THERE MAY NOT EVER BE another
National Challenge. Despite some sparkling performances by John
Wiebe in Top Fuel, Don Prudhomme in Funny Car and Bill Jenkins
in Pro Stock, the race bordered on being a disaster because it
was, without too much question, a strong candidate for the most
poorly executed drag race in history. Though the Professional
Racers Organization came away from National Challenge with money
in the bank (not nearly as much as pre-race publicity had anticipated,
but money in the bank nonetheless}, it is at this time highly
questionable as to whether or not it will survive. Don Garlits,
who founded it, has stated that he doesn't care to have anything
more to do with it, having resigned as president during the race.
Many of the racers felt that they may have been duped, or at
the very least, sorely mistreated by the management. Many of
the manufacturers who posted contingency money are upset because
as it turned out, they felt their money was improperly posted
and without their knowledge by the track. Canadian Top Fuel pilot
Terry Capp suffered an ordeal in which he was ejected from the
race under questionable circumstances after repeated disputes
with track manager and race director Ed Eaton. The number of
disputes and heated arguments rivaled that of a political convention.
Ed Eaton claimed that the P.R.O. members and officials arbitrarily
bent rules to their advantage on several occasions, did not fulfill
contract obligations for the race, and improperly interfered
with his running of the race, thus themselves turning it into
a shambles. On the other hand, many P.R.O. officials and racers
feel that it was the incompetence and arbitrariness of Ed Eaton
that actually was the source of all the trouble.
What really happened in New York
on that weekend???
In all probability, no one can
be absolutely sure because, as we've come to find out in assembling
our coverage, there's simply too much to know, and too much that
one couldn't be sure of. Conflicting versions quite simply abound.
The following special section
contains three different accounts of National Challenge 74. The
first is by journalist and contributing Editor Steve Alexander,
who was assigned to cover the race. In it, Steve recounts his
experiences at the race, touching on the hostility between the
track and the automotive press, the Terry Capp incident (which
snow-balled into perhaps the major disruption), the topsy-turvy
running of the race, and the frustration that marked the conclusion
of the event. The second is an exclusive to Lopez Publications
from National Speedway track manager Ed Eaton, in which he documents
his claim that P.R.O. did not fulfill contract obligations, and
in which he presents a summary of his version of what went wrong.
The third is a recounting by staff photographer Jeff Tinsley
of the racing activity that did take place.
We do not feel that even these three versions of the race capture
all that happened, nor touch upon all the salient points.
We have seen fit to seek out
further information for the purpose of an analysis. However,
such analysis, we feel, belongs more suitably in the editorial
column. Should you desire to know the magazine's position on
what, in the final analysis, djd actually happen, you can find
it there. We do feel, though, that what follows is an accurate
portrayal of many aspects of National Challenge 74. We sincerely
hope that you will give it the time it deserves, because it has
a lot to say that bears on the future of drag racing. If nothing
else comes out of all the aggravation, hostility and grief, at
the very least, there are lessons to be learned.
Tinsley - Round by Round