All High School Drags Pt. 2

        ROCKY'S ROAD            


All High School Drags Pt. 2

To assist in building some excitement for the All High School Drags I approached several high schools for possible assemblies that we could produce but there were plenty of negative vibes. The approach was we would display a popular dragster at the school and have the driver talk about safety. After getting turned back more than just a few times, I talked to Benson High School and they were excited about the possibility.

We had one of the major drag races going on in early May of that year at PIR which included Jeb Allen in his Praying Mantis top fuel dragster. Jeb was from Southern California. He had just graduated from high school himself which was perfect as the Benson students would hear his story from one of their peers. To get the dragster into the gymnasium we had to disassemble the entrance door to get the car in on the floor. After a lot of work we rolled the car right in on the gymnasium floor.

Once the word went out to the students in their classes the entire gymnasium was was standing room only. Jeb Allen was an excellent speaker as he talked about the importance of safety in the sport.

That big crowd at Benson sure got me excited and I hoped that the All High School Drags would become commonplace and continue possibly grow over the years. Without question the average high school student seemed to be well into the car scene.......perfect for the All High School Drags.

Over the years in Portland, I talked to many schools but there always seemed to be a cold shoulder about this type of event. Their concern always was the possibility of a wreck at the track and someone getting hurt. Obviously, I knew how safe the drags are for the slower cars, like ones that would be racing at the high school drags, and the possibility of some one getting hurt was miniscule. But that didn't seem to sell very well to the schools.

I would distribute flyers on the car windshields about the race at a lot of schools which really assisted the race entries. The radio ads, targeted at the teens, really worked well also. I felt I didn't need the approval of the schools as these annual affairs were always in late May (just before school got out for the summer) and the events were held during the evening, well after school hours.

So I just put my head down and charged ahead.

The format we worked out included winner and runner up trophies for several “brackets” that these cars would fit into---according to how quick the individual cars timed in the eighth mile. In addition to those different bracket trophies we kept a points system so one school could become “King of the Hill”.  After winning the overall trophy the students would then take that trophy back to the school so that it could be displayed. Well, at least, that was the plan. Most of the schools wouldn't even allow the trophy in their trophy cases...they didn’t accept the concept. Oh, brother.....narrow minds!

Although my old mind is a little sketchy these days, I do remember always having around two hundred cars racing and well over a thousand students cheering on their friends. There would be cars from Longview, Salem and all points in between. It was interesting to see the group of cars heading to PIR for the event with the school name on the back window as they arrived as a team.

They were just fun events for everyone involved.....and different than the view of some schools, they were very, very safe. No one ever got hurt at these events; not any problems at all between the students from different schools. It was just good rivalry to see which school could win it all. What is also quite interesting the All High School Drags were the beginning for several future drag racers, some went  on  to careers within the sport.

It was much like a farm club similar to baseball. It was the perfect way to get young teachable kids off the street and into organized drag racing. These events allowed them to get a feel of what it is all about.

I would always have an experienced local car club involved in the All High School Drags. They could ride along with the students to show them exactly what to do and how to do it. There was always a little fear factor for the students learning how to drag race as they didn't want to fail. Once they were showed how to drag race it was a piece of cake for them from then on.

I always knew that the opportunity existed within the drag races for someone to become a mechanic;  a crew member of a race team or other tie-ins could also be possible. Not everyone can have some athletic skill that will turn into a career. Not even the best-educated are guaranteed jobs and for those that aren't great in academics (like me) the possibilities were endless. This is the Land of Opportunity, not everyone has to follow along with all the others especially if they really are driven to make it in some other potential career motor sports. Doing something you really love to do as a career is very rewarding for a fun and long life.

Over the years I used to tell the story of the All High School Drag Races to the track operators during the annual meetings that took place during the winter months. Track after track jumped on the program with huge successes using the same concept that was born at PIR.

The high school program got it's start at PIR in 1974 and then went like wild fire cross the USA. Since then dozens of race tracks have been using the same program at their tracks. Denver, Boise, Seattle, Maple Grove are just a few of them.

In 1976 I moved to Seattle to become the General Manager of IRP as I anxiously looked forward to the All High School Drags there at SIR----what a great challenge ahead!  A major market with hundreds of high schools...I could hardly wait.

Next Rocky’s Road:  Don “The Snake” Prudhomme was always a fan favorite in the Northwest.

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