PAPER TRAILS, PART 17
The Last Two Independents Battle Into 1967
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.