The 1979 64 FUNNY CARS: Earthshaking, to say the least!
The huge 64 funny car event in Seattle had been produced for seven very successful years when 1979 rolled around on the calendar. Bill Doner put together a sponsor for this event through NAPA Regal Ride which is NAPA’s Shock Absorber Division. Raymond Beadle and the NAPA Regal Ride Blue Max, who had been at several of the 64 funny car events over the years and won many of them, would be back and Beadle was always a huge hit with the fans.
The new sponsor would allow me to promote 64 funny cars in a whole different way than we had before. I approached the local NAPA folks in Western Washington about the possibility of them distributing discount coupons through all of their locations which would generate a lot of walk-in traffic. They loved the idea and so we put that into the mix of plans for the event. We had never had any discount coupons for the event before and with all of the NAPA stores through Western Washington, I certainly wanted to give it a try.
I wanted to make the locations a key to expanding our media package for that year’s event and my hope was that all the NAPA dealers would be talking about the event to their customers and telling them that their car would be there. Also, NAPA had daily pickups at all of the locations so they could move the discount coupons around from store to store, the closer we got to the event. It’s always hard to know which dealers will be getting the most distribution so as the event gets close, it’s really easy for some of the locations to run out of coupons... this plan would solve all of that. By the way, it worked perfectly… thanks to NAPA.
In years past, we always had a strong audience from Canada so I decided to buy radio time on a dozen or so rock and roll stations throughout western Canada. As the Canadians would travel to the U.S. they could easily stop off at an area NAPA store and get a discount coupon… that part of the promotion also worked excellently.
Another item we used was billboards for the event. The local billboard company used a picture of the Blue Max on the billboards and they went up about 30 days in front of the event. There were locations throughout the Puget Sound area so a lot of people knew this
event was coming up at SIR. The billboard company had a portable billboard and I had
them park it right outside the SIR entrance on Highway 18. And that later got me in trouble with the Washington State Patrol. By the way, that was the last time a billboard was parked just outside of the raceway entrance!!
The featured cars in 1979 included: Beadle in the Blue Max, Ed “the Ace” McCulloch, John “Brute” Force, Big Jim Dunn, the Hawaiian, Gary Densham and many more. Additionally, there were many local and regional cars including Gordie Bonin, The Green Elephant, Mike Miller, Hank Johnson, Rich Rogers, Jerry Ruth... and a long list of stout nitro cars filling out this incredible field. Over 20 California alcohol cars were entered in that field along with the very best from the Northwest. The who’s who of funny car racing was there at SIR that year and the more-than-capacity crowd knew it.