Woodburn Dragstrip
7730 Hwy. 219
Woodburn, Oregon
503-982-4461

Bucket List – June 2011

There is something to be said about “He was the first”. It is almost equally gratifying to say “I saw it happen.”  Maybe there are some of those same experiences that you can identify in your life.  Here is one from mine.

The date was May 31st, 1965.  The location: Indianapolis, Indiana.  The famous Brickyard, as it is called. It was there that history was made.  A British racer named Jimmy Clark built up an insurmountable lead of over two minutes over the rest of the pack.  Driving his Lotus/Ford at an average of 150.686, he would be the first driver to average more than 150 miles per hour in a 500 mile race. Not only that, this would be the first win for a Ford-powered vehicle at this venue.  In fact, Ford was so dominant, it captured the top 5 starting positions and 9 of the top-ten starting positions at this event.  The top five qualifiers were a literal who’s who in Indianapolis 500 history.  A. J. Foyt was the number one qualifier.  He was followed by Jimmy Clark in the second spot also in a Lotus/Ford.  Dan Guerney piloted his Lotus/Ford to the number three position and a rookie driver, named Mario Andretti, also in a Lotus/Ford was fourth.  Number five was none other than Parnelli Jones, the racer who would ultimately finish in second at this event, two minutes behind Jimmy Clark.  As a matter of fact, Clark was so far ahead that he slowed down from his opening average lap speed of 157 miles per hour and was just cruising along at 148 miles per hour when he took the checkered flag.

The reader might conclude that Ford was dominant at this event this year.  After all, Ford not only qualified highly, but also each of the top four finishers were driving that now famous Lotus/Ford, namely Clark, Jones, Andretti, and Foyt, in that order.  Ford would go on to establish dominance in the next seven years, capturing five pole positions and six victories in the span from 1965 to 1971. Incidentally, Clark’s pit crew was none other than the famous Wood Brothers who made the transition from NASCAR to demonstrate their skills on this circuit as well.  One of my great lifetime memories is that I can say, “I was there and I saw it happen.”

Writing this story also made me wonder just how many “Rookie Mario Andretti’s” are currently making their racing debut at Woodburn Dragstrip.  If you know anything about the history of this excellent facility, you will be able to name racer after racer who got their start or made history here.  But take a look at the current list of drivers in so many classes.  We do not know what the future holds, but forty years from now, I am sure you will be able to look back and say, “I was there and I saw history being made.”  In fact, it was just last week when I was at my doctor’s for my annual physical, when my doctor and I were discussing my work at Woodburn Dragstrip.  His comment to me was, “I have a neighbor who races there.  In fact I believe there are two in the family that are racers.”  He seemed to almost elevate his racing neighbors to celebrity status, just because they were racers.  “I know those people” was almost like my statement of “I saw Mario Andretti make his racing debut at Indianapolis.”

Several years ago, I saw the movie “Bucket List.” As a result, I have checked off a few of my personal experiences from my own Bucket List.  If you are a motorhead you might want to compare your list to mine:

- Indianapolis 500- check

- Nashville 400 NASCAR race – check

- Pikes Peak Hill Climb USAC race – check

- NHRA World Finals – Check

- Portland Roadster Show and Portland Rod & Custom Show – check

- AHDRA Top Fuel Harleys – check

- NHRA Divisional and local events – check

- Willamette Speedway, Portland Speedway, Medford Speedway – check

- Colorado Springs figure 8 races – check

- Polk County Fair Lawnmower races – check

- Tillamook County Pig and Ford races – check

There are two events on my bucket list that, “good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise”  will be fulfilled this year.  They are:

- Pro Mods at the 2011 Rose Festival Drags

- 2011 Woodburn Dragstrip Night of Fire

I would be pleased if they were on your bucket list as well.

Story by Elvon Kauffman.

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. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading them.

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