Match Racing Pt. 1

        ROCKY'S ROAD            


Match Racing Pt. 1

Rocky's Road: The wheeling and dealing world of match racing in the 70’s Part 1 


Throughout the 70’s the drag racing world was alive and very well for local nitro funny car races. There were lots of races right here in the Northwest, on the home turf, for a large contingent of funny cars.  Just between Seattle and Portland you could run your funny car 3-4 times a year at each race track. It was easy for us promoter-types, in those days, to round up an eight car show using local cars or you could bring in a “hitter” or two to take on the local cars.

As a promoter you could be successful using local cars, well promoted, and then, support the event with local e.t. bracket cars. We’d usually include a wheel stander, or a few jet cars in each event, as added entertainment making the Northwest very active for match racing throughout this time period.

I’m not sure I can remember all of the local cars but here goes: Ed “Ace” McCulloch, 240 Gordie Bonin, Twig Zeigler, Rich Rogers, Hank Johnson, Jerry Ruth, Jim Greens’ Green Elephant, Jim Moore and his Kahuna (from Alaska but kept the car locally), Mardy Maltais, Mike Miller, Nitro Nick Harmon, Kenney Goodell, Tacomas’ Paul Luppy, Terry Capp, Springer and Price …the list that goes on and on. I’m sure I’m leaving a bunch of cars out of this list but there was certainly a lot of them right here locally that we could pick and choice for our events.

There were a few other race tracks, in Canada, Spokane Raceway Park, Firebird in Boise, and a few other nitro races available around the Northwest but Portland and Seattle were really active with the nitro floppers. As mentioned earlier, every year we’d run them 3 to 4 times at each track which made for a great schedule for the nitro funny car crowd. Several of the cars ran outside of the area so they were not available all summer long here in the Northwest.

A real positive part of the picture in the Northwest, during that time back then, is why so many racers took notice that funny car racing was the place to be. If you wanted to compete both often and in the Northwest, a nitro funny car was most certainly the answer.  Many of the fore mentioned racers could plainly see the popularity of those cars and how many local races there would be each season. Cars were being built throughout the Northwest at a very rapid rate.

The other positive part about this scenario was that by using local cars if the rain eliminated an event or two the racers could just head back home… rain money from the promoter. That certainly helped with the risk of running this many major events between the two tracks. The advertising risks were a whole different deal. You had to “step up” and buy lots of radio/tv ads and if it rained tough luck!! I worked deals with a lot of the radio stations for lesser costs when we would rerun an event but with scheduling of other events sometimes you couldn’t even rerun the event, if it rained-out, that was the end of it. You could easily bury yourself in costs really quickly with just a few rain clouds on the same days as scheduled events-the risks were so very high. It was just a roll of the dice mostly in the early April or May events. If you could get the good early spring weather days an event could really do well. On the other side of the coin, a shower or two and it was all over.

I often thought in a business view, is it better to have less funny car events or continue doing what we have been doing. In other words, less risk—that was a hard thing to analysis as that many events were allowing more cars being built in the Northwest—more cars were a necessity at the bigger summer events.  It was sort of a catch 22.

The touring pros would mostly be brought in during the driest part of the racing season, in the Northwest, late July and early August. The more expensive cars had the bigger overheads with all the traveling, etc. and the risk goes up big-time. During the 70’s, Hall of Famer Bill Doner, President of the company, also had tracks at Irwindale, Orange County and the track in Fremont, California. Doner could cut deals with the touring pros that covered all the tracks in the West. Both Portland and Seattle would be included. If there was rain in one place or another, Doner could offset that a bit by making a deal for additional race dates. He’d have to work out a rain deal sometimes but having the power of a whole bunch of tracks really made the Northwest match racing scene a powerhouse of the best funny car drag racing there was. With the Northwest being so far away from the California drag racing scene it took Doner and his “multiple tracks” ability to bring these giants of the sport up our way. The Northwest was able to reap the benefits and present big-league match racing throughout the decade of the 70’s and into the 80's.

Funny car drag racing was really flourishing throughout the Northwest during this time.

There were lots of races and lots of cars within a few hundred miles making it perfect to race most weekends throughout the summer.  At the time, the most popular race cars in the sport were in an ideal position to race near your Northwest home without traveling far away. It was the “perfect scenario” for funny car racing back then.

The local racers loved it...and the local race fans had a great thing going also.

ROCKY'S ROAD Match racing was big time in the 70's. Next:  Part #2