Competition Plus is a wonderful
online magazine about drag racing - and especially it's "carachters".
In the depths of the holidays, when news is slow, they have a
"War Stories" elimination contest.
Bill Doner was a pioneering track
operator and promoter, and has certainly met some of the "unique"
individuals in the sport - Fremont Raceway in Northern California
was never my favorite. I could never seem to wrap my arms around
the place, but there was one race every year that was very successful.
On New Years Day we ran
the Nitro Bowl at Fremont and always packed the place. The radio
ads went: "Are you tired of This bowl and That bowl...well
get off the couch and get out to Fremont Raceway for the NITRO
BOWL! Of course the event featured an all star cast of funny
cars, usually the top eight we could book in along with a couple
of wheel-standers and jet cars.
A little known fact was that
Jungle Jim Liberman was originally from Fremont although he lived
most of his adult life in the East. Jungle begged me for years
to come run the Nitro Bowl. Well, this one year I signed him
up and we used him big time in the ads. Naturally, he didn't
I got several calls and a half
dozen or so people came to the tower and demanded their money
back because of no Jungle.
I was, to put it mildly, pissed.
Wouldnt you know the following
years Jungle whined and whimpered saying he would make it up
to me if I gave him another chance. And so, God knows why, I
decided to book him again along with Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen,
Ed McCulloch, The Blue Max, Gordie Bonin and an all star cast.
Several days before the race
Roland Leong called and wanted to know why I wasnt using
his Hawaiian car. Theres a lotta Hawaiian boys in
the Fremont area, Donah, explained Leong, and besides,
you know Jungle wont even show up. New Years
happened to be on a Sunday and the day before I went out to the
track to make sure everything was ready. Leaving I stopped at
the gas station next door...the attendant came by and asked if
I had something to do with the track. When he found out I was
the main guy he asked, Will the Hawaiian be running tomorrow?
Sorry, pal, not this year, I answered.
Thats a mistake,
he blurted, theres a lot of Hawaiian boys around
here. Obviously a Roland plant, but it got me worried especially
since it was 50-50, maybe not even that good of odds, Jungle
would even show up.
New Years Day arrived bright
and clear with a long line at the front gate. And whos
at head of the line at the pit gate? Surprise of surprises, Jungle
Jim, in person.
Hey man, said Jungle,
told you Id be here. We came out around midnight,
smoked a couple of beers and slept right here. With a huge
crowd certain, youd think not much could go wrong at this
Here comes Jungle to the head
of the staging lanes at 10 a.m. and demands to make a test run.
I argue to no avail and of course he blows up in the lights.
Sorry man, Jungle
whines, I blowed up my fuel tank and it cant be fixed.
McEwen is standing in the back of the tower and whispers to me-Tell
Jungle you wont pay him a single cent and see what happens.
And I did.
You cant do that,
man, cries Jungle. I tried. No deal,
Jungle, I said. No run, no money. First round is
at noon. Be there or be square. Not even 10 minutes later,
Jungle comes to the tower and asks to have Porky the Pirate paged
and have him report immediately to Jungles car.
Now let me tell you about Porky.
Hes a grubby looking guy with only one leg who wears a
World War One, chrome German helmet with a spike on the top.
He has a hollow aluminum leg which he fills with a gallon of
rum and runs a plastic line directly up to his mouth.
If you catch Porky early enough,
hes a helluva welder. Later in the day all bets are off.
Wally Parks nearly went into convulsions when Porky snuck into
the U.S. Nationals one year and he went up to the starting line
and started waving a flag on the end of a long pole directly
in Don Garlits face as he staged.
At 11:55 exactly, I played the
National Anthem and on the final notes fired up the first pair
of funny cars. Guess who? Jungle himself, against the legendary
US Army Plymouth Arrow and the Snake.
With the crowd going crazy, Jungle
somehow whips the Snake and from there on the day seems uneventful.
After the storm, the racers get
paid, the fans leave, and I sit down to have a cold one and relax.
Just then a nice-looking man
in the blue blazer and slacks along with his young son, asks,
Are you Mr. Doner? Ive got a big problem,
Tell me, I answer.
Its not something
I can tell, he explains. Its something you
got to see for yourself. A couple of security guards, off-duty
Fremont cops, are standing by and I decide to take them along
for this adventure.
Its dark and I mean REALLY
dark. Were using one security guards flashlight to
guide us through the pits, up to where the man is leading us.
Finally we arrive at his car
and half the side has been torched off.
Thats just the half
of it, he says. Look at this. The front of
his car has somehow been welded to Porkys truck.
When the security guard looks
around with his flashlight, theres Porky complete with
his helmet in place, passed out, right in the dirt.
Dont touch a thing,
says the security guard, Ill be back in 10 minutes.
Youre not going to arrest him, are you? I ask.
Hell no, says the
guard, I going to get my brother. Hes a professional
photographer. I need a picture of this. Nobody will believe me
otherwise. If this was ever made into a movie, the credits
would now roll with the following information. The nice gentleman
in the blue blazer had a door and fender replaced on his car
and received a complete new paint job.
Further he received two lifetime passes to all seven International
Raceway Park facilities.
Porky the Pirate was placed on
Double Secret Probation.
Jungle Jim smoked a couple more
beers and went down the road playing his harmonica and describing
the incident as, Far Out! Bill Doner received an
8x10 glossy photograph which he still has somewhere.
Taken from competitionplus.com