Jungle Jim vs. Joe Jacono, Nostalgia Funny Car Match race

Story Submitted by John C. Hill or MoparMagic

Jungle Jim's funny car getting ready for a runJungle Jim vs. Joe Jacono, April 1972

Those of you who are drag race fans, especially from the 60’s and 70’s probably fondly remember certain races. Maybe you remember a national event, or a local “class racing” show, or the “Coca Cola Calvacade of Stars”, or even a booked in Funny Car match race.

For me, one of my most memorable experiences was a nostalgia funny car match race between “Jungle Jim” Lieberman and Joe Jacono and his “Brief Encounter”.

Now let me set the stage for you as to why this particular race was so memorable to me… My family lived in New Castle, Delaware and my brother and I loved cars and drag racing. Now lucky for us, our grandmother had a farm in Conowingo, Maryland and to get there, we had to travel down Theodore Road near Rising Sun, which is the road that Cecil County Dragway is on! We literally had to travel by the “Traction Capitol of the World” every weekend when we were growing up visiting our grandmother’s farm.

On a cold April day in 1972 my cousin called and asked if my brother and I wanted to go see a Funny Car match race between “Jungle Jim” and “Brief Encounter”. Those were two of our most favorite cars. Joe Jacono was a local Delaware racer, and Jungle Jim lived north of us just across the DE/PA border. Plus, we knew there were going to be a lot of very fast cars showing up to race between funny car rounds.

Now my cousin was a paraplegic and had a hand controlled early 70’s Cadillac. The Cecil County crew allowed us to park right along the fence on the top end so he could see. I was 13 years old and I brought my little camera to the shots you see here. I didn’t develop the film until May 1972, but when I did I was pleased with how well they came out for a young teenage photographer.

Joe Jacono's "Brief Encounter" nostalgia Funny carThis photo of the Joe Jacono driven “Brief Encounter” Cuda looks especially rough because I actually kept that photo in my wallet for 30 years before finally putting it in a scrap book. I have heard rumors that this car was previously owned and raced by “Big John Mazmanian” out on the west coast. I recently wrote an e-mail to Joe and asked if this was true. I’ll keep you informed of his answer. I remember building the Revell model of Jungle Jim’s car not long after seeing this race. Those were the days! (Joe Jacono website with fantastic early drag racing photos: (www.joejacono.com)

As I remember it… Jungle Jim won. His car was a much more professional ride, and he was tops in the early to mid-70s until his untimely death in a car crash in PA on September 9th, 1977.

Following up, looks like I was wrong! After contacting Joe Jacono, here’s what he told me:

Yo John…
A few facts.
The Brief Encounter car was John Mazmanians old car.
The match race with Jungle and me was on April 9th 1972, and I won three straight.
Hopes this clears up the mystery.
Attached is a clipping from my scrap book.

From the April issue of National Dragster

April 9, 1972

The grand opening race for the 1972 season at Cecil County was a grand affair indeed as a large turnout of fans were on hand to witness an upset match race win by Joe Jacono and the “Brief Encounter” Barracuda who defeated favorite “Jungle Jim” Liberman and his Hemi-powered Camaro three straight. In the first round, Jacono and his mount, the former “Big John” Mazmanian Barracuda streaked to a 7.05 at 211mph, while Liberman encountered trouble and was held to an 8.94 and a slowing 114mph. In the second round, Liberman returned bent on revenge and unloaded a tremendous 6.68 at 218mph. Unfortunately for the Chevy hero, the “Brief Encounter” Cuda was at the finish line first with a slower but still winning time of 6.84 210.28. Nevertheless Liberman was the new owner of both ends of the Cecil County track record. In the third and final round Liberman’s bad luck continued as he pitched a rod out of the motor, letting Jacono single with a fine 6.81 at 218 mph for the stunning three straight win.

Thanks Joe for “setting me straight” on the race and the fact that you won all 3 rounds. I can’t say I mind being set straight knowing that you won them all. That makes me as happy today as I was 36 years ago! No wonder I kept that photo in my wallet all those years….and hey, I just put it back in to stay. It’s been good luck for me!

I have included some photos of another Camaro Funny Car that appears to be the Santmeyer and Fenner car (forgive me if I’m wrong). There are also some unidentified Junior Fueler and Top Gas front engine rails, along with a strong looking altered with the appropriate name of “Poverty Stricken”! Needless to say at age 13 I was amazed, and forever became a drag racing fan! This is one race that I will never forget.