 7.42 seconds. Always looking to go quicker and faster to be more competitive in mid-1967 John dropped his Chrysler powerplant into Ernie Spickler’s RCS built chassis and immediately became the team everyone in the area wanted to beat. As successful as the team was, Ernie had a business to run, so John put together a program with Mark Williams whereby Mark would supply a completed new car and John would supply the rest of the items needed to go to racing. In 1968 John was one of two Colorado and two Texas cars that teamed up as the United States Drag Racing Caravan to tour Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas putting on match races.

Over the next couple of years John continued to compete in a semi local arena (Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah) and in 1973 he switched over to his first rear engine car. He really wanted to compete in the national arena so in 1976 he took on the driving chores for the team of Frazier and Williams in their rear engine, late-model Chrysler hemi powered, MW Enterprise top fuel dragster. John was able to post a win at the big UDRA race in Saginaw, Michigan.

1977 proved to be a better year for the team, which by this time consisted of just Larry Frazier and John. They were able to notch wins at the Popular Hot Rod Magazine Meet in Martin, Michigan, the IHRA US Open in Rockingham, North Carolina. They were runner-up at the IHRA World Nationals in Amarillo, Texas and the High-Altitude Nationals in Pueblo, Colorado. They also qualified number one at the NHRA World Finals at Ontario Motor Speedway at 5.88 seconds.

In 1978 the team had acquired major sponsorship from Jet/X and was able to continue racing on a national basis. That year they finish number five in both NHRA and IHRA point standings. They returned to defend their title at the Popular Hot-Rodding Championship at US 131 in Martin, Michigan only to lose to Don Garlits in the final round. They continued with wins at the IHRA Spring Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee and the NHRA Winston Championships series in Brainerd, Minnesota. Thet appeared in seven top fuel final rounds that season.

They kicked off the 1979 season with a win at the AHRA Winter Nationals in Tucson, Arizona. But their sponsor funding wasn’t coming on a regular basis, so Frazier opted to retire at this point leaving John without a ride. True to form this situation didn’t last long when John was able to buy Jake Coughlin’s retired top fuel dragster. John spent the rest of the season competing at NHRA and IHRA national events from coast to coast, finishing in the final round seven times and winning three. He ended up finishing number nine in NHRA, number eight in IHRA, and number eight in AHRA point standings.

1980 found John with a new sponsor, the Jolly Rancher Candy Company, that allowed him to continue to compete on a solid basis. This resulted in his winning the Crown Auto Parts race at Brainerd Minnesota and qualifying number three at the US Nationals with a 5.82 second ET at 246.45 MPH.

In 1981 John had greater success winning the NHRA Winston World Championship meet in Denver, Colorado. He competed in the final round of eliminations six times. Notched wins at WWCS in Denver, Colorado, WWCS in Brainerd, Minnesota, the Quaker State Oil Championships at Brainerd, Minnesota, and the NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. He set low ET at the World Finals at Orange County international Raceway with a 5.63 second ET and became the eighth member of the Cragar 250 MPH Club during the US Nationals. John was runner-up at the WWCS event at Maple Grove, Pennsylvania and also the Nitro Knockout in Denver, Colorado. The NHRA points championship that year came down to the final race of the season with John finishing number three behind Jeb Allen and Gary Beck.

In 1982 John finished number five in the AHRA Grand American series, picked up a runner-up finish at the AHRA Summer Nationals in Kansas City, a runner-up finish at the AHRA World Finals in Spokane, Washington, and won the Fuel Nitro Knockout Championship in Denver.

After that John began winding down his participation, but still notched two wins, a number eight points finish in the 1983 AHRA Grand American Series, and number 13 in the 1983 NHRA Winston Championships series. After 23 straight years of top fuel racing, in 1984 John competed at Denver, Tucson, and Tulsa. John held onto the intension of ending his career as being an active team owner and driver. This finished over 31 years of total racing. The first eight years with performance street rods and the last 23 years and fuel dragsters.

In the July 1982 issue of Car Craft Magazine, John was featured in a rare top fuel car center spread article and was the featured car on the cover of National Dragster multiple times starting in 1964. John was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Columbus, Ohio in 2007, and was inducted into the NHRA Division 5 Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri in 2009. While John retired as an owner driver the rest of the Abbott clan is carrying on what John started. His son Jon Jr and his wife, Sondi, campaigning twin top dragster class cars. Grandson Christopher working as crew man in the top fuel ranks and granddaughter Caylynn driving a junior dragster winning the JD-2 Points Championship at Bandimere Speedway in 2013. John’s oldest daughter Carrie broke with family tradition and is a world acclaimed artist, however still supporting the families racing endeavors.


Like most other competitors in the sport, Wally got his start in his teenage years but his most visible years were when he headed up the entrance into the sport by American Motors (AMC). He was making a name for himself with his Booth-Arons Chevrolet Camaro pro-stock car but when he got the call from AMC he saw the opportunity it offered for both factory backing and a highly visible effort.

When Wally began the project there was nothing in the way of performance parts available for the AMC’s, they were very boxy and un-aerodynamically designed. Fortunately, AMC did produce some very special blocks for their NASCAR and Trans-Am participation so Wally paired up with cylinder head guru, Dick Maskin, to produce their own reliable heads. AMC gave them part numbers and they went racing. Wally started the AMC program in a Tom Smith built Gremlin X but soon discovered that, while still a box, the Hornet was quicker and faster and in 1973 he debuted an all-new Hornet race car. Along with Maskin and Rich Lamont, the group also had to design their own cams, pistons, rods, and get the various manufacturers to produce them.

The Gainesville, Florida, Gatornationals in 1974 gave Wally his first national event win and actually saved the AMC drag racing program. After that Wally became a part of history when he qualified the AMC number one at the 1975 NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana, and followed up by defeating fellow AMC pro-stock competitor Dave Kanners in the final round of the 1976 NHRA World Finals in Ontario, California. In addition to his 1974 Gatornationals her and the 1976 work final wins, Wally’s overall performance net him a total of five NHRA national event wins that also included: the 1976 Springnationals in Columbus Ohio, the 1976 US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the 1976 Fallnationals in Seattle, Washington. Other prominent wins included: the 1976 AHRA Drag Nationals in Kansas City, Kansas, the 1975 Popular Hot Rod Nationals in Martin, Michigan, the IHRA 1975 US Open Nationals in Rockingham, North Carolina, and the 1975 IHRA Winston All-American in Bristol, Tennessee. While he fielded the only AMC race car to ever win in NHRA’s Pro Stock class. In 1976, Super Stock and Drag News wrote, “In the finest drag racing tradition, Wally Booth transformed the unheralded AMC into pro-stock’s most formidable machine”.

While he continued to successfully campaigned the AMCs through 1979; he chose to retire from driving and devote all of his time to his engine building business.

After his discharge from the Navy in 1959, John bought a 1950 Chevy Coupe powered by the factory tri- powered 348 cubic inch engine that was very competitive around that era. Being a typical gearhead, it wasn’t long before that combination was too tame. So, John decided to design and build his own dragster chassis and install a highly modified 331 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi on gas with periodic attempts on nitromethane for power. John campaigned this car successfully locally during the 1961 and 1962 seasons. He was also following what was happening across the country as far as the speed and ET’s. So, in the winter of 1962 he had a couple buddies build him a new chassis while John was putting together a 400 cubic inch 6:71 blown nitro burning Pontiac engine for its power. This combination worked well for John and he was able to run as fast as 190 MPH in Denver’s rarified air and at the same time pickup his first major sponsor which helped him see an even greater future in the sport.

As much success as John had with the Pontiac powerplant he knew that to be competitive in this arena he would have to make the move to a Chrysler Hemi. So, in 1966 he teamed up with his friends Jerry Keating and Bobby Geer to field a new Woody car. Bobby built and painted the sleek full body and John built the blown 392 Chrysler Hemi engine. The trio unveiled the new car for its maiden run and were able to set a new Colorado state ET record of 7.42 seconds. Always looking to go quicker and faster to be more competitive in mid-1967 John dropped his Chrysler powerplant into Ernie Spickler’s RCS built chassis and immediately became the team everyone in the area wanted to beat. As successful as the team was, Ernie had a business to run, so John put together a program with Mark Williams whereby Mark would supply a completed new car and John would supply the rest of the items needed to go to racing. In 1968 John was one of two Colorado and two Texas cars that teamed up as the United States Drag Racing Caravan to tour Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas putting on match races.

Over the next couple of years John continued to compete in a semi local arena (Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah) and in 1973 he switched over to his first rear engine car. He really wanted to compete in the national arena so in 1976 he took on the driving chores for the team of Frazier and Williams in their rear engine, late-model Chrysler hemi powered, MW Enterprise top fuel dragster. John was able to post a win at the big UDRA race in Saginaw, Michigan.

1977 proved to be a better year for the team, which by this time consisted of just Larry Frazier and John. They were able to notch wins at the Popular Hot Rod Magazine Meet in Martin, Michigan, the IHRA US Open in Rockingham, North Carolina. They were runner-up at the IHRA World Nationals in Amarillo, Texas and the High-Altitude Nationals in Pueblo, Colorado. They also qualified number one at the NHRA World Finals at Ontario Motor Speedway at 5.88 seconds.

In 1978 the team had acquired major sponsorship from Jet/X and was able to continue racing on a national basis. That year they finish number five in both NHRA and IHRA point standings. They returned to defend their title at the Popular Hot-Rodding Championship at US 131 in Martin, Michigan only to lose to Don Garlits in the final round. They continued with wins at the IHRA Spring Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee and the NHRA Winston Championships series in Brainerd, Minnesota. Thet appeared in seven top fuel final rounds that season.

They kicked off the 1979 season with a win at the AHRA Winter Nationals in Tucson, Arizona. But their sponsor funding wasn’t coming on a regular basis, so Frazier opted to retire at this point leaving John without a ride. True to form this situation didn’t last long when John was able to buy Jake Coughlin’s retired top fuel dragster. John spent the rest of the season competing at NHRA and IHRA national events from coast to coast, finishing in the final round seven times and winning three. He ended up finishing number nine in NHRA, number eight in IHRA, and number eight in AHRA point standings.

1980 found John with a new sponsor, the Jolly Rancher Candy Company, that allowed him to continue to compete on a solid basis. This resulted in his winning the Crown Auto Parts race at Brainerd Minnesota and qualifying number three at the US Nationals with a 5.82 second ET at 246.45 MPH.

In 1981 John had greater success winning the NHRA Winston World Championship meet in Denver, Colorado. He competed in the final round of eliminations six times. Notched wins at WWCS in Denver, Colorado, WWCS in Brainerd, Minnesota, the Quaker State Oil Championships at Brainerd, Minnesota, and the NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. He set low ET at the World Finals at Orange County international Raceway with a 5.63 second ET and became the eighth member of the Cragar 250 MPH Club during the US Nationals. John was runner-up at the WWCS event at Maple Grove, Pennsylvania and also the Nitro Knockout in Denver, Colorado. The NHRA points championship that year came down to the final race of the season with John finishing number three behind Jeb Allen and Gary Beck.

In 1982 John finished number five in the AHRA Grand American series, picked up a runner-up finish at the AHRA Summer Nationals in Kansas City, a runner-up finish at the AHRA World Finals in Spokane, Washington, and won the Fuel Nitro Knockout Championship in Denver.

After that John began winding down his participation, but still notched two wins, a number eight points finish in the 1983 AHRA Grand American Series, and number 13 in the 1983 NHRA Winston Championships series. After 23 straight years of top fuel racing, in 1984 John competed at Denver, Tucson, and Tulsa. John held onto the intension of ending his career as being an active team owner and driver. This finished over 31 years of total racing. The first eight years with performance street rods and the last 23 years and fuel dragsters.

In the July 1982 issue of Car Craft Magazine, John was featured in a rare top fuel car center spread article and was the featured car on the cover of National Dragster multiple times starting in 1964. John was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Columbus, Ohio in 2007, and was inducted into the NHRA Division 5 Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri in 2009. While John retired as an owner driver the rest of the Abbott clan is carrying on what John started. His son Jon Jr and his wife, Sondi, campaigning twin top dragster class cars. Grandson Christopher working as crew man in the top fuel ranks and granddaughter Caylynn driving a junior dragster winning the JD-2 Points Championship at Bandimere Speedway in 2013. John’s oldest daughter Carrie broke with family tradition and is a world acclaimed artist, however still supporting the families racing endeavors.

By | 2019-04-13T16:38:02+00:00 April 13th, 2019|2013 Inductees|