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Orange County, California '60s & '70s: One of the most prolific 'Little Guy' racers at O.C.I.R. was the Wildfire Fiat coupe of Ann & Roger Brown. This eye appealing creation was small block Chevrolet powered with sponsorship from Dave Smith's Precisioned Speed Center in Anaheim. (Photo from the DSE file)
In August of 1967, Orange County International Raceway swung open its gates to a throng of over 800 race cars who had been waiting for years to compete once again in Orange County. Not since C.J. Hart was forced to give up racing at the OC Airport, had the vast metropolitan area known simply to locals as 'the County' had organized drag racing.
The large gathering on that opening night included all NHRA Eliminator categories, plus special groups such as Funny Cars and Fuel Altereds.
A significant portion of those who jammed the limited pit area were just California Hot Rodders who were there to race.
They quickly found themselves in Mike Jones' (GM at OCIR) Eliminator brackets. Their support of the original program caused Mike to up their prize money to the best figure in So. Ca. Jones, in fact, was the first local manager to pay all bracket winners from the semi-finals on.
Orange County International Raceway, 1967: On the second week the track was open, Jerry Hays drove his wild 'Street Cleaner' roadster to the Bracket One title. Cars like Jerry's, which did not use electronics or throttle stops, kept the crowd in the stands between rounds of Top Fuel etc.
By August 28, the five winners were: Stu Brown at 11.90 - 102.73; Ramon Lowe at 13.40 - 103.44; Richard McFarland at 14.01 - 87.80; Carl Swift 16.98 - 77.25; and Gene Kibler 18.36 - 70.08 It should be noted that Kibler, slowest winner here, would go on to develop Volkswagen 4cyl cars at OCIR with unheard of record performance!