Police have arrived. Now what?

        ROCKY'S ROAD            


The quality field of Funny Cars were all set for the finals, then a  huge group of police arrived.  Now what?

It took several hours to complete the necessary qualifying. That were several hours of the best funny car racing Eugene, Oregon had ever witnessed.  Pair after pair of fuel burning funny cars was skating around on the rough and slick racing surface of Balboa Drag Strip. The huge crowd had been cheering after each pair that thundered down the track. And Doner was building the upcoming finals more and more after each qualifying run which just added to the excitement of the evening.

Not a sole even considered leaving after the qualifying was complete. “You just gotta see the finals” Doner continued to point out to the crowd. The two combatants were working vigorously preparing their machines for the finals as the crowd anxiously waited for the final showdown.

At some time well before 10pm I was on the starting line watching over the timing equipment when a police officer approached me in a suit and said, “You have exactly 10 minutes to complete this event. The neighbors near here have been complaining and this event is done!” Whoa!

I said to me quietly, “We can’t run the final here in Eugene,eeek!” (I knew that a monstrous problem was about to take place!) Quite frankly, I do not think the officer really understood what the impact would be if the event was stopped right then. He must have thought that the crowd would just calmly walk out of the race track....no big deal.

He was soon going to find out that utter chaos would break out. 

He was a plain-clothes officer from the Eugene Police Department, the same group I had hired to do all the security at Balboa that evening. Moments later, with instructions from the plain-clothes officer, all of the security abruptly disappeared from the property-poof! The officer then stormed aggressively, in bee-line fashion, toward the race tower to talk with Doner. Now what?

The officer, in no uncertain terms, told Doner that it was jail time if he did not shut down this racing event immediately. Bill said, “If we can run just two more cars this event is over, completed”. The officer said in a terse way, “no way, this event is completed right now....no more race cars!” (And, by the way, all of this happened well before the 10pm curfew which was the well-established and planned curfew for this event)

Doner, really frustrated and anticipating what was going to take place, grabbed the microphone and eloquently said, “The racing is over for the evening and thanks for coming”. (Or something like that), the crowd reaction: They just went beserk, crazy, flat nutso!! The grandstands emptied of the massive crowd and just about every one of them came right out on the drag strip, they were livid. I took off my raceway tee shirt and turned it inside out in a valiant effort to look as not-part-of-this event, as I could. (From my view, being incognito was a smart move at this point). These folks were really upset and just looking for someone, (or any one), to blame it all on.

I could see how the timing equipment from Portland would probably turn to dust if I didn’t do something, so I started loading this old ambulance with everything I could find. I saw one unpleasant individual arrive to the starting line area, with hands clinched in fistic rage, began to rip up all the underground wiring in addition to kicking nearly everything in sight. He had that “Are you ready to rumble in his eyes”. It was full-blown chaos at that point.

The crowd that was so really hyped-up by Doner’s announcing was now down surrounding the announcing tower and throwing rocks through the windows where Doner and the crew were hidden away. There was then a genuine effort to burn down the entire tower, which certainly shows the attitude of this irate group. Quickly the timing equipment in the tower was being disassembled. I was convinced that the old wooden tower was about to come down as the unruly crowd began chanting “cash back, cash back” in a mad and explosive rage. That was a common phrase used at concerts in that era when the patrons felt like they didn’t exactly get their monies worth. It was not a pretty sight. We had no security at all because they had simply disappeared when the plain-clothes officer had arrived. It looked like the whole facility was going to be torched by this upset unruly crowd.

Next:  The Fans got unruly.