The way it WUZ!

Recently reading Jeff Burk’s ‘Blast’ column, Jeff Leonard’s ‘My First Time’, and then Aaron Polburn’s ‘The Last Word’, this writer realized that my career and experience in drag racing stretches a full decade prior to my colleagues. There is so much history and circumstance that started in the ‘50s. And to my way of thinking, the early part of drag racing promotion is what is missing today.

Kansas City 1957: Walt Arfons’ Green Monster’ is ready to unload and perform in A/DG at the Western Missouri raceway. This car screams with innovation, and everyone wanted to see and hear it run. The designation says it all; GASOLINE was the fuel of choice, not Nitro.

Alton Dragway 1958: This poster, from the Grand Opening of the Alton, Ill. Quarter mile strip which served the St. Louis area for fourteen years, says a lot about where the sport is today. 90 cents was the ’58 admission price.

Can you imagine for a moment, pulling into tech with this car for a shot at a recent Top Fuel event, which might not have enough cars to fill the field. How many technical violations would this ‘state of the art’ bona fide winner from 1957 have for today’s ‘cookie cutter’ rules’?

This old racer-promoter was involved in our sport from the late ‘50s through the ‘60s & ‘70s with almost no break in the action. There was widespread promotion and screaming over popular radio stations as stated above, but the cost of admission was nominal compared to today. In fact most tracks charged about the same as a gallon of ethyl gasoline back then.

Just imagine, if that base line had stayed constant, you could attend the World Series or US Nationals for about $6.00 per ticket. Would the aluminum still be empty? Probably not. But it cannot end there.

Once the pricing is brought under control, the folks who have tightened the reins in the name of Safety, must understand that their preponderance of rules have taken the word Innovation out of what made drag racing sing & dance & sparkle back in the ‘50s & ‘60s.

Following are a few key examples from hundreds seen, ‘back in the day’.