O’Reilly Auto Parts 500



FORT WORTH, Texas (June 19, 2018)

John Apple fondly recalls as a teenager visiting a car dealership in Tulsa, Oklahoma and falling in love with one of that era’s muscle cars, the Chevy Nova SS.

“I was 15 years old, and I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma to Swinson Chevrolet, and they had these little Novas lined up. Two-door hardtops, red ones, blue ones, they were little SS’s, and I just kind of drooled over one of them. I said, ’Dang, I’m gonna have one of them.’”

Well, it took Apple nearly a half century to finally get that Nova SS he so desired and it wasn’t exactly in mint condition from a Barrett-Jackson Auction.

Far from it.

Apple, a 62-year-old resident of Euless, located a junker 1966 Nova SS about three years ago that was sitting idly with no engine and a bare interior.

“When I got the car it was just a rolling chassis,” Apple said. “Just old stock wheels. We had to put a paint job on it, this little black paint. She looked pretty rough. She looked like she’d been abandoned in a pasture or something, I would say.”

After a few summers of working on the car with his son, Johnathan, those who compete against the elder Apple in the Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags at Texas Motor Speedway would have never known that ’66 Nova SS was once a clunker.

Now the classic muscle car is the class of the field in the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Modified Division. Click to view the finished video package on Apple.

The transformation to a contender took a lot of work for the father-son tandem, especially on the 406-cubic inch, small block Chevy engine with plenty of upgrades that provides the power week in and week out.

“Next thing you know we’re up here ‘til midnight, wife’s calling saying, ‘Come on! You gonna live with that thing, or what,’ ” said Apple, who has his own automotive business and garage for more than three decades. “I said, ‘Well, we’re trying to keep this thing in the winner’s circle out there.’ ”

With two weeks remaining in the six-week series, Apple is looking to transform that abandoned vehicle into a division champion. Heading into Week 5 of the Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags, he has two wins and a three-point lead over Chris Thompson and Marcus Wadley. A victory – worth three points – in this week’s action would clinch the division crown for him.

“Winning is great and you can’t get enough of that,” Apple said. “You get a pretty good adrenaline flow when you cross that finish line and know you’ve won the series that night. You get a real good adrenaline rush, I can tell you that. It’s a lot of fun.”

Perhaps even more importantly, this ’66 Chevy Nova has further cemented the father-son bond between John and Johnathan given all the hours they spend together working on this classic vehicle and getting it ready each week for the summer amateur drag racing series.

“It’s a lot of good quality time on the weekend as a family,” the elder Apple said. “Some people like fishing and hunting, but, obviously, we love race cars.”

This week’s theme for Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags is First Responder Night. Any police, fire or EMS personnel showing proper ID will get 50 percent off the regular grandstand admission of $10. Military also receives that discount each and every week.

The cost is $20 to participate in the Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags or Hills Air Support Show-N-Shine competition each week. For those who would like to watch the action, general admission grandstand tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

Tickets are available for advance purchase at www.texasmotorspeedway.com or at the Gate 6 ticket booth. Parking is free in the PSL lot outside of Gate 6 and available for $20 in the infield (with admission included in the pricing). Coolers are permitted in both the grandstands and infield. Each week the infield, grandstands and Show-N-Shine registration open at 6 p.m. CT with drags practice from 6:15-8 p.m. Drag racing competition in the various classes begins at 9:15 p.m.

For more information and official rules regarding the Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags, visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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