At 5 o’clock the “universal fire-up” would begin as a huge, thunderous roar. All of the
cars were greeted with a standing ovation from the huge crowd. It was quite a sight to see the shuffling taking place afterwards with that many cars trying to get back to their pit areas. That mass of funny cars made rush-hour traffic look simple. As was usually the case, Ed “the Ace” McCulloch in his Revellution Dodge would drive his racer down the return road with an extra bit of showmanship as the local fans cheered him back to the pits. Over the years, Ed won the Seattle 64 Funny Car event more than anyone else. No one was even close to his winning record. The fans knew the Ace was always on his game for this event.
First round of the nitro cars would take place at 6 p.m. followed by the alcohol cars and then the rest of everything else in the funny car world would finish the round. The
wheelstanders and jet funny cars would fill in between rounds of racing to eliminate any down time. That was almost five hours of solid action.
Certainly one of the reasons for the success of 64 Funny Cars would have to be the Bill Doner radio spots. To this very day, there is an occasional mention by sportscasters of those hyped-up Doner ads for 64 Funny Cars. They certainly were part of the whole era.
Bill used phrases like fiberglass forest, ground pounding, trick traction
compound, under the lights and many, many more. He even took a few shots at the hydros by saying, “this ain’t just a few boats sputtering around Lake Washington.”
Another part of the success was the ability to arrange additional race dates either before or after 64 Funny Cars so the racers would come to our area. Spokane, Boise, Calgary,
Edmonton, Eugene, Ore., and our race track in Portland were very important to the success of bringing the best in the business to the Northwest.
In 1973, Bill took over the drag racing contract for Portland International Raceway. I became his manager for PIR and the drag races there. We’d hold a 32 Funny Cars event every year on the Saturday night before the Seattle event.
Once the pattern of multiple race dates came together that allowed many of the sport’s best to attend 64 Funny Cars. “Jungle Jim” Lieberman (and Pam), the Coca Cola Cavalcade of funny cars, Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Ed McCulloch, John Force, Dale Pulde, Ron Colson, Danny Ongais, Tom McEwen and a list as long as your arm were all part of the 64 Funny Car era. These racers and many others could get a second date for a tour to the Northwest, making it financially feasible and allowing them to race at the icon event in Seattle.
With the continued expansion of the NHRA Nationals tour over the years it got harder and harder to get the right dates for 64 Funny Cars. The last one was in 1988.
The NHRA Northwest Nationals had arrived at SIR in 1988 and it fit in only one place on the SIR and NHRA schedule – early August.
The 1988 model of 64 Funny Cars was a two-day affair in late June, in a wetter part of the year in Seattle. When that event was completed, the end of an era had arrived. From 1972 through 1988 it was 64 Funny Cars at Seattle International Raceway for the best the sport had to offer. There just is no substitute for five hours of thundering, ground pounding funny cars. Seattle’s 64 Funny Cars would give you all of that and much, much more! A well-known Midwest drag racing promoter, Ben Christ, came out west to watch the event and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life….unbelievable.” That statement from a pro sums up what 64 Funny Cars was all about.
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|Portland’s 32 Funny Cars (Or Close To It)|