Portland’s 32 Funny Cars (or close to it)
Lying just north of the city of Portland, Oregon, is a beautiful piece of land which is several hundred acres in size. Back during World War II a city named Vanport was built there to house all the shipyard workers which were in great need during that time. There were lots of homes with streets between them…a nice little community for the shipyard workers. In May of 1948 a breached dike completely flooded the Vanport area, eliminating all the homes there.
Once the area was drained, all that was left was a series of roads and a lot of cleanup for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. As a young boy in Portland, I remember my dad taking me by the area where the flood was and all that devastation. I was just 5 years old at the time.
In 1960, that beautiful parcel of land was sold to the City of Portland by the Federal Government to allow the city to construct a park there. I was in high school at the time and a group of us organized, or participated in, drag races on some of the abandoned roads in what was called Delta Park.
With support from then Mayor Terry Schrunk a “place to race” assisted the nagging street racing problem that Portland had and became a hotbed of drag racing for us “gear heads”. It was a somewhat safe place and, most importantly, off of the streets of Portland. The track is located just 15 minutes from downtown Portland, off I-5 and minutes from Vancouver, Washington.
What an excellent location for a race track in this park-like atmosphere.
Over the years, a road course was built there through the support of the Rose Festival Association to tie into their annual mid-summer event in the Portland area. Although the drag races got moved around a few times on the property they finally ended up being on the straightaway of the new road course in 1969 and NHRA-sanctioned drag racing became part of the park atmosphere. Portland International Raceway was born in a beautiful park setting.
Throughout the late 60’s and into the 70’s, the drag strip promoter from Woodburn Drag Strip managed the drag racing events at PIR. Al Beachell was often called “the grand daddy” of e.t. bracket racing as he had utilized that approach to drag racing well before other promoters did. With all of his success at Woodburn he was the perfect guy to produce the events in their early stages at PIR. Beachell produced a few major drag racing events each year at PIR including the Rose Festival Drag Races. With most of the major events taking place in the daylight and limits on the length of the drag strip, perimeter fencing, seating and other spectator amenities, Beachell struggled in the success of those events. Eventually, he was forced to call it quits at PIR at the end of 1972, after a year of less-than-polite weather struggles making for marginally successful events.
I assisted Al Beachell with his events at PIR in 1972 and had heard that Bill Doner,
of SIR fame, was interested in a contract with the City of Portland for the drag races. I wrote Bill Doner a letter outlining my interests knowing that he would need a local contact in Portland for the weekly drag events there. In February of 1973 everything was in place and I became the Manager of the drag racing events at PIR, for International Raceway Parks, Inc, Doners’ corporation. (IRP).