Winternationals Memorable Moment No. 4: The Mystery Train (1963)

Typically, the winner of a major event such as the NHRA Winternationals would be eager to see his or her name in print and to bask in the glory and adulation of friends and family, but such was not the case for 1963 Top Gas winner Bob Muravez.

A big win at the 1962 March Meet at the wheel of the famed John Peters/Nye Frank twin-engine Freight Train had earned him notice and a severe reprimand from his father and a demand that he stop racing if he hoped to be part of the family’s Maytag dealership franchise.

To continue racing and to stay under the radar, Muravez — like Don Prudhomme, Tommy Ivo, and other famous California racers a member of the famed Burbank Road Kings car club — adopted the pseudonym Floyd Lippencott Jr. and competed at the 1963 event under that name.

A young Steve Gibbs, in his pre-NHRA days, was the Drag News reporter for San Gabriel Drag Strip, and after Muravez won a race there, he implored Gibbs to use an alias. Hence, Floyd Lippencott Jr. was “born.”

“The Floyd part came out of thin air, but I borrowed the name Lippencott from a college textbook that was on my shelf,” recalled Gibbs. “I threw in the Jr. part as an afterthought. The track announcer, Mel Reck, started using the name at subsequent events, and it stuck.”

After piloting the Train through the tough Winternationals field that included 1961 Top Eliminator winner Jack Chrisman, 1962 champion Jim Nelson (with Danny Ongais now driving his Dragmaster Dart), Connie Kalitta, and Gordon “Collecting” Collett, Muravez reached the final, where he faced off with Kalitta’s impressive single-engine Chrysler mount.

Although his final-round 8.82, 178.21 was far from his meet-best performances of 8.36, 185.18, Muravez won the race and faced the dilemma of how to keep his name from the spotlight.

Initially, team owner Peters was listed as the winner, and Muravez’s roommate, Rex Slinker, was photographed holding the trophy standing next to a “Who me?” Muravez.

Not until years later were records amended to officially reflect Muravez, who also won Top Gas at the 1967 and 1969 Springnationals, as the rightful champ.