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Sun, 30 Dec 2018, 10:08 AM

The Power of the Press
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2018 Steve Reyes

What got you to head on down to your local drag strip for some fun and excitement? Did your dad, uncle, or good friend convince you that drag racing was the end all motorsport? Many of you may have seen an ad in a local newspaper or trade paper that was the bait that lured you to that two-lane black top sport.

Early in 1963, I glanced over my dad's shoulder as he thumbed through the Oakland Tribune sports section. The world for me would never be the same as I spotted an ad for Fremont Drag Strip. The ad wasn't huge but just the right size for this wide-eyed almost fifteen-year-old to read. "Come see the 200 mph Dragsters!" the ad shouted at me. Nitro burning, tire-smoking, land bound missiles battle side by side! Wow, that sounded so cool. All I had to do was find a way to Fremont Drag Strip which was twenty-five miles away from our place in Oakland.

Now drag racing wasn't completely foreign to me, I had a small stash of hot-rodding style magazines that featured drag racing, show cars, and street rods in their monthly pages; but I had never witnessed the sights, sound smell and feel of drag racing. After I saw the ad, my dad received a constant barrage of begging and pleading for the week prior to Fremont's big top fuel show. I pretty much told him my young life would be over if I didn't get to witness these giants of local motorsports battle on the Fremont 1320. A week of being a total pest worked as I was transported to my automotive heaven, Fremont Drag Strip. It was more than wonderful; the sound, smell and sights made me a drag racing junkie. This all came about from a small ad in the local paper.

I guess the power of the press worked for me. Ads placed in the drag racing trade papers like Drag News, Drag World, National Dragster, and Drag Sport touted a whole new world for me and changed my life forever.

Since Southern California seemed like it was the hot bed of drag racing the trade papers featured some really great ads of things that were happening on the drag racing front in Southern California. Here are a few examples to enjoy!

Jet vs Jet, no way! Two of those weenie roasters side by side?
You had to have seen it in Bakersfield in the early 1960s.
Down south in Fontana "Drag City," two match race giants were
set to square off; Dyno Don Nicholson and his match race Mercury
went head to head with local Southern California favorite Dandy Dick Landy
and his Dodge. These races were very big in 1965.

Over in the Long Beach area, Lions was staging its own brand of quarter
mile excitement with the Snake vs. Mongoose match races and an early
funny car wheel stand contest. Both of those events took place in 1965.

The folks that ran Lions could put together some great ads for
some really amazing shows. This funny car ad in 1968 featured
art work by a yet unknown artist, Kenny Youngblood.

Yes, Northern California had its share of great events and this
one was very cool. In 1968, I photographed it for Drag Racing
Magazine and had a blast doing so.

Trying something a little different, Irwindale matched up Dyno Don's match race
Mercury against awesome Stone, Woods, and Cook's AA/GS Willy's Coupe in 1965.

Again, Irwindale wanted to impress the paying spectator by pairing the
ever-popular fuel altered against those upstart funny car racers in 1968.

This event was a barn burner at Irwindale. It featured
funny cars coming off the US Tour and was a prelude to the
huge manufacturer's funny car event at OCIR in early November.

Not all big funny car events took place at the end of the year
in Southern California. OCIR's Funny Car 500 took place just
prior to summer touring. This was a very large event for local
funny car racers who did not tour or had limited budget and
could only attend a few local races.

Lots of ads for this huge OCIR event at the end of the year.
This was an SRO event for OCIR with funny cars from everywhere
in the USA. It was one of the few events at any of the Southern
California drag strips that produced its own program and I got
to shoot the cover for it.

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