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Publisher's Note: Duplicate issues of most drag rags & mags are now available from the Wallace Family Archives ( ). firstname.lastname@example.org
A.J. Routt Photo
From a peak of four independent national weeklies publishing simultaneously from southern California the previous year, this 1967 season opened with just two survivors: Doris Herbert's dominant Drag News, the long-established "Drag Racer's Bible" (est. 1955), and sophomore challenger Drag Digest, now tagging itself as the "Drag Racer's New Testament."
It wasn't much of a race, in hindsight. After briefly increasing ad pages in the wake of mid-1966's back-to-back Drag Sport Illustrated shutdown and Drag World sale to AHRA, the promising newcomer increasingly showed signs of desperation as this season unfolded. Circulation claims grew wilder, less believable. Front-page headlines grew larger, more sensational. Subscriptions were offered "on credit." Founding publisher J.L. Sutton moved down the masthead one spot, signaling some sort of bailout by the unknown new guy.
Most telling was Drag Digest's shrinking package size: down from an industry-high 64 standard-sized pages in 1966 to as few as six oversized pages now, padded with large photos. Whereas Doris Herbert had built up a network of reliable contributors and columnists across North America, plus year-'round advertisers, a rainy SoCal weekend was disastrous for a fledgling competitor relying almost entirely on race reports, pictures, and results-based advertising from that one region. When it rained, it poured—empty space. The last issues in our archive carry June 1967 cover dates.
There was no shortage of tabloid entertainment these first six months, however. Funny Cars were exploding interest in drag racing, attracting a new generation of fans, while the Top Fuel faithful clung to the traditional Kings of the Sport and doorslammer followers still thrilled to supercharged gassers aplenty. Readers could also count on both surviving independent weeklies for days-old rumors, gossip, controversies, and insider humor that couldn't be matched by slick magazines arriving six-to-eight weeks later. We hope you enjoy these few examples, and that you'll return for the rest of the story of 1967. Our next installment is devoted to this summer's grand opening of Orange County International Raceway and its most-famous innovation: the Manufacturers Meet.
The late George Barris was equal parts promoter and customizer. His oft-overlooked, short-lived "Drag Exhibition Division" purchased this half-page in Drag News to kick off the '67 season.
Drag Digest's Feb. 24 edition neglected to mention the scary fact that Dale Emery had held his breath to keep from drowning until Rich Guasco, fellow racers, and Fremont officials yanked his head out of the muddy water. This entire episode was filmed in Super-8 color by youngsters Sonny and Jamie Jackson, as seen on DVD/VHS in the brothers' Bad Boy Altereds video (
Years before the term "track prep" entered racers' vocabulary, then-manager Steve Gibbs was developing traction-enhancing equipment for Irwindale Raceway. "Hook" was destined to become NHRA competition director and vice president during nearly half a century with the sanctioning body and its Pomona museum. Steve went on to create the successful Nitro Revival weekend with daughter Cindy, herself a former track operator (Spokane Raceway.
How weird was early Funny Car match racing? How 'bout this dissimilar pair of small-block fuel-burners? We'll never know how quick and fast each ran this February day because Doug Nash's giant-killing pickup and J.C. Sizemore's giant-sized shoebox were both reported as suffering malfunctions in their first three (of five!) rounds—after which Drag News publisher-editor Doris Herbert abruptly terminated Biloxi's story (as she sometimes did to type that didn't fit the space). At the tender age of 23, Nash built probably the lightest competitive Funny Car ever. A two-piece, all-fiberglass body and thin aluminum rails may have achieved his target weight of just 1200 pounds, for all we know (Nash avoided any scales). DragList.com reports respectable e.t.s of 8.68, injected, and 8.33, supercharged (at 181.45 mph), but handling was unpredictable. Following this season, NHRA banned aluminum chassis from sanctioned strips and truck-based bodies from national events.
After diminutive driver Roy "Goob" Tuller (left) became Top Gas Eliminator at Bakersfield's ninth U.S. Fuel & Gas Championships, he brought a bucket to the trophy presentation—and needed every extra inch to barely rise above Freight Train owner-tuner John Peters (second from right) and leggy Lynda Rickman, daughter of pioneer Petersen Publishing Co.photographer Eric Rickman.
From editor Forrest Bond's column, Mar. 17 Drag Digest.
Only a veteran who's done duty in a combat zone could fully appreciate 19-year-old Leonard Hobbs's overnight, Alice-In-Wonderland transition from a helicopter gunship in Vietnam to the Daytona 500. The trip was Leonard's reward for winning a contest dreamed up by George Hurst and Jim Wangers of Pontiac's ad agency. Service members anywhere in the world were eligible to tell Hurst, in "about 30 words," why they'd like a date with Linda Vaughn. That dream hookup turned out to be a three-way: Because the winner was married, the DC-8 bringing Hobbs back to what troops referred to as "The World" (USA) further surprised him by landing in San Diego to collect wife Jennifer enroute to Florida. We're relieved to report that Leonard survived that heartstopping weekend and the remainder of his Vietnam tour. Interviewed for Linda's 2016 biography (CarTechBooks.com), he said, "[M]y head was spinning, my heart was pounding … The Hurst people could not have been more attentive, accommodating, and fun."
Possibly drag racing's earliest example of serious onboard data logging consisted of a movie camera filming various instruments. The involvement of SR-71 pilot Darryl Greenamyer mentioned in this May 5 Drag News caption leads us to suspect pirated military technology.
The late Kaye Trapp was the celebrity photographer of drag-racing tabloids, though not in paparazzi style. His access as a still photographer for Hollywood studios enabled unlikely "product placement" in the hands of famous folks willing to play along with the friendly photographer during breaks in filming, as illustrated in the May 12 Drag News by the Hogan's Heroes costar who played Colonel Klink. Trapp often push-started Dave Zeuschel's Top Fuel customers with the Norm Grabowski-built Model-T tub that impersonated a Porter in another network show, My Mother The Car. He later partnered with Ron Winkel and Jeep Hampshire to campaign Kent Fuller's fully suspended MagiCar.
Innovative publisher J.L. Sutton's summer surprise was doubling the competition's physical paper size, as if to deflect attention from his huge deficit in editorial and especially ad pages. Drag Digest also favored sensationalistic and misleading headlines, in this instance referring to nothing more threatening than an unusual weekend of spring rainfall that canceled action at SoCal strips (except at San Fernando's ironically nicknamed "Frog Pond"). The handsome young pilot on the Drag News cover is Larry Dixon Sr., assisted on this record-setting Lions evening by girlfriend Pat and (L-R) John Mitchell, Rae Scott, future-world-champ Jim Scott, Mrs. and Mr. Tom Abbott of Chute Metal Co., and Bill Ward.
Inside the slick covers of this independent monthly, page after page of hardcore classified ads were separated by industry news, tech tips, event coverage, and car features, all printed on cheap, B&W, "buff" stock. Our sport's expanding national importance and influence were reflected in a recent title change from Hotrod Parts Illustrated. Ironically and inexplicably, what's arguably the highlight of the June edition, a timely story about OCIR's upcoming August opening, didn't even rate a cover blurb.
"The County" (1967-83) will be the focus of our next chapter in the Drag Rags series. Of the many artist's conceptions circulated by Orange County International Raceway's designer-builder-manager Mike Jones (reproduced here from the June edition of Drag Parts Illustrated), only the retail and concession spaces incorporated into the backside of the concrete main pit grandstand turned out as envisioned by racer-architect-promoter Mike Jones. The on-site gas station never materialized, the manually operated scoreboard was a fraction of the size depicted, and neither the fulltime restaurant nor speed shop attracted sufficient weekday business to survive. Before Jones walked away from the ultra-high-overhead operation six years later, the eatery was a distant memory, the kids' playground was shuttered, a pedestrian tunnel prone to collapsing was sealed off, burned-out scoreboard bulbs begged for replacement, and the all-underground electrical and PA wiring (preceded only by Raceway Park's subterranean system in New Jersey) was plagued by hungry rodents. Nonetheless, the original "Supertrack" is widely credited for innovations including stadium-style and reserved seats, electronic scoreboards, professional landscaping, family facilities, the sport's best restrooms, a glass-walled tower complete with top-floor VIP lounge and bar, and all-bought-in Funny Car extravaganzas of 32 and even 64 cars. OCIR’s landlord, the giant Irvine Company, declined to renew the lease after 1983 and quickly developed the 120-acre site near the intersection of Interstates 5 and 405 into prime commercial property.
PREVIOUS DRAG RAGS
THE EARLIEST EDITIONS
BANS WERE BIG IN '57
ISKY STIRS THE POT
DRAG RAGS OF 1960 – TRAGEDY, POPCORN SPEEDS AND A CAMSHAFT RIVALRY
DRAG RAGS OF 1961: CONTROVERSY STALKS NHRA
DRAG RAGS: 1959 - GARLITS GOES FROM ZERO TO HERO, TURNS PRO
DRAG RAGS: 1959, PART 2 — HOW THE SMOKERS BEAT THE FUEL BAN
DRAG RAGS OF 1962: GARLITS IS NO. 1, WALLY IS ALL GAS
DRAG RAGS OF 1963: FUEL IS BACK - OR IS IT? JETS RUN WILD
DRAG RAGS OF JAN.-JUNE 1964: INNOVATION WITHOUT LIMITATION
DRAG RAGS OF JULY-DEC. 1964: ZOOMIES PUSH THROUGH THE 200-MPH BARRIER
DRAG RAGS OF EARLY '65: EXPLOSION OF WEEKLY PUBLICATIONS
DRAG RAGS OF JULY-DEC 1965: FUELERS, FUNNIES AND GASSERS APLENTY
DRAG RAGS 1965: TERRY COOK TELLS HOW THE WEEKLY SAUSAGE GOT MADE
DRAG RAGS: DRAG RAGS OF EARLY 1966: FUNNY CARS FLIP OUT, "SURFERS" STAR
DRAG RAGS: DRAG RAGS OF JUL.-DEC. 1966: FAILING NEWSPAPERS, PIONEERING FEMALES
DRAG RAGS: EARLY 1967 - WAR OF EARLY INDEPENDENTS ENDS