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Ontario's World Finals, 1974-80

11 Dec 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider

We continue our look back at the great facility that was Ontario Motor Speedway this week with a recap of the seven editions of the World Finals held at the Southern California race facility, beginning with the 1974 event.

NHRA’s sudden decision to move the World Finals from its three-year home in Amarillo, Texas, to the still-new OMS in 1974 took many by surprise, and the announcement was not made until late April, but Amarillo itself had been a short-term solution after Dallas Int’l Motor Speedway switched to IHRA sanction in 1971. Perhaps because of the late announcement and the name equity that NHRA had already built with the Supernationals brand, the 1974 event was called the World Finals/Supernationals that first year before being shortened to just World Finals in 1975.

"We had a pretty decent facility with the now-defunct Dallas Int'l Motor Speedway," said former NHRA Competition Director Steve Gibbs, "but when it became a part of the then-new IHRA organization, we switched to Amarillo Dragway. It served its purpose for the time being, but it wasn't the type of track that was needed for an event like the World Finals, so the decision was made to move it to Ontario."

1974: Drama, and lots of it

After a qualifying fire that nearly destroyed his Mustang, Shirl Greer returned Sunday to earn the Funny Car world title.
Don Garlits, far lane, won on a holeshot over Dave Settles in the Top Fuel final.

Bob Glidden, far lane, defeated Wayne Gapp in the Pro Stock final to take the event title, which gave him the points lead and the world title.
Funny Car racer Jeff Courtie felt the sting of the intense Funny Car competition when he blew the body off of his mount in qualifying.

The 1974 event also marked the first time that the world champions in the Professional classes were decided by points instead of the old format, in which points were used only to determine who could compete at the event and the race winner was named the world champ.

"It just made more sense to do it that way at the time," recalled Gibbs in a 2010 National Dragster interview. "When the World Finals race was first established in 1965, there were only three other national events, so having the winners of that race become the world champions was an acceptable procedure. But the schedule had doubled to eight events by 1974, and so it didn't seem fair that the world title would go to someone who might get hot at just one particular event. That concept has been further refined by the Countdown to the Championship format that is utilized today."

The first go-round with the new format provided one of the great finishes in NHRA history as Shirl Greer overcame a qualifying fire that nearly destroyed his Mustang Funny Car and left him with serious burns to win the championship on a fateful Sunday. With the help and good sportsmanship from a lot of his fellow racers, he made a from-the-ashes return and stayed in competition just long enough to fend off Don Prudhomme for the world championship. Last year, I wrote a whole column about the heroics behind that accomplishment, so I won’t go into all of the details, which you can find here.

Prudhomme was stopped in round two by Dale Pulde, who drove Mickey Thompson’s Pontiac Grand Am to new national records of 6.16 and 233.76 mph in beating “the Snake,” then fell in the semifinals to dark horse Dave Condit, in the Plueger & Gyger Mustang, who went on to defeat Ed “the Ace” McCulloch in the final, 6.24 to 6.33.

While a lot of people remember the surreal story surrounding the Greer championship, they forget the drama that was going on in Top Fuel at the same time. Gary Beck came into the event at the wheel of his and Ray Peets’ Export A dragster with a lead of more than two rounds on Dave Settles, driver of the Candies & Hughes entry. Although they ended up on the same side of the ladder, unfortunately for Settles, they could not meet until the semifinals, which is exactly what happened. Beck got past Gary Martin and Jeb Allen, and Settles trailered Paul Longenecker and Jake Johnston. By that point, Settles not only had to beat Beck in the semi’s and then win the final, but also had to break Don Garlits’ 5.78 national record, which had stood all season from Garlits’ efforts at the 1973 Finals.

Settles did not even have a backup for the record, so he needed not only to beat Beck, but also to run at least 5.82 to get the backup – unlikely because low e.t. to that point was just 5.88, set by James Warren in qualifying -- and the chance for a go-for-broke blitz in the final.

It all seemed to be over early as Settles red-lighted against Beck, but incredibly, Beck crossed the centerline, losing on the “first or worst” ruling, then had to wait for the announcer’s call to see if Settles had gotten the backup. Settles missed by a long shot, his 6.06 well shy of the magic number, then, to add insult to his injury, he lost the final round on a holeshot to Garlits, 6.11 to 6.10.

The Top Fuel field as a whole was amazing: More than 65 of the nation's top entries tried to make the exclusive 16-car show, and the bump spot ended up at an unreal 6.05 by Gaines Markley.

Bob Glidden, who had made his Pro Stock debut just two years earlier at the event, scored both the event victory and his first world championship in come-from-behind fashion. He trailed both Wally Booth and Wayne Gapp but set a new 8.81 national record during Saturday qualifying with his Pinto to make up some ground in the points, then outlasted Booth to meet Gapp in the final, where his 8.89 to 8.91 victory gave him the points for the championship. Glidden also set low e.t. and top speed of the event at 8.81, 154.63.

Fuel Bike also provided its share of craziness. Local favorite Joe Smith smashed his own 8.44 national record with an 8.21 in qualifying, then went 8.20 in eliminations and broke Boris Murray’s three-year-old speed record of 174.76 with a blast of 176.47 mph yet didn’t win the race. Smith’s bike broke its chain in the final, giving the win to Marion Owens, who, crazily enough, had walked away with only minor injuries after falling off of his bike during a Saturday qualifying attempt.

1975: Greatest race ever?

Don Garlits’ incredible 5.63, 250.69-mph blast in Top Fuel qualifying — which would stand as a record for seven seasons — highlighted an epic event.
At least partial credit for 1975's performance parade goes to John Zendejas, shown performing his magic earlier in the year in Pomona, who meticulously coated the length of the Ontario strip with traction compound. (Steve Alexander photo)
Don Prudhomme won in Funny Car for the sixth time in eight events and posted the first five-second and 240-mph flopper runs.
Bob Glidden, far lane, continued his domination of the Pro Stock ranks after being reinstated in the second round and in the final defeated Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins.

In 2001, during NHRA’s 50th Anniversary season, the 1975 World Finals was voted the greatest race in the sport’s history, and there are plenty of reasons why.

Don Garlits just about the knocked the earth off of its axis with a stunning 5.63 pass that stood as the class’ best run for almost seven years and recorded the sport’s first 250-mph run. The Top Fuel field was another record setter and, more important, the first all-five-second field in history. Funny Car also had more than its fair share of history as Don Prudhomme, as predicted, became the first flopper driver to cover the quarter-mile in less than six seconds and the first to exceed 240 mph in a Funny Car.


A lot of credit for the great performances at the event has been laid on the foundation of a thorough, hand-applied layer of VHT Track Bite traction compound the length of the quarter-mile. You may remember from last week’s column that the application of traction compound had been done before, but it had been sprayed from a hovering helicopter. By 1975, the job was being meticulously done by hand by John Zendejas (later known as John Zenda, who became part of NHRA’s Historical Services arm that led to the creation of the NHRA Museum). Zendejas has been hired years earlier as track manager at Sacramento Raceway and revitalized the place by reconfiguring the track layout so that the burnout area was closer to the starting line (as was also done in Ontario) and experimenting with mixtures of Track Bite, lacquer thinner, and alcohol to find just the right recipe. Enlisted by NHRA, Zendejas would literally walk the entire track with a spraying device hooked to a truck loaded with gallons of the sticky stuff.

Garlits’ historic 5.63 was run during Saturday qualifying, Oct. 11, and though it wasn’t the sport’s first 5.6-second run – that honor went to Gary Beck, who set the record Friday with a 5.69 to provisionally gain 200 points in his bid to become the first back-to-back champ – it will forever be remembered as one of the sport’s all-time great passes. It was not bettered until July 17, 1982 (2,470 days later), when Mark Oswald surpassed it during the NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown.

“The air was right, the wind was right, the car was right, the engine was super strong, everything was nice,” Garlits wrote in his 1976 autobiography. “It was just a perfect time. I let it warm up real good and built some heat [into the engine]. I let the clutch out on that baby and it carried the wheels out there 400 feet and just pulled like a ripper. I shifted it, and the front end came up again, and I knew I was on my way. I went through the traps and by the time I got lifted I was 150 feet through the traps. I knew I must have some kind of record because it seemed like the fastest ride I’d ever taken.”

Garlits backed up the 5.63 with a 5.65 Sunday to make it official and steal the 200 points from Beck, who then lost a must-win semifinal race with Herm Petersen when he lost the blower belt to crown Garlits the champ. For good measure, Garlits went on to beat Petersen in the final.

Prudhomme had already locked up his first Funny Car championship on the strength of five wins at the season’s first seven events in his Army Monza, then made it six for eight with a dominating performance in Ontario. His 6.15 No. 1 qualifying performance gave no hint that he would later run almost two-tenths quicker, and his 6.32 first-round conquest of Al Hanna reinforced that. “The Snake” hit his stride in round two with a 6.17, then dropped a bomb on archrival (and later great friend) Raymond Beadle with a stunning 5.98 in the semifinals. Prudhomme was not able to back up the five for a national record (that would not happen until Indy the next year), but his final-round  6.15 was more than enough to defeat Denny Savage’s tire-smoking 6.91 in the Chi-Town Hustler in that iconic team’s first national event final-round appearance.

Bob Glidden finished 1975 just the way he finished 1974, by winning the World Finals and the championship with a crazy come-from-behind effort. Glidden’s chances for a repeat title appeared to have ended in round one when he red-lighted against Paul Blevins, but Blevins' Vega came up light at the scales, and Glidden was reinstated. Points leader Wayne Gapp broke a rod in round two, opening the door for Glidden, who raced through it and to the title by reaching the semifinals. Glidden capped his season with a close 8.85 to 8.85 final-round victory over Bill Jenkins.

1976: Prudhomme goes seven for eight

Don Prudhomme closed out 1976 with his seventh win in eight events with the Army Monza.

Don Prudhomme capped one of the greatest campaigns in NHRA history at the 1976 World Finals, winning for the seventh time in eight races that season. “The Snake’s” only blemish was a final-round loss in Indy to Gary Burgin, and he certainly had nothing to prove coming back to OMS, yet he dominated again with low e.t., top speed, the No. 1 qualifying spot, and the win, the 21st of his career, 13 of which had come in the last two seasons.

Shirley Muldowney, who months earlier had scored the historic first NHRA Pro win by a woman, earned her second title by defeating Jerry Ruth in the Top Fuel final.
In drag racing’s first and only all-American Motors Pro Stock title round, Wally Booth, near lane, topped Dave Kanners to triumph for the fourth time in 1976.

With high-90-degree temperatures prevailing on race weekend, it’s probably not surprising that Prudhomme could not find the fives again in Ontario, but he got close with a 6.02 low-qualifying/low e.t. shot, but that didn’t happen until he switched to a high-compression engine for his final qualifying pass. Prudhomme’s run destroyed the previous No. 1 effort of 6.18 held by Ron Colson in Roland Leong’s Hawaiian. On Sunday, Prudhomme beat Jake Johnston, Jerry Boldenow, and Bob Pickett to reach the final, where he faced Ed McCulloch. As strange as it sounds now, McCulloch had not won since the 1972 U.S. Nationals, and this one wouldn’t go his way, either. “The Ace” had barely survived the semifinals, where he blew the blower onto the hood at the hit of the throttle, but advanced when Pat Foster crossed the centerline on what should have been an easy winner. McCulloch’s team thrashed to make the final, but a leaking fuel line stymied their efforts on fire-up, and Prudhomme won on a bye run, albeit a great one, a 6.09, to close a great season.

Any thoughts that Shirley Muldowney’s breakthrough Top Fuel victory earlier that year at the Springnationals – the first Pro win by a woman – was a fluke were erased at the season finale, where she scored again, and in impressive fashion. Her field-leading 5.77 was almost a tenth quicker than No. 2 Pat Dakin, and she was never challenged in eliminations, where she also had low e.t. with a 5.84. Muldowney capped her run with a defeat of former world champ Jerry “the King” Ruth, 5.94 to 6.24. Oddly, neither Muldowney – who had run just four events that year-- nor Ruth finished in the top 10. Despite losing in the first round, Richard Tharp clinched the season championship.

The final event of 1976 also featured the sport’s first and only all-AMC Pro Stock final, in which Wally Booth scored a holeshot win over Dave Kanners in a battle of matching red, white, and blue Hornets. Nevertheless, Booth’s fourth victory of the season wasn’t enough to overtake Larry Lombardo and Bill Jenkins’ Grumpy’s Toy Monza, who was crowned the champion following a dramatic 9.00 to 8.91 holeshot win over second-place Warren Johnson, whose title hopes ended on the starting line when his line-loc reportedly malfunctioned. Booth finished third in the season standings.


1977: A near Bubble Up double-up

Gordie Bonin finished second in the Funny Car standings following his defeat of Don Prudhomme in the final.
Dennis Baca singled to the Top Fuel victory, his second of the season, after Graham Light was shut off on the starting line. 
In the Pro Stock title round, Bob Glidden, near lane, topped "Dyno Don" Nicholson, who had already secured the season title.

These days, it’s pretty common to see Top Fuel and Funny Car teammates in the final round at the same event. Don Schumacher Racing has done it so many times I’ve lost count, but it wasn’t as common back in the day. Even though they weren’t teammates in the sense that, say, Tony Schumacher and Ron Capps are, with a common team owner, Canadians Graham Light and Gordie Bonin were teammates under the Bubble Up soft-drink banner in 1977, and the Edmonton, Alta., natives almost shared the winner’s circle at the 1977 Finals.

Bonin, a winner earlier in the season in Gainesville, claimed the Funny Car crown in his Bubble Up/Pacemaker Trans Am, stopping Don Prudhomme’s bid for a third straight win to go with his third straight championship. Bonin shut down low qualifier Gary Burgin’s Orange Baron in the second round and canceled “TV Tommy” Ivo in the semi’s before facing off against Prudhomme’s Army Arrow in the final. The showdown was appropriate as the duo finished 1-2 in the standings, but not on the racetrack. Prudhomme smoked the tires just off the starting line and Bonin a little farther downtrack but recovered quickly to take the victory.

Prudhomme did in fact claim the championship, but in a sign that the pack was closing in, he “only” won three of the season’s nine events as six different winners shared the limelight and broke up “the Snake’s” two-year near monopoly on the class.

Light, NHRA’s current senior vice president of racing operations, also reached the final round in Top Fuel but was shut off on the starting line after his car began leaking oil, allowing Dennis Baca to solo to the win. Light, who qualified No. 3 at the last three events of the season – in Indy, Seattle, and Ontario – was driving the car that Gary Beck had powered to that barrier-breaking 5.69 at the 1975 event; ironically, Beck did not qualify at this race with his new car.

The Top Fuel win was the second major triumph that year for California carpet king Baca, who had stunned the U.S. Nationals field six weeks earlier. The win was a bit of a comeback for Baca, who had to sit out eliminations at the previous event in Seattle after running short on parts. Baca defeated England’s Clive Skilton and 1976 Top Fuel champ Richard Tharp, then took out newly crowned champion Shirley Muldowney with a 5.84, low e.t of the event, before his final-round single.

At age 50, “Dyno Don” Nicholson became the sport’s oldest Pro champion, but outgoing champ Bob Glidden still had his say, running solidly in the 8.5s for most of the event while the best any of his competitors could muster was mid-8.6s. After beating Richie Zul, Larry Lombardo, and Mark Yuill, Glidden put the finishing touches on the victory with an 8.55, the quickest run of the weekend, in the final against Nicholson.


1978: Glidden unstoppable again

Bob Glidden retired his undefeated Fairmont after bettering Larry Lombardo in the Pro Stock final.

No bones about it, Bob Glidden loved Ontario Motor Speedway. He was runner-up there in his Pro Stock debut in 1972 and in 1973 at the Supernationals, then won six of the seven World Finals that followed, including in 1978, when he was in the midst of one of the greatest winning streaks in NHRA history. Glidden debuted a trick Ford Fairmont midyear at the Summernationals in July and went unbeaten for the next five races, including the Finals, and remained unbeaten until the next year’s Mile-High NHRA Nationals.

Top Fuel winner Rob Bruins ended the season for world champ Kelly Brown in round one before claiming the Wally.
In the Funny Car final, Raymond Beadle, near lane, defeated Tom McEwen to score his first win in two seasons.

Glidden’s victory at Ontario was the 20th of his career and came in typical dominating Glidden fashion. He set low e.t. of the meet in qualifying with an 8.55, then ran 8.61, 8.63, 8.58, and finally an 8.61 to beat No. 2 qualifier Larry Lombardo in the final. Lombardo’s runner-up finish placed him second in the final points standings behind Glidden.

Rob Bruins closed 1978 with a little preview of his 1979 championship season by winning the final two events of the year, the Fallnationals in Seattle and the World Finals, in Gaines Markley’s dragster. Ontario showcased its performance side again as Gary Beck recorded the quickest clocking since the 1975 World Finals, 5.76, and became the fifth member of the NHRA 250-mph Club – joining Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Jerry Ruth, and Richard Tharp – with a blast of 250.00 mph, both in qualifying. Dave Uyehara also hit 250 mph with the Velasco, Cohon & Oswald entry, making it the first time two drivers ran 250 mph at the same national event. Although it wasn’t quite 1975’s all-five-second field, 11 qualifiers posted five-second runs, with the bump spot ending up at 6.03.

Bruins defeated newly crowned world champ Kelly Brown in round one, Uyehara in round two, and Garlits in the semifinals, but with a best run of 5.93, he seemed the underdog against Beck, who had carded a pair of 5.80s in early eliminations. But, just as had happened to Graham Light in 1977, Beck was shut off for a fluid leak, and Bruins soloed to victory with a run of 5.98.

As with Bruins, Raymond Beadle gave a preview of his 1979 championship season in Funny Car by winning the Finals, beating Indy winner Tom McEwen in the final round. McEwen’s race probably already was a success for him, having stopped nemesis Don Prudhomme – newly crowned with his fourth straight championship -- in round two. Beadle’s Blue Max Plymouth Arrow had an easy run in the final as McEwen’s English Leather Corvette smoked the tires. Not counting the non-points 1976 Cajun Nationals, it was Beadle’s first national event since the 1975 U.S. Nationals.

As in 1977, the 1978 season showed that the kind of dominance that Prudhomme had enjoyed in 1975-76 had ended as seven different winners scored in nine events. And even though Prudhomme again had been the No. 1 qualifier (6.09), low e.t. went to Pat Foster and the Super Shops Plymouth Arrow at 6.08.


1979: One-lane blacktop

In a Funny Car final that was a microcosm of the event, "240 Gordie" Bonin, far lane, defeated Tripp "240 Shorty" Shumake, who like so many others smoked the tires in the right lane.
Only one Top Fuel driver was able to negotiate the right lane in eliminations, and that was Don Garlits in the final, where he defeated Bruins.
Glidden’s Arrow carried him to his 27th Pro Stock victory.

Someone got the bright idea to stage a diesel-truck drag race on the Ontario quarter-mile just two weeks before the 1979 finale, and the results were disastrous. Fluids dropped by the big rigs created a mess, exacerbated when the World Finals played out under 100-degree weather, which created a real problem, especially for anyone who drew the right lane. The overall conditions probably played a hand in deciding the still-up-for-grabs Top Fuel and Funny Car championships. Kelly Brown’s bid for a repeat Top Fuel crown were foiled when he failed to qualify, handing the title to Rob Bruins, and Don Prudhomme’s surprising first-round loss in Funny Car led to Raymond Beadle’s initial coronation.

How bad was traction? Only five Top Fuel drivers qualified in the fives -- Dave Settles and the Yancy-Camp Blue Max entry (5.87), Bruins (5.92), Don Garlits (5.97), Hank Johnson (5.97), and Larry Dixon (5.99) -- and only Bruins and Garlits were able to run in the 6.0s Sunday. Only one Top Fuel driver won in the right lane Sunday, and that – perhaps not surprisingly – was wily veteran Garlits, who beat Bruins in the final, 6.36 to 6.40, to reach third place in the standings. More interestingly, it gave Bruins the title of youngest Top Fuel champ ever and the ignominious honor of being the first driver to win an NHRA Professional championship without winning at least one national event somewhere along the way. Bruins was runner-up at the Winternationals, Mile-High Nationals, and World Finals.

The performance of the Funny Cars similarly suffered, and the home of the sport’s first five-second Funny Car run yielded just a 6.22 best, recorded by Pat Foster. Newly crowned world champ Beadle lost in round two and four-time season champ Prudhomme in round one, clearing the path for Gordie Bonin to win the Finals for the second time in the last three years.

Bonin, the national speed record holder at 245.90, won his third national event of the season – one more than Beadle, the year’s only other multievent winner – with his U.S. Nationals-winning Bubble Up Firebird, beating first-time finalist Tripp Shumake and Johnny Loper’s tire-smoking, right-lane-losing Lil’ Hoss Mustang. Of note was the surprising semifinal finish for future 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force, who lost a tire-smoking battle with Shumake.

Bob Glidden already had the Pro Stock championship sewed up and again added the season finale to his win total. Glidden qualified No. 1 for the 15th straight national event and dominated again, this time with his Plymouth Arrow. It was Glidden’s seventh win in nine races, and he clinched it by beating the only guy who had beaten him all year, Frank Iaconio, who had defeated Glidden in the finals in Englishtown and Seattle.

The event also had another historic overtone: Amy Faulk beat Bob Marshall to win the Super Stock title and, with it, the national championship, making her just the second woman to win a season championship, behind Shirley Muldowney.

1980: The end of the road

In his last race in a nitro Funny Car, Ron Colson, far lane, defeated Raymond Beadle in the final.

Not many people knew it at the time, but the fate of Ontario Motor Speedway had all but been decided with its sale to Chevron when the 1980 season finale came to town, but NHRA racers and fans said goodbye to the fabled facility with a great race, emblematic of its history, packed with championship drama in Top Fuel and Pro Stock.

Shirley Muldowney became NHRA's first two-time Top Fuel world champ and was congratulated by NHRA founder Wally Parks.
Season-long Pro Stock points leader Lee Shepherd, far lane, broke the transmission in round two and ended up losing the world championship to Bob Glidden.

Shirley Muldowney’s victory at the Fallnationals had pulled her into contention for the Top Fuel title, trailing Gary Beck and Jeb Allen and just ahead of Marvin Graham, all of whom had chances to secure the crown. Beck and Muldowney were shooting to become the sport’s first two-time champ while Allen and Graham were gunning for their first, and things got real fast. Allen stunningly failed to qualify, eliminating him from title contention, and Graham qualified No. 1 at 5.86 and Muldowney No. 9 at 5.98, setting up a first-round date.

Muldowney, who ran the entire race with a cracked camshaft, got the win, 6.07 to 6.09. Beck, meanwhile, also advanced when Dennis Baca couldn't make the run, but he lost second-round lane choice – and, subsequently, the race -- to strong-running but nationally unknown West Coaster Gary Cornwall.

Muldowney still needed to reach the final round to pass Beck and got halfway there by outrunning Connie Kalitta in round two, then squared off with Cornwall in the semifinals. Cornwall smoked the tires, Muldowney ran 5.93, and NHRA had its first two-time Top Fuel champ. After receiving a celebratory bottle of champagne from good sport Beck, Muldowney then beat Frank Bradley for the event win.

Glidden won his fifth Pro Stock world championship in dramatic and, surprisingly for him, comeback fashion. Lee Shepherd had dominated the season – as he would in the year ahead – and had reached the final with the Reher-Morrison-Shepherd Camaro at every event that year entering the World Finals, but the points leader was felled by transmission breakage against Andy Mannarino in round two.

Glidden still needed to win the event to pass Shepherd and did it in “Mad Dog” fashion, destroying Frank Iaconio in the final with low e.t. and top speed of the meet, 8.42, 159.85.

Ron Colson closed his driving career in high style with a win in Roland Leong’s King’s Hawaiian Bread Corvette, defeating world champ Raymond Beadle, whose Blue Max Arrow blazed the tires in the final. Colson, who enjoyed a long career in a variety of Top Gas and nitro cars, drove from the No. 1 qualifying spot to the winner’s circle with victories against Dale Armstrong, Kenny Bernstein, Roy Harris, and Beadle, who smoked the tires and nearly crossed the centerline.

Early in 1981, after it became public that OMS had been sold and would be razed, NHRA announced that Orange County Int’l Raceway, long a racer and fan favorite facility, would host the World Finals beginning in 1981.

"Probably no racetrack in the nation has been more deserving and better equipped to handle a national event than OCIR," said NHRA President Dallas Gardner, explaining that NHRA had long considered the track for a national event but just couldn’t support three races in the same market as long as the Ontario event was still going strong. "When the Ontario situation arose, there really was no question about where to go with the World Finals.”

Sadly, of course, the Finals only lasted three years at OCIR before it, too, fell victim to rising land values, was closed, and later became commercial property, and the fabled Finals moved to its new (and, hopefully, permanent) home in Pomona in 1984, where it continues today.

The World Finals has been a great race since its 1965 inception, and the years at Ontario were among some of its finest. If you want to relive all of the great World Finals and the event’s many venues and memorable moments, you can still buy the book created last year to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary. It would make a swell Christmas present, no? Check it out online here at Amazon.com. Tell them I sent you.

I’ll see you next week.