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Photos from DRO library.

Typical Snowbird National Open. Don Garlits and Clayton Harris at DeSoto Memorial Speedway circa 1978. Garlits won.

Slowest month of the year in drag racing? Gotta be December. No contest. The holiday season is being fired up, it's snowy, cold and rainy in about 45 of 50 states, and most adults are working on the most affordable means of bribing their kids for a decent interval. You know what I mean? You'll get that "Let's Create Some War Orphans" realistic video battle game, provided you eat everything on your plate this month, junior. Either that, or Santa's coming down the chimney and into your room, jerk you onto his sleigh and drop you into a car crusher.

Realistically, the only states that had December programs were, surprise of surprises, California and Florida. In the early days, some southern states like Texas and a few others, put on some shows, but mostly it was the two coastal extremes that featured the big stuff.

Since the late 1970s, Florida has been the only state to consistently put on holiday or near-holiday galas with its NHRA Rebel Winter Series shows. The Turkey Trot race at Gainesville Raceway, the now Citrus Open at Moroso Motorsports Park in Miami-Hollywood, and the Snowbird Open at DeSoto in Bradenton.

In fact, California's last real December match that we can recall with any vividness (is that a word?) was a big jet dragster gala in 1980. In December of that year, Hayden Proffitt's "Hot Streak," Al Eierdam's "Emergency-1," Doug Rose's "Green Mamba," "T.V. Tommy" Ivo, Scott Hammack's "Smoke n' Thunder," Doug Brown in Jim Deist's "Deist Mobile," Les Shockley's "Shockwave," and Craig Arfons' radical "Green Monster" filled the bill with Arfons cleaning house. Arfons ran times of 5.620/290.00 and 5.589/289.38 in the early rounds, and then a final-round 5.580/290.00 that whacked Shockley.

The big problem in regards to the future for these shows was that the match-race scene was giving off the death rattle. It hadn't dried up, but since hot rod associations didn't run in December, the shows, at least in the Golden State, were few and far between. For example, the last Orange County Manufacturers Funny Car Championship (held in October or early November) was held just six weeks before the above jet show. Irwindale, the second-to-the-last last weekly pro track died in 1977, and Orange County followed six years later. Twasn't always thus, though. In the first 25 years or so of the sport, December developed a decent enough legacy.

And as I've said before ... to wit.


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