Drag Racer - - Contents - Text by Dave Wal­lace

Publi­ca­tions Pro­lif­er­ated in Early 1965

THE PEAK ERA FOR IN­DE­PEN­DENT DRAG RAGS AND MAGS HAD TO BE 1965-66, ES­PE­CIALLY FOR SOUTH­ERN CAL­I­FOR­NIA WRIT­ERS, PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS, CAR­TOON­ISTS, PUB­LISH­ERS AND AD SALESMEN CHAS­ING THIS YOUNG PRO­FES­SION. In March 1965, Drag World be­came the third na­tional weekly pro­duced in the Los An­ge­les area, join­ing long-es­tab­lished Drag News (1955) and fledg­ling Drag Sport Il­lus­trated (1963). Slick sis­ter month­lies Drag Rac­ing and Mod­ern Rod also called L.A. home. Pete Mil­lar pub­lished his satir­i­cal monthly comic book, Drag CAR­toons, here. While nei­ther Hot Rod nor Car Craft or Pop­u­lar Hot Rod­ding was by def­i­ni­tion a drag-rac­ing mag­a­zine, all three were in­creas­ing ed­i­to­rial and ad­ver­tis­ing at­ten­tion to drag cars and events. Not ev­ery pe­ri­od­i­cal with na­tional am­bi­tions came from SoCal, of course—Drag Times and Su­per Stock, for ex­am­ple, were both D.C.-based—but never has any sin­gle city or re­gion ex­erted such con­trol over what's now called the flow of in­for­ma­tion.

Drag rac­ing's golden age of pub­lish­ing didn't last long (for rea­sons to be ad­dressed in fu­ture is­sues), but it sure left us with lots of ink to re­visit and en­joy all over again; so much ma­te­rial that Ed­i­tor Ward wisely suggested split­ting each of these glo­ri­ous mid-'60s sea­sons in half, be­tween early and late. All of the above­men­tioned ti­tles cover-dated Jan­uary through June 1965 were re­searched for this in­stall­ment, but Drag World kept ris­ing to the top of the pile.

This new kid on the block ap­peared out of nowhere at the U.S. Fuel & Gas Cham­pi­onships and im­me­di­ately set new stan­dards—while break­ing un­writ­ten rules—for drag-rac­ing jour­nal­ism and sen­sa­tion­al­ism. Most words were writ­ten by ex-Drag News colum­nist Terry Cook (“New Jersey News”), who'd jumped ship and swapped coasts to help Pub­lisher and Art Di­rec­tor Mike Do­herty launch the weekly. The writ­ing, ty­pog­ra­phy and graphic de­sign far out­shone the pro­duc­tion val­ues of the two older in­de­pen­dent tabloids. Cook's “On the Car­pet” in­ter­views with on-track and off­track per­son­al­i­ties pulled no punches.

Now 75, he re­cently re­called for Drag Racer how “peo­ple in L.A. im­me­di­ately called Drag World a ‘scan­dal sheet.'

They were so [bleep­ing] stupid! Na­tional Drag­ster was a house or­gan, not a real news­pa­per, and Drag News was mush. Drag World was a real news­pa­per with real news.”

Alas, Drag World was also a real news­pa­per with real rev­enue prob­lems. Com­pet­ing with Drag News for read­ers was never the chal­lenge. There al­ways seemed to be plenty of 25-cent cus­tomers for all three week­lies, but never enough ad in­come for more than one. Nei­ther Drag World nor Drag Sport was sus­tain­able in the long run. The sto­ries of both pa­pers will un­fold in com­ing in­stall­ments of “Pa­per Trails.”

You won't fully ap­pre­ci­ate this Pete Mil­lar mas­ter­piece un­til you whip out a mag­ni­fy­ing glass. Bet­ter yet, scan the il­lus­tra­tion in high res­o­lu­tion and en­large each sec­tion for close in­spec­tion, as we did upon dis­cov­er­ing the page in Mil­lar's June 1965...

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