"Akron" Arlen Vanke is a well known and very successful drag racer. He enjoyed most of his success driving Mopars, but he also drove Chevrolets and Pontiacs. In the fall of 1961 Arlen walked into the parts department at Knafel Pontiac to order some parts for a customer's car. He noticed a "Super Duty" 421 engine on a stand and inquired about the engine. Bill Knafel's office was next to the parts department, and he heard the conversation about the engine. He invited Arlen into his office to discuss the new 1962 Pontiac "Super Duty". Arlen was always on the lookout for a faster stock car so he ordered a new red 1962 Pontiac Catalina "Super Duty". The car arrived a few weeks later and Arlen prepped it and began racing. Bill Knafel noticed that Arlen was having a great deal of success with the car at many local tracks. He met with Arlen and offered him a job as a salesman at Knafel Pontiac and the chance to drive under the sponsorship of Knafel Pontiac. Thus began an eight year relationship with Knafel Pontiac.
Arlen first began drag racing right after he received his drivers' license. Akron airport opened the first drag strip east of the Mississippi in 1951. It remained in operation until 1959. It was here that Arlen got his first taste of racing. He had a 1940 Ford 2 door sedan with a flathead V-8 and tricarbs. His car would run 14.80 at 87 MPH. In the summer of 1953 he raced every weekend in B/Gas. He was usually successful until he had to race against George Montgomery who always beat him driving a 1934 Ford coupe with a Cadillac engine.
Arlen in 2006 at Norwalk Raceway
Arlen on the left with Bill Knafel and Bill Abraham