Time Capsule – Vintage Northwest Oval Track Racing
Vintage Northwest Oval Track Racing has a decorated past and our agent Larry Pfister was in the middle of the scene, photographing many races in the 70s through the 90s. In this photo essay, he walks us through his experiences.
“Northwest oval track racing is where my motorsport photography started – shooting wild open wheel cars at my local paved oval. Western Speedway on southern Vancouver Island was founded in 1954, remains in weekly operation today, the low banked 4/10 oval still hosting a very healthy open-wheel series.
This was where I got my first photo pass, learned the challenges of racing photography and got to hang with my high school buddies, one of whom had a super modified. These rides were total hot rods with so many different combinations ranging from sprint cars, roadsters, offsets to rear engine monsters that often sported the biggest rubber money could buy on all four corners. They were known as “Super Modifieds.” While most ran small block Chevys, there were also a few big blocks, even a Hemi or two, all injected on methanol, wheeled by very colorful drivers. It was a pretty darn cool atmosphere for a teenager.
It was only a matter of two years in 1973 before I went to my first dirt track. The team I was shooting for decided to do Dirt Cup. Three races in three nights at three tracks in Washington state. Sounded like fun. I had no idea.
The first night at Sky Valley Speedway was nothing compared to the next night just down the road. My initial turn one view of Skagit Speedway was tantamount to my first drag racing nitro experience. I simply wasn’t ready for what I was about to witness. Cars were supposed to slow down when they came into corners right? I was instantly hooked on open wheel dirt racing.
There was some Opperman guy there. I’d never heard of him or Montana’s Terry Crosure. Those two staged a show that evening which many say is the single greatest Skagit race of all time.
The Alger, WA facility was simply a power bowl of constant speed and excitement but was heralded for a single “big race” the third weekend of June every year. I watched in wonder at a number of the record six Dirt Cup wins by California star Jimmy Sills, got my first taste of WOO (Word of Outlaws), and just once got to see the wingless wonders of the SCRA.
From the big Super Mods to the wicked little midgets, I witnessed and recorded so many great cars and drivers in a region not too well represented in the photography ranks. I was fortunate to be able to serve the Northwest racing community in that regard. Thank you to all of the Fuel Curve fans for their enthusiasm and interest in my vintage photo files!”