Do You Remember 1978? – April 2013
Do You Remember 1978?
Here we are, boys and girls, in the year 2013. This year will see the 35th running of the NHRA Division 6 ET Finals which, with the championship of 2012, Woodburn Dragstrip’s valiant racers have earned top honors fourteen times. It all began back in 1978 at Seattle International Raceway (now known as Pacific Raceway). Recently, I pulled out my scrapbook of those early years. It amazed me to remember drag racing’s events at Woodburn Dragstrip from 35 years ago. Following are some that I think you will enjoy.
We ran four brackets of cars in 1978. They were Pro, Run Tuff, Heavy, and Street as well as one class for Bikes, although some of the results I have saved just indicate Bracket A, B, or C. I ran in Heavy Bracket. April was a good month for me with wins on April 23rd (over Ron Birch) and April 30th (over Ken Lantz).
Events in the month of May that I have saved included bracket wins by Keith Hershberger, Gary Ericksen, Bill Jackson, Robert Rhines, and Elvon Kauffman, while runners-up included Bill McNeal,and Bill Heard. An NHRA event was held on Memorial Day weekend this year. Some names you might recognize include, Ziegler over Bonin in AA/Funny Car, Dowhaniuk over Tiller in BB/Funnycar, and Dodgion over Bowdish in Super Stock while Joe Severance was runner-up in Pro Comp due to breakage.
A second major race was held that summer. Printed results show wins earned by Jerry Olsen, (Pro comp), Denny Tingle (Comp), Tom Chase (Modified), Jim Van Cleve (Super Stock), Kibby Riedman (Bracket A), Kieth Hershberger (Bracket B), and Elvon Kauffman (Bracket C). Although I don’t remember, the paper reports that I also won King of the Track at this event.
The highlight for me in 1978 was the NHRA Division 6 ET Championship. Ten tracks were represented. Each track could bring a maximum of 32 team members. However, Woodburn was the only one with a full team. Woodburn earned 74 team points, followed by Seattle with 57, and Portland with 31. If you look at that stat, you will see the level of competition which exists in the North Willamette Valley, a fact which still holds true to this day. Individual winners at the first NHRA Division 6 ET Finals included Firebird’s Dallas Isom (Super Pro), Seattle’s Al Young (Pro), Woodburn’s Elvon Kauffman (Heavy) and Portland’s Chuck Ray (Street). Other strong finishers for Woodburn included Ken Schoonover (Super Pro semi’s), Dennis Weddle and Roger Weddle (Pro semi’s), Joe DiFilippi (Heavy runner-up), Ken Kelly (Heavy semi’s), Sharma Jones and Lee Schaber (Street semi’s).
Racing in 1978 was way different from what it is now. We did not get reaction timers until 1980, so racers did not know how close they had “cut a light” There was no win light so we did not know until we got the time slip whether we had won or lost that round. Furthermore, we had no documentation of what our opponent had run. At the ET Finals, we were given four time runs on Saturday. My ET’s were 13.598, 13.588, 13.566, and 13.578. On Sunday, there would be seven rounds of competition in Heavy Class. Lucky for me, I had a bye run in round one, because I spun my tires badly and ran 14.21 on my 13.57 dial. I think I was overly excited for what was my biggest race to that point in my life. In round two, I dialed 13.60 and took the win with a 13.62. I had a little extra in the bank so I dialed 13.55 and took the third round win with a 13.57. Seven of the final eight racers in the quarter-finals were members of the Woodburn Team. In the quarter-final round, I again dialed 13.55 and took the win with a 13.56. The track kept getting better and in the semi’s I would face Firebird’s Doug Sikfors. The National Dragster story reports that Sikfors ran right on his dial but lost to my 13.50 on a 13.51 dial. The finals featured Woodburn’s Joe DiFillipi dialed at 13.93 and I dialed at 13.49. DiFillipi ran 13.95 but I took the win with a 13.52 to become the first NHRA Division 6 Heavy ET Champion. As a side note, this was the first race in a series which later would pick up some corporate sponsorship. The win earned a $500 payout, which made me very happy. NHRA provided the “Wally” and a Gold Card and I think I got about $800 in contingency. It was a very good year for me as a racer, and for the Woodburn Team. It was so much fun, I say, “Let’s do it again”.
Elvon Kauffman has been drag racing since 1975. He has been a NHRA Northwest Division Bracket Champion twice – first in 1978 when he defeated fellow Woodburn racer, Joe DiFillipi at Seattle International Raceway and secondly, in 1980 when he again defeated a Woodburn racer, Ron Burch at Woodburn Dragstrip. He was the first and only World Champion in Heavy Bracket, winning with his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 4-speed at the now defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in October, 1980.
Elvon’s variety of life experiences become the basis for the stories he shares in Straight Talk, a monthly column produced by Woodburn Dragstrip.