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The Pro Stock Years....
In 1969, Mickey Thompson phoned. He had a new Ford factory sponsorship contract. He asked me if I would like to work on the new 429 shotgun hemi engine with two four barrels. This was the only factory Mustang made with two four barrels. This car became one of the first cars that NHRA classed as Pro Stock.
In 1970 I independently campaigned a Camaro during Pro Stock's first season. I had some success with the Camaro winning points races and setting low ET.
At Ontario, Ca late in 1970 I spoke to the director of Chrysler racing. I talked to him about sending me a Duster (which was an A body car). The result was Chrysler sending me a Duster the first part of 1971. It was delivered in Tulare, a body in white with a 6 cylinder. I took it apart in my wife Donna’s grandmother’s garage. At this point the car was acid dipped and then taken to Ron Butler who began working on the chassis and Joe Allread started building the engine. We would drive every evening from Torrance to Van Nuys to Joe’s house. As Joe began the engine process, he taught me what he knew about piston to valve measurements and clearances. Three weeks after the car was completed I set both ends of the record at 9.578 @ 144.92 miles per hour at Fremont, Ca. We were on our way with Chrysler again. At the World Finals in Amarillo, Tx., I red lit against the Rod Shop on a 5 tenths tree. Don Garlits and I talked to NHRA and they changed the tree to a 4 tenths tree, which is still used today.
During 1971 the press hyped up the Eastern Conference, which Ronnie Sox led, and the Western Conference, which I led. The finale came at the World Finals in Ontario, Ca. Sox and I headed to the line. I had an advantage off the line and won (we ran identical ET’s and almost identical speed). At that time NHRA had a 55% weight limit rule on the rear wheels. Sox protested and had me weighed at the scales and the rear wheel weight turned out to be 57% and the race was awarded to Sox. The next week NHRA eliminated the rule from the rule book. I made some cosmetic changes to the car and raced it though 1972.
It was the first Pro Stock car to run over 150 miles per hour in a match race defeating Bill Jenkins at Orange County International Raceway. In 1971 and 1972 I was the Division 7 Champion with the Duster.
In 1973, Ron Butler built my tube chassis Duster and I built the 396 Hemi engine. Our first race was the March meet at Bakersfield. I qualified 16th but first round I dialed the chassis in and went on to win the race with two tenths on the field. This car continued to set NHRA records. In Canada at the 1973 Le Grandnationals, I won my first Wally in Pro Stock defeating Bob Glidden in the finals. Check the record section for the results of 1973.
1974 Chrysler decided not to run Pro Stock due to NHRA rule changes. Chrysler had to run to much weight and wouldn’t be competitive. My challenge was to run a 1965 Plymouth in S/S. I was back driving a 4-speed car running super stock handicap racing. This is the most competitive racing on the tree I ever experienced and the best drivers to compete against. Super Stock Magazines quote about the “65”B S/S “This is the most “feared car” in drag racing.”
I won the Summernationals in 1974 and modified wins in 1975 and 1976. My last Chrysler during this time was a Plymouth Arrow B/gas and matched raced it as a Pro Stocker in 1977.
I am one of a few racers that won national events in three categories, Pro Stock, Modified and Super Stock.
Then..... I went golfing.
Stay tuned, there is a lot more of the Butch Leal racing history to come.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | For the Record