PA­PER TRAILS, PART 17

The Last Two In­de­pen­dents Bat­tle Into 1967

Drag Racer - - Contents - Dave Wal­lace

FROM A PEAK OF FOUR IN­DE­PEN­DENT NA­TIONAL WEEKLIES PUB­LISH­ING SI­MUL­TA­NE­OUSLY FROM SOUTH­ERN CAL­I­FOR­NIA THE PRE­VI­OUS YEAR, THIS 1967 SEA­SON OPENED WITH JUST TWO SUR­VIVORS: DORIS HERBERT'S DOM­I­NANT DRAG NEWS, THE LONGESTAB­LISHED "DRAG RACER'S BIBLE" (EST. 1955), and sopho­more chal­lenger Drag Di­gest, now tag­ging it­self as the "Drag Racer's New Tes­ta­ment."

In hind­sight, it wasn't much of a race. Af­ter briefly in­creas­ing ad pages in the wake of mid-1966's back-to-back Drag Sport Il­lus­trated shut­down and Drag World sale to AHRA, the promis­ing new­comer in­creas­ingly showed signs of des­per­a­tion as this sea­son un­folded. Cir­cu­la­tion claims grew wilder, less be­liev­able. Front­page head­lines grew larger, more sen­sa­tional. Sub­scrip­tions were of­fered "on credit." Found­ing pub­lisher J.L. Sut­ton moved down the mast­head one spot, sig­nal­ing some sort of bailout by the un­known new guy.

Most telling was Drag Di­gest's shrink­ing pack­age size: down from an in­dus­try-high, 64 stan­dard­sized pages in 1966 to as few as six over­sized pages, now padded with large pho­tos. Whereas

Doris Herbert had built up a net­work of re­li­able con­trib­u­tors and colum­nists across North Amer­ica, plus year-'round ad­ver­tis­ers, a rainy So­Cal week­end was dis­as­trous for a fledg­ling com­peti­tor re­ly­ing al­most en­tirely on race re­ports, pic­tures and re­sults-based ad­ver­tis­ing from that one re­gion. When it rained, it poured ... empty space.

There was no short­age of tabloid en­ter­tain­ment those first six months, how­ever. Funny Cars were ex­plod­ing in­ter­est in drag rac­ing, at­tract­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of fans, while the Top Fuel faith­ful clung to the tra­di­tional kings of the sport, and door-slam­mer fol­low­ers still thrilled to su­per­charged gassers aplenty. Read­ers could also count on both sur­viv­ing in­de­pen­dent weeklies for days old ru­mors, gos­sip, con­tro­ver­sies and in­sider hu­mor that couldn't be matched by slick mag­a­zines ar­riv­ing six to eight weeks later.

We hope you en­joy these few ex­am­ples and that you'll join us next time for the rest of the story of 1967, as told by July-through-De­cem­ber drag rags.

The late George Bar­ris was equal parts pro­moter and cus­tomizer. His oftover­looked, short-lived "Drag Ex­hi­bi­tion Divi­sion" pur­chased this half-page in Drag News to kick off the '67 sea­son.

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