Woodburn Dragstrip
7730 Hwy. 219
Woodburn, Oregon

Memories Are Made of This – September/October 2014

Dean Martin’s biggest hit was atop the Billboard charts for six weeks in 1956 and was covered by the Everly Brothers in 1960.  You can google them on You-Tube and listen to these songs still today.  Most of the readers of this column will not remember those years.  You may not even remember 1978, the year when Woodburn Dragstrip won the inaugural NHRA Division 6 ET Finals which were held at what was then named Seattle International Raceway.  

For me, as the years go by, it is easy to forget some of the details.  However, pictures, newspaper stories, coverage by National Dragster, trophies, and time slips all help to refresh the memories of what was the first of sixteen divisional championships earned by the Woodburn Dragstrip Team.

Before I go back to that first year, let me congratulate all the racers who earned championships at this event in 2014; namely Alisha Miller in Junior Thunder, Karl Hart in Sportsman, “Dynamite” Dave Bronec in Pro, and  Pro Bracket Race Of Champions winner, Nicholas Shepherd.  We will all be rooting for Nicholas at the National Championship Race in Pomona, CA November 13-16.

One factor that is true in nearly every circumstance is that “over time, things will change”.  And yes, the team race has changed significantly (I believe for the better) over the 37 years of competition.  In 1978, there was no Gamblers’ race, no Track Manager’s Challenge, no Race of Champions, no Bike/Sled competition, no Junior Dragster competition, and no High School competition.  For the first two years, there was no opportunity to earn a spot in National Competition.

To earn the championship, team members must go rounds.  In 1978, Woodburn outdistanced the second and third place teams by a considerable margin, scoring a total of 74 points compared to Seattle (54) and Portland (31). Each team was composed of 32 members.   There were four classes of competition, Super Pro, Pro, Heavy, and Street.  After the first round, Woodburn had earned 30 points, and still had 30 racers in competition.  When we had progressed to the semi-finals, Ken Schoonever remained in competition in Super Pro,  both Dennis and Roger Weddle remained in Pro, Elvon Kauffman, Joe DiFillipi, and Ken Kelly remained in Heavy, and Sharma Jones and Lee Schaber remained in Street.  Only Joe DiFillipi and I earned our way to the finals.  I had a great race with my opponent running right on his dial, but I got the win light.

The time slips handed out to the racers had no indication of reaction time.  The only data I have in my scrapbook from each round is my car number, the dial in and the elapsed time – no incremental numbers, no 60 foot time,  and no final mph.  The clock reader could mark one of four boxes – bye run, win, loss, or trophy.  In bracket racing, consistency is key.  In order to win, the driver must run the number that he/she dials.  I was fortunate to have a bye in round one.  I dialed 13.57 and cruised through with a 14.21, not wanting to let any future opponent know what my capabilities were.  In round two, I dialed 13.60 and won with a 13.62.  With each round, the car seemed to improve.  In round three, I dialed 13.55 and won with a 13.57.  In round four, I again dialed 13.55 and won with a 13.56.  In round five, I dialed 13.52 and won with a 13.53.  Round 6 was the semi-finals.  Of course, I did not know in advance that my opponent, Doug Sikfors from Firebird Raceway would run right on his dial.  I chose 13.50 for my dial in and ran 13.51 to win.  In the finals, I faced a team mate. Joe DiFillipi had defeated team mate Ken Kelly in his semi-final round.  Joe chose 13.93 for his dial in the finals and I chose 13.49.  Joe ran 13.95 but I was able to take the win with a 13.52.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls is the story of the first NHRA Division 6 ET Finals.  Thanks to the workings of Division Director, Gene Bergstrom, the seed was planted and now, thirty-seven years later, a great tradition of team racing continues to grow at Woodburn Dragstrip and throughout the Northwest Division of NHRA.


Elvon Pic

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.


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