Glidden's represent at NHRA Nationals
Senior staff writer
Shannon Springer Glidden remembers growing up in Greenwood with a close-knit family.
Her dad, retired Greenwood Parks Director Evan Springer, was a hot rodder and did a little drag racing. Her mom, Nikki, was a Greenwood High School cheerleader and did some racing too. Shannon’s brothers, Shawn and Steven, and sister Stacy also understand the value of family.
They grew up on Broadway Street near the Old City Building that once served as the city’s community center and were just a few blocks from the heart of Downtown, the city pool and Greenwood United Methodist Church, where they still worship today.
Shannon fully understands her commitment to family as the wife and longtime companion of second-generation drag racer Billy Glidden of Whiteland and why the couple is a phenomenon in today’s ultra-expensive world of drag racing.
As a young teen, Shannon – a three-sport athlete in high school and a lifeguard – had no idea what drag racing was about until she saw some photos of her mom and dad holding racing trophies.
She met Billy while playing basketball at the Greenwood Community Center. Her mom told her before she met Billy’s parents, Bob and Etta Glidden, that Bob was famous but a down-to-earth person who worked hard.
Billy and Shannon form the most economical team in the National Hot Rod Association’s Pro Modified class. They are co-team owners, and they are the team. Billy does all the engine work and mechanical preparation; Shannon takes care of the parts and equipment.
“It’s in my blood because mom and dad raced before I was born,” Shannon said. “I saw them in photos with all those trophies. I didn’t know what Billy’s family was all about when I began dating him. Eventually he told me that drag racing was his life and said it had to be my life too.”
Glidden, 51, son of Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden, won his first NHRA event championship in Pro Mod in June in Englishtown, N.J. – the same drag strip that his dad won his 85th and final Wally trophy during a stellar 20-year career.
Shannon and Billy will go for their second Wally in Pro Mod this weekend at the 61st annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg. He drives a 2010 Ford Mustang, powered by a 903-cubic inch Billett with nitro and is sponsored by Mickey Thompson Performance Tires.
Billy’s mom, Etta, taught Shannon how to pack the rear parachute of a high-speed drag racing vehicle and how to lift tires by using leg strength instead of back strength.
“Billy’s the brains, and I’m kind of the brawn,” Shannon said. “He’s an incredible man when it comes to engines.”
He preps engine parts and rebuilds engines and transmissions by hand. There is no CNC machinery at the Whiteland shop, which is heated by an economical wood pellet furnace. He admits that Shannon grumbles at times, but he also knows that there are few couples that work together 24/7 to achieve what they do.
Billy has raced for business owner and former Indianapolis 500 team owner Mickey Thompson since 2008, when they went together to develop a wider drag racing tire for NHRA Pro Stock competition. In less than two years Goodyear struck a deal with NHRA to be the official tire of Pro Stock.
Glidden’s car is Pro Mod and Pro Stock legal; however, he competes in Pro Mod in a Mustang that has a short 105-inch wheelbase.
“We’re running a car that was not specifically built for this class (Pro Mod),” Shannon explained.” We don’t know if it’s a handicap because Billy does so well with the car; no one else has tried to run Pro Mod with a Pro Stock legal car.”
They are eager to compete again in front of family, friends and fans in the U.S. Nationals today through Monday.
“To race at home and in front of all those spectators is awesome,” Shannon said. “I’m a social person so it is very hard to block out people when they want to talk. But this is high stress, and the turnaround between runs is so short that there’s not much time for conversation. We have a definite rhythm with our tasks between rounds.
“Billy and I know that we are allowed to do what we do in drag racing because of all the thousands of people who attend these races. I never miss my partner because I’m with him all the time. I have this bonus of being with him in this whole life.”
She understands the demands of drag racing and how emotionally painful it was to miss the funeral of her brother, Steven Springer, in April 2014. He was a retired veteran who was killed in a single-vehicle accident in southern Indiana.
“I knew that Steve loved what we did so much that he would have wanted me to stay with Billy,” said Shannon, who was at a race in Houston. “My husband was going down the track at 240 miles per hour when I got the call he had been killed. I knew I would see family when I got home.”
Billy made his drag racing mark in the 1990s by winning 15 different series championships. He raced in the World Form Challenge, World Street Nationals, Mr. Gasket Challenge, Hot Rod Magazine series, National Mustang Racing Association and National Muscle Car Association and finally NHRA. He won NMRA and NMCA championships in the same year.
“The highs are the pinnacle, but the lows are about as low as you can get,” said Shannon, 48. “It’s just the two of us, so it is crushing when things don’t work out at an event the way you want.”
Sportsman qualifications continue Thursday with Pro Mod trials beginning Friday at 1:30 p.m. They begin Saturday at 12:30 p.m. with Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout fnals at 7:45 p.m. Qualifications resume Sunday at 9:15 a.m. with eliminations rounds at 11 a.m. Info: www.lucasoilraceway.com or www.nhra.com.
Entries from Southside:
• Comp Eliminator – 390B/EA, Ray Skillman, Greenwood, 2014 Ford/Chevy 397, Ray Skillman Auto Mall.
• Super Stock – 373FSS/E, Bill Skillman, Greenwood, ’10 Ford 330, Ray Skillman Ford; 3471GT/CA, Casey McCarty, Greenwood, ’87 Pontiac 455, CNI Motorsports; 3903FSS/B, R. Skillman, ’12 Ford 330, Ray Skillman Auto Mall.
• Stock Eliminator – 2AA/SA, Drew Skillman, Bargersville, ’12 Ford 331, Ray Skillman; 373FS/A, B. Skillman, ’14 Ford 302, Ray Skillman Ford; 339LC/SA, Randi Lynn Shipp, formerly Whiteland, ’67 Pontiac 400, Jim Butner Auto, Inc.; 349JF/SA, Joey Shipp, Whiteland, ’70 Chevy 350, Shipp Family Racing.
• Super Comp – 396VSC, Ronald Finney, Greenwood, ’11 Dragster/Chev 605, Renegade Race Fuels.
• Super Gas – 316F SG, Bob Locke, Whiteland, ’57 Corvette 565, Custom Business & Tax Solutions; 337R SG, Robert Goodrich, Greenwood, ’93 Ford/Chev 434, Commercial Team Construction; 3391 SG, Randy Shipp, Whiteland, ’60 Corvette 496, Ray Skillman Chevrolet; 349J SG, Joey Shipp, Whiteland, ’68 Camaro 555, Ray Skillman Chevrolet; 3791 SG Pamela Kuehner, Greenwood, ’96 S-10 421, Greenwood RV Rentals.