World Finals billed drag race of the decade
Reprinted from the Oct. 24, 1975 issue of National DRAGSTER
NHRA WINSTON WORLD FINALS - If you were lucky enough to be some part of the 1975 NHRA Winston World Finals (spectator, competitor, race official or crew member) then you can rightfully say that you witnessed the height of drag racing history in three days of quarter-mile excellence. It was the season finale of the highly acclaimed 1975 Winston World Championship Series, and THE event, that well deserved, any one of dozens of accolades bestowed upon it throughout the weekend. It was, in fact, THE DRAG RACE OF THE DECADE!
Fierce competition is what makes drag racers click and strive for performance marks seemingly out of reach. Many felt that the sky was the limit on the tacky, Sperex Company, VHT-sprayed Ontario Motor Speedway surface for the Winston World Finals, and they proved themselves 100 percent right on down the line: the first all five-second Top Fuel field, the first 250-mph Top Fuel clocking; the first five-second, 240-mph Funny Car effort, the first sub-5.70 Top Fuel times, the first 7-second, 180-mph Fuel Bike marks, and the list could go on and on.
The dramatic stories surrounding each of the newly-crowned NHRA Winston World Champions also played a key roll in the overwhelming successful '75 season finale. It was, for sure, a big day for the likes of Professional World Champions "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, Don "the Snake" Prudhomme and Bob Glidden. And the episodes of Sportsman World Champions Dale Armstrong, Richard Rosen, Bruce Sizemore, Bernie Agaman and Tim Ekstrand lent plenty of excitement to the overall picture, too! As for the Pro Fuel Bike title, well it was the consistent T.C. Christenson who posted a stunning triumph.
As all-time Top Fuel great Don Garlits put it, "I came to Ontario to win the World Championship and I knew it would take the sport's best ever clockings to attain my '75 goal." The 43-year-old Tampa, Florida, veteran, who has best depicted the energy, and ingenuity that makes drag racing the high-caliber sport that it is over his stunning 25-year career, accomplished his dramatic goals in a manner that made you very proud to be a part of the 1,320 wars. He dearly wanted to be the first man to officially run over 250 mph, and his 250.63 National Record gave him that well-earned honor.
Of course then there was his stellar 5.63 elapsed time Low E.T. of the Meet blast to lead all qualifiers in the initial 16-car 5-second Top Fuel Eliminator program, and a series of mind-boggling runs of 5.79, 5.65, 5.67 and 5.74 to more than back up the sport's quickest effort for yet another NHRA National Record.
Garlits' power-laden performance culminated with a final-round victory over a game Herm Petersen, who had put together his best effort in quite some time with the "Oly Quick One" entry of Petersen & Fitz out of Poulsbo, Washington. A final round 5.74, 247.93 mph clocking by the master stopped Herm's bid of 6.11, with Petersen hitting a best-ever 5.87 earlier in the meet and driving one heck of a race to earn a spot in the final.
The Top Fuel World Champion's title, however, was clinched by "Big Daddy" in the semifinal round and possibly even in round two when he backed up his E.T. Record. Battling tooth and nail with defending champion Gary Beck throughout the wild event. Don took away Beck's 5.69 National Record, set earlier in the meet (plus the valuable 200 bonus points) to set up a must semi's effort for the Export A pilot. Knowing that he had to win against Petersen in the third round, reset the record and win the event too, Beck's bid fell short when a blower belt came off in the semi's and he lost to Petersen. It was a valiant try for.
the Canadian resident, who later commended the '75 World Champion Don Garlits on his sterling performance in a true sportsmanship gesture. Garlits, too, extended credit where it was due in stating that it was racers like Beck that made him try that much harder and making a win of this status that much more gratifying.
If Don Garlits sticks with his reported retirement plan, the sport of drag racing will most assuredly miss the all-time great of the Top Fuel ranks. He's done it all in an illustrious Professional career, one that has included nabbing every NHRA national title available at least one time. He's "Big," and that best describes every facet of his racing efforts over the years.
Granada Hills, California's Don the Snake" Prudhomme capped undoubtedly the most spectacular Funny Car season by any given individual with a complete sweep of the bracket for his unprecedented sixth NHRA national event win out of only eight tries no less. With the Funny Car World Champion's title already under his belt before even entering the Winston World Finals, Prudhomme simply went right out and set everyone on their collective ear with the first-ever 240-mph Funny Car blast (241.53 and a 240.64) and wowed em all with an incredible drag racing first ... a 5.98 elapsed time. Seemingly trying to prove a point of some kind. "the Snake" made believers out of everyone in attendance with respective clockings of 6.23, 240; 6.15, 241.53; 6.17, 233.76; 5.98, 237.46 and a final-round effort of 6.15, 240.614 mph.
Prudhomme's final-round marks scored over the surprising "Chi-Town Hustler" Dodge Charger and pilot Denny Savage. who put forth the best national event (NHRA), effort ever for the team of Farkonas, Coil & Minick. Savage had run as swift as 6.21, 231.36 mph, but the legendary Charger went up in smoke to a slowing 6.9191, 155.44 mph in a losing cause. Nevertheless, it was a superb showing for the Chicago team, who very seldom put in an appearance at major events yet showed plenty of stuff in this quick field.
Prudhomme appeared to be well in command of the event right from the start, as he was experimenting with gear ratios in that paid off with the stout performance levels he attained. His smooth operation couldn't have been any smoother either, but that's what Don "the Snake" Prudhomme is all about!
The only 1974 World Champion to repeat was hard-working Bob Glidden of Beech Grove, Indiana, who finished up 1975 just the way he began the season: winning! Trailing rival Ford campaigner Wayne Gapp going into the points showdown for the World Champion's title, Glidden utilized a bit of good fortune and turned it into a come-from-behind victory much in the same fashion that earned him the '74 title.
After qualifying second with an 8.80 and Top Speed of the Meet at 155.70 mph, Glidden and his '74 Pinto had to advance much further than points leader Gapp to secure the points title. It looked mighty dismal in the very first round when Glidden drew a red-light start against Paul Blevins' Vega. but the Vega was found to be light after the run and Glidden was back in on the "first or worse" ruling.
The entire points picture began to change at that point, as the Gapp & Roush Maverick broke a rod in round two and lost out to Stacy Shields, while Glidden advanced into the semi's and eventually into the final where he sewed up the title for the second straight year.
There was stiff opposition for the final round, however, as Bill Jenkins had his Chevy Monza thumping the ground (8.79 low qualifying time) and it was wire-to-wire clash for the Pro Stock Eliminator title. Glidden had hit a meet's best of 8.76, while Jenkins' best was a very close and even a tad better 8.75 that stood as Low E.T. of the Meet. And it was just that close in the final, with the Ford ace pulling it out with a 8.851, 154.63 mph clip to "the Grump's" super-close 8.854 at 153.84 mph.