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Up and gone from Vista, Ca. Early Wednesday AM., two weeks prior to the NHRA Winternationals, we are headed to the NHRA offices at Pomona to purchase prime tickets for the first National event of the year. On our way up Interstate 5, we pass O.C.I.R. where World Class drag racing attracted thousands for 17 years. Sadly, today it is a business park, owned by Exxon-Mobil.
Going west on I-405 to pick up another friend who wanted tickets too, we pass the Lions Dragway site. It closed in 1972 when the Port of Long Beach decided the area should become a shipping container site.
Then we head east on I-210 and remember the Miller Brewery which sprang up at the site of Irwindale Raceway. Irwindale closed for good in 1974, and now even the Brewery is gone.
As we swing off of CA Fwy. 71 and head into the LA County Fairground, we are stopped by local authorities. Instead of ample parking and easy access to the NHRA office, there is a long line of Caterpillar equipment and yellow tape encircling the now permanently closed NHRA Timing Tower & Office complex! What the hell?
Oh, that’s right, three months ago, yielding to pressure from disgruntled racers, Tom Compton retired. In an effort to prove their non-profit status, NHRA signed a contract with a business management company headquartered in Sri Lanka. A young man named Peggy promised to take care of everything Compton and his staff did, and for only $75K per year!
This did not sit well with the L.A. County Fairgrounds however, so the track is being removed, the Office building raised, a new exposition hall will take their place, and finally the fine people of La Verne, Ca. will have their peace and quiet.
Suddenly I wake up and realize this was all a dream! A BAD DREAM! (At least for now.)
At 72 years old, I have experienced most of what drag racing has been, and what it is today. I remember when Wally Parks drove across the nation in a ’57 Plymouth with a small teardrop trailer, the first NHRA Safety Safari. He visited places like Great Bend, Kansas, the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Detroit Dragway, and finally stuck on Indianapolis Raceway Park.
I was at Indy in 1961, when ‘Sneaky’ Pete Robinson, won Top Eliminator with a blown small block Chevrolet. This was a shock to all the large motor teams with supercharged Chrysler and Olds power. But nobody saw it, unless you were there. There was no TV, no Paul Page, no media except for photographers. Just lots of fans who then carried the legend of ‘Sneaky Pete’ back to their home tracks.