Pictured at left is Annette with her dog Beau.
Annette never races without her guardian pig angel.
"I’m just a housewife with this god-awful habit. I guess there are worse things."
Blonde, spirited, and dedicated to being the best racer that she can be, Annette "Pink" Summer has been around, and involved with, fast motorized competition for as long as she can remember. With a background in racing, the strong-willed South Carolina native began carrying on the family tradition as soon as she was old enough to reach the pedals of a bicycle. "I’ve been around racing all my life," Summer said. "Mostly in the beginning it was stock car racing because I had a cousin who raced on the circle tracks. Glen "Fireball" Roberts was also a distant relative of mine, and my dad drag-raced up until the time I was born. I always loved racing – I was crazy about it. I raced bicycles when I was a young kid, then moved on to motorcross, which I ran until I was 19. By the time I quit racing motorcycles I already had two years of drag racing experience behind me, having started running my pink 1968 Camaro at the ‘strip when I was 17. There wasn’t any organized racing program for us back then, so we mostly ran heads-up test and tune sessions to see who had the fastest cars. I won’t say we didn’t run at an abandoned airstrip once in a while, but mainly we just drove the cars at the track for fun and bragging rights.
"It was after I met my husband Vernon in the early 1980s that I got seriously into the sport. He raced a Ford in IHRA Pro Stock at the time, and raced against Lee Shepard, Warren Johnson, Bob Glidden, Rickie Smith – all those guys. He drove the car and I was his crew chief. Vernon’s first car was a former "Dyno" Don Nicholson Mustang that had been the first seven-second Pro Stock car. Don had retired the car and it was sitting in a garage in Atlanta. Vernon built a motor and Don told him he could take the car out of retirement and run it. He did his rookie year in Pro Stock driving Dyno’s Mustang."
Annette and Vernon raced that car, and later another former Dyno Don Mustang, for a couple of season until her desire to get behind the wheel could no longer be contained. The Mustang went away, and in 1991 her trusty first-generation Camaro was gutted and transformed into a true race car. It proved to be a very quick hot rod, and a terror at the local tracks.
Hot Rod Magazine held a special race during the National Muscle Car Association Finals at Memphis International Motorsports Park in 1992 to determine just who had the country’s baddest street car. The race-within-a-race ‘Fastest Street Car Shootout’ drew 26 of the toughest boulevard cruisers on the planet to Tennessee, each with its own unique combination of engine, power-adder and tire size. The following year, Annette took the advice of friends and fellow racers and hauled her ride to Tennessee to see how she matched up against the best in the business. "I finished fourth in Memphis, which was a real thrill," Summer said. "I had never raced before a big crowd before. The next year, which was 1994, I won several National Muscle Car Association races and went on to win the Pro Street Championship in my sophomore season."
Prior to clinching the title, however, Annette made some more history when she attended a street car shootout at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania. "A bunch of companies had put up this big bounty for the first car to make a seven-second pass," she said. "We went in to that race without having even been to bed. We worked night and day to put a four-link suspension under the car and a Lenco transmission in it. Believe me – everything that could go wrong went wrong. We had no time to test – I had never used a Lenco in my life. I’d worked on them and been around them, but that was it. We were so tired and worn out that everybody was wondering if I could even do a burnout right.
The first pass I made was a 7.86. I came back later in the weekend and ran 7.72 – the next closest time was something like 8.12. This was in a back-half car remember – no tube frame. From the driver’s seat back there was a four-link, but from the seat forward was stock ’68 Camaro. It surprised the world. The next weekend we went to Memphis where I won the championship, and the week after that we went to Orlando and I wrecked the car. It had rained real bad, and the next day when the sun came out it brought the moisture out of the surface. I hit a wet spot at the eighth-mile and slammed the guardrail at 150 mph.
Hurt my car and hurt my neck, but both were put back on track eventually. In 1995 I won the first race of the year. That was Tony Christian’s first NMCA race as well. I finished second to him that year and in ‘96. After that we built my second car, which didn’t work out. I did win the National Street Car Association championship with it in 1998, was named Racer of the Year, and set the Pro Street MPH record at 211 in August 1999. I held the record for so long that they put a time limit on it and timed it out eventually because no one could touch it."
Annette later brought out a new car, a pink first-generation Camaro, of course, and in 2001 she recorded the fastest nitrous time in the history of the class at the time with a pass of 6.68 seconds at 212 mph in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was to be her last hoorah in the Pro Street ranks.
In July of 2002 the powerhouse ’63 Corvette that Annette now drives was born. Her plan at the time was to build a turbocharged door car that she could take to every quarter-mile track possible and attempt to blow away their respective performance records, hopefully earning recognition as the sport’s quickest and fastest doorslammer car in the process.
In that way she could gain notoriety in the Outlaw Pro Mod ranks, and hopefully lead the way for the turbocharged combination in mainstream Pro Modified competition, which most insiders knew was just a few seasons away. Her friend, and former fellow Pro Street competitor, Bob Rieger was already pushing hard for the inclusion of turbos in Pro Mod, and this car was built in part in an effort to help him promote his cause.
Jim Geese of Vanishing Point Race Cars in Pennsylvania built the car. While it looked like a typical ’63 Corvette Pro Mod car from the outside, it was something totally new.
The rear-end and wheels utilized in the car were the same as those used in Top Fuel cars. The rear-end is a Mark Williams modular 11-inch piece, and there were Weld 16 by 15-inch Top Fuel wheels on the rear of the car. This was done in an attempt to counter the growing number of incidents in which Pro Mod racers were breaking the centers out of the wheels they were using, causing wrecks or major damage to cars. They were basically overpowering a wheel designed for Pro Stock, and Annette’s team wanted to increase the margin of safety as much as possible.
The car was plumbed and fitted with a twin-turbo powerplant by Kenny Duttweiler. The original engine put in the car was one of the 447-inch pieces built for Bob Rieger’s Pro Street car. In September of 2002 the car made its first appearance at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned on that first test weekend, however, as nagging problems with the brakes kept Rowe, the driver scheduled to shake the car down, out of the seat for an extended period. Later, with Hayden behind the wheel, the new machine very nearly ended its racing days prematurely when it went out of control on the burnout and crossed just in front of the tree, coming to rest just shy of taking the guardrail head on.
Since then, the Corvette with the potential to be one of the premier doorslammers on the planet has undergone a number of changes, both cosmetically and mechanically. In the process just about everything from the nose to the Top Fuel-style rear wing has undergone major modifications in order to make the car live up to the vision of its original mission plan.
Annette had already made the decision to go Pro Mod racing, even before the Corvette deal came along, and in fact she had friend, fellow racer, and noted chassis builder Tommy Mauney scheduled to build her another ’68 Camaro, this one a Pro Mod machine. Since Mauney was not able to promise her a completion date, however, she bought a nitrous-injected ‘57 Chevrolet from Mike Castellana. Success in the big leagues of doorslammer competition came quickly as Annette qualified No. 13 at the spring Rockingham race in 2003 with a best pass of 6.284 at 219.86.
The shoebox Chevy was eventually converted to a turbocharged combination, joining the heavy duty Corvette in Annette’s stable.
It hasn’t been easy, as Annette, Vernon, and engine guru Darrell Makins have struggled tirelessly to achieve the performance and consistency they know the turbocharged combination can deliver. After four years of fine-tuning and modifying just about everything on the car, the team, along with a long list of welders, fabricators, tuners and crew members have finally succeeded in bringing one of drag racing’s baddest Corvettes to the brink of Pro Modified prominence. "It’s been one thing after another – we’ve done just about everything you can possibly do to a race car - rebuilt, replaced, modified and customized just about everything," Annette said.
Once all systems begin operating at optimum levels, it’s expected that the Corvette will easily run 6.20s at its current weight. On paper, under perfect conditions, this car should be capable of runs in the five-second zone at well over 240 mph. But that’s in the future. Right now, the husband and wife team are more concerned with achieving consistency and reliability, the keys to qualifying well and going rounds of race day.
Anyone even remotely associated with fast doorslammer racing can’t help but be impressed by the huge investment of time and money, not to mention blood, sweat, and tears, that Annette and Vernon have poured into the perfection of a competitive turbocharged Pro Modified machine.
At the U.S. Street Nationals in Bradenton, Florida, held in late January 2007, the team’s huge effort paid off as Summer qualified third for the tough Outlaw Pro Street class with a best elapsed time of 6.357 seconds. She had a top speed of 232.20 mph on a pass where she had to pedal the big ‘Vette twice. On top of that, her chutes failed to deploy, and she did something that only a driver with her great skill and experience could have done – she used just the right touch on the brakes to keep the car under control, scrubbed off speed and made the turn safely. She made it at a high rate of speed, but she brought the car home in one piece.
In the second round of eliminations Summer was on a solid mid-6.20 pass when the oil light flashed on, and she immediately shut the car down. She never even considered second-guessing the glowing red bulb, because her biggest concern was for the valuable 600-cubic-inch monster riding between the frame rails right in front of her.
This is a decision the team has abided by from the beginning. Vernon Summer and Darrell Makins long ago decided to play it safe when it comes to their unique bullets. They have slowly worked their engine program up to the level they recently achieved, and during that process they have torn down, inspected, and rebuilt the engine numerous times. The bottom line, as Summer says, is that "we can’t afford to blow it up."
"We have tested, tested, tested," Summer said. "We have had some success along the way – I qualified the Corvette first at the World Street Nationals in 2005, and made the quickest eighth-mile pass for a turbo car with the ’57 at Carolina Dragway last May. But this version of the Corvette is the best of the bunch. Jim Geese at Vanishing Point Race Cars made a lot of upgrades to the car over the winter, and Vernon and Darrell, along with our crew guys Jack and Darren, spent hours and hours rebuilding the engine and wiring and plumbing the car. We got it finished just before the Bradenton race, and in just our third time down the track we ran that 6.357. It was great – strong and straight – and there’s a lot more in this car, believe me. A lot more."
Many have dabbled with turbocharging, and while a few have been successful, many others have fallen by the wayside. Annette Summer is not one of these, obviously, and now, with sponsorship help from Mike Ashley, the pink-flamed Corvette from South Carolina is almost certainly poised to become the scourge of the Pro Modified world!