1968 Monthly Headlines

January
Don Prudhomme's win over Leroy Goldstein in Top Fuel at the last race of 1967 at Orange County Int'l Raceway (OCIR) was overshadowed by the death of former Surfers driver Mike Sorokin. Sorokin's death drew attention to the danger of the fatiguing heat generated by the new slipper clutches that were encased in aluminum bellhousings. ... On New Year's day at Irwindale Raceway, Don Nicholson won Funny Car and $2,000 for defeating Terry Hedrick. ... OCIR had five E.T. brackets between 9.50 and 17.00 and slower. The fast bracket awarded $100 to the winner and $40 to the runner-up, motor oil, and trophies. ... Maple Grove Raceway joined NHRA. ... The Springnationals moved from Bristol to Raceway Park in Englishtown. ... An editorial lamented on other racing events using NHRA's event names like Winternationals and Springnationals.

February
The Winternationals Top Fuel winner could have won as much as $13,400. The cash purse was $4,500. ... A two-page ad announced the first OCIR Manufacturers Race for Funny Cars and Super Stocks. Five-car teams represented each of six Detroit manufacturers. ... The Funny Cars raced in Super Eliminator at the Winternationals in the S/XS class. At OCIR a week after the Winternationals, where James Warren ran low e.t. of 7.16, Bobby Tapia ran a 6.54 in Top Fuel in the full-bodied Silver Fox.

March
Steve Carbone won his first Top Fuel race, the Hot Rod Magazine Championship Drags in Riverside, Calif., driving the Atlas Oil Tool Special. In Top Fuel competition, both Bill Dunlap and Walt Stevens lost fire on the starting line. They both pushed their cars to the finish line to determine a winner (Dunlap), then collapsed in exhaustion. ... George Rodriquez, driving the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly dragster, won the first race in the new 15-race Texas Pro Fuel Series held at Amarillo Dragway. The Texas Series was an eight-car-qualified Top Fuel field with five races each at Amarillo, Austin, and Odessa. Thirty-eight cars pre-entered. ... Vic Brown defeated Don Garlits in the final of the first Professional Dragster Association (PDA) race, held at OCIR. ... Bakersfield winner Ron Rivero, driving the K&G Speed Associates fueler, won the $1,000 Top Fuel purse at the now defunct La Place Dragway outside New Orleans and recorded Louisiana's first six-second run at 6.96.

April
Irwindale Raceway held the sport's first 16-car AA/FA race with $1,000 awarded to the winner, the late Willie Borsch. ... "Jungle Jim" Liberman was in almost every issue, match racing his Nova Funny Car all over the country. ... The editorial in the April 5 issue lamented the cheap shot hot rodders received in a nationwide ad campaign for the Boy Scouts of America. The ad pictured a tough-looking boy sitting on a curb, and underneath him read: "This Is A Potential: hub-cap stealer, window smasher, hot rodder, street fighter, boy scout?" ... At the Division 2 points meet in Phenix City, Ala., Division Director Buster Couch and crew halted racing for about 10 minutes to assist in pulling a spectator out of an abandoned well. "All's well that ends well."

May
Ed Hedrick, driving Bill Jenkins' SS/C '67 Camaro, won for the first time in the All-Star Super Stock circuit at Great Meadows, N.J., when he defeated the Tritak-Morgan Plymouth. ... Jerry Ruth, the self-proclaimed King of the Northwest, won the sixth annual Travel-Ons Top Fuel title for the third straight year at Kent Pacific Raceway in Washington. ... After qualifying third for the Indy 500, Mario Andretti flew to Connecticut Dragway for a match race with track promoter Frank Maratta. Andretti, driving a tuned-up Cobra Jet Mustang, downed Maratta's Camaro three straight, including one win on a holeshot. ... The front-straight dragstrip portion of the new Donnybrook Speedway (now Brainerd Int'l Raceway), received "sanctioning" from NHRA. ...

June
John Wiebe won a total of $3,000 in consecutive weekends at a World Championship Series race and the Texas Pro Fuel Circuit race in Tulsa, Okla. ... A new supercar called the Hurst-Olds would soon be available. ... California Chassis Engineering offered a basic dragster chassis for the lower classes for $395. ... Southern California stars Walt Rhoades, in the Gas House Gang AA/GD, and John Peters, in the Freight Train, match raced at Hawaii Raceway Park. ... "Fast Eddie" Schartman debuted his new Cougar-bodied Air Lift Rattler Funny Car with a match race win over Liberman at Cayuga 1320 Dragway to remain undefeated against "Jungle." ... At national events, the Tree was activated for Sportsman competitors before they staged to show them the handicap. ... During the same weekend of the Springnationals in Englishtown, four of Southern California's AA/FAs that were on tour for the first time "Wild Willie" Borsch, Leon Fitzgerald's Pure Heaven, Leroy Chadderton's Magnificent 7, and Dale Young in the Beaver Hunter II made a match race stop at Maryland's Cecil County Drag-O-Way.

July
To compete with the showmanship of Funny Cars, Top Fuel owners had full bodies built for their cars. ... The big-block Chevy-powered Assassination Corvair Funny Car campaigned by Colorado's Guzman, Ward, and Klein swept three events at OCIR and Irwindale. ... Simpson Safety Equipment, in keeping with the times, offered yellow and blue tie-dyed parachutes. ... Firebird Raceway in Idaho was scheduled to open on the 28th. ... York U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way retracted its six-year ban on Top Fuel dragsters. ... Construction of the now defunct $25.5 million Ontario Motor Speedway, site of some of the best national events during its 10-year existence, began later in the month.

August
OCIR celebrated its first birthday with a $14,000 winner-take-all, one-run race between Bennie "the Wizard" Osborn and Tom McEwen, the two quickest Top Fuelers at OCIR in its inaugural year. Osborn won, 7.02 to 7.40, on a dew-covered track and was awarded 28,000 50-cent coins. ... Dale Pulde, 17, driving the Vicious Too Funny Car, defeated Al Karnes in a match race at Firebird Raceway in Idaho.

September
Don Garlits repeated as Nationals Top Fuel champion and won two of the year's four national events. Jack Jones and tuner Bill Schultz won Top Gas (37 cents a gallon), Springnationals champ Paul Stage won Super Eliminator, Harry Luzader won Competition eliminator, Sam Gianino won Street Eliminator, Arlen Vanke won Super Stock, and Larry Lombardo won Stock.

October
Newtronix Corp. sold a complete dual-lane dragstrip timing system Tree, readouts, wiring for $5,895. ... Six cameras at Tulsa Int'l Raceway transmitted closed-circuit coverage of the World Finals to theaters across the country. ... Osborn repeated in Tulsa as Top Fuel World Champion, Bob Noice won Top Gas, Norm Ries won Super Eliminator, Ray Hadford (driving his and Jim Green's C/Dragster) won Competition eliminator, Fred Hurst won Street Eliminator, Dave Strickler won Super Stock, and Dave Boertman won Stock. ... A press release from Detroit announced the introduction of self-locking inertia reel-type shoulder belts in production cars. ... Mark Williams, a Top Fuel racer from Colorado, also sold dragster chassis in 1968, long before his company would become one of the leading makers and sellers of rear-end parts.

November
Bruce Bowler took over for Terrell Poage as Division 6 director. ... A new starting line tower was built at Pomona Raceway as part of $65,000 in improvements to the dragstrip located on the parking lot of the fairgrounds. ... Funny Cars, formerly racing in the handicapped Super eliminator classified as S/XS, received their own eliminator for 1969. ... Don Garlits took the three-race PDA title Long Beach and Carlsbad on consecutive days and Sacramento the next weekend with two wins in three final rounds in eight-car fields.

December
NHRA's earlier decision to drop the lowest classes in Stock R, T, and U/Stock in 1969 due to poor turnout at division points races was reversed after a flood of protest letters. ... The weekly How It Was photo feature revealed the first, true slingshot-style race car. It was a photo of a four-wheeled vehicle from 1902 called the Miler, which achieved a speed of a mile a minute (60 mph). ... Dick Smothers showed a two-and-a-half-minute clip from the Nationals on his popular Sunday night television show, The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour. ... The quickest and fastest Top Fueler, Beebe & Mulligan's 6.66, 233.78-mph dragster, was for sale: complete for $7,500 or less engine for $2,500. ... Jerry Gwynn won the Super/Competition eliminator title at Miami Hollywood Dragway in his AA/A to earn the Florida State Champ title. ... A licensing procedure for wheelstanders was announced. ... The season-ending Top Fuel records were 6.88 by Jim and Allison Lee and 229.59 mph by Beebe & Mulligan. The Experimental Stock (Funny Car) record was 7.68 at 197.36 mph by Dave Beebe in Nelson Carter's Super Chief.

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