Seattle International Raceway – “You’ll Never See Anything Like That Again!”
The title of this piece comes from an audio record I captured on a very hot August night in 1972 at Seattle International Raceway. I was hanging out at the 1000ft mark, truck backed up to the fence 20 feet from the racing surface. Those words spoken by Bill Doner came just after a side-by-side burnout by Jerry Ruth’s Pride of Pay N Pak Mustang and Harry Schmidt’s legendary Blue Max Mustang wheeled by Richard Tharp. It was the first 32-Funny Car show in the Northwest and wiser words could not have been spoken.
The big drag shows at Seattle International Raceway during the 1970s ranged from multi-day NHRA events to Saturday Night Funny Car Spectaculars. They included the 32/64-car shows the first weekend in August, the Northwest National Open which started each season the last weekend in April, a couple of PDA races, The Olympia Beer All Pro events, Fox Hunts and a few more.
They ranged from rather tame daylight affairs to some of the wildest night races ever seen anywhere. The tales of night races at Seattle International Raceway are over the top. There were the fights both in the spectator areas and on the racing surface. Crazed streakers, back when that was all the rage, ran amok. Fans lined up along the guardrails throwing glass containers back and forth across the track. We would all line up Friday night on the multi lane SIR entrance road and party until the gates opened late Saturday afternoon. For a few years, nobody checked anything at the gate so it was a free-for-all party to end all parties for two days and nights.
The racing itself was simply stellar with most of the sport’s big nitro names from across the country appearing here at least once. In 1972 the Funny Cars aka “floppers” were just breaking into the 6.40s the dragsters the fives.
It was a magic combination of many things. The cars of the day were as spectacular as they may ever be again with big flames, lotsa nitro, dry hops, huge burnouts, giant explosions and wild wheelstands. Throw in the great (by teenage party standards) facility, with Doner and Steve Evans on the mic and well, it just doesn’t get any better.
Never again would the masses come to a drag race in the Northwest like they did for the big shows of the 70s. Sure the early 90s NHRA national events held here (now known as Pacific Raceways) drew well, but it was nothing like what we saw on Saturday nights in August “back in the day.”
It’s a pleasure to share these images with you. Hope you enjoy them