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Advertising in Georgia Drag Racing

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Advertising in Georgia Drag Racing.

by Marvin T. Smith

Radios blared SUNDAY! SUNDAY!, but print advertising in the Atlanta newspapers (Atlanta Journal evening paper and Atlanta Constitution morning paper) was very different. Let's look at some of the early drag racing advertising in the mainstream media and see how the ads evolved over time. At the same time, we can learn much of the history of Atlanta drag racing.

Figure 1

The earliest print advertisement I have seen in an Atlanta public newspaper (there were earlier ads in such racing papers as Southeastern Drag News) is an ad for a match race between Don Nickelson (yes, misspelled! -- see Don Nicholson) and Arnie Beswick that appeared in May of 1962 (Figure 1). This race was for $1000, big money at the time.

Figure 2

Photos were added to the advertisements by early 1963 (Figure 2), as shown in this ad featuring the Georgia Super Stock Championship race at Yellow River. In a 1990 interview, Phil Bonner says he won this one. Photos were still fairly rare until 1964, when they became relatively commonplace (Figure 3 Dyno v. Bonner). Even so, many ads continued to run without photos.

Figure 3

Figure 4

By 1965, Funny Cars were big and the fields were growing. Three cars appeared at Yellow River in October 1965 (Figure 4). Dyno Don Nicholson, Richard Petty, and Arnie Beswick were about as good a three car field as could be found anywhere in the nation in 1965. Dyno Don put them both away this time. By December, Yellow River was bringing in four cars (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 6

Cartoon-style ads, which were to become very popular, first appeared in early 1966 (Figure 6). The best cartoon ads were drawn by an anonymous artist for the Yellow River Dragstrip, but Southeastern International Dragway had its own artist. (Figure 7).

Figure 7

Dragsters were rarely featured in the Atlanta area. There were match races featuring Sneaky Pete Robinson, but the first photo ad for a fuel dragster race I can find was in June of 1966 (Figure 8) when Jimmy Nix was featured at Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway.

Figure 8

By July 1966, funny car shows were growing. Southeastern International Dragway advertised 15 funny cars entered in the self-proclaimed biggest race ever held in Georgia (Figure 9). 

Figure 9

1967 saw the beginnings of almost standard eight car Funny Car fields. Yellow River had Don Nicholson, Phil Bonner, Malcom Durham, Huston Platt, Roger Lindamood, Dave Strickler, Bobby Wood, and Arnie Beswick battling it out on October 1. Dyno Don put them all away. Not to be outdone, Southeastern International Dragway advertised ten supercharged cars for October 15th. This was a little misleading, as it was a supercharged gasser circuit race with Stone, Woods, and Cook, K.S. Pittman, Ohio George Montgomery, etc. plus a match race between Dyno Don (first time out with a blower on the Eliminator II Comet) and Bobby Wood. Ohio George and Dyno Don triumphed.

Figure 10

Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway countered with its annual Atlanta $10,000 meet on October 21 and 22 featuring sixteen fuel dragsters and sixteen funny cars (Figure 10). But that was not the end of racing in October. Yellow River came back with Bobby Wood, Huston Platt, and Arnie Beswick on October 29. The ads proclaimed a paltry three dollar admission charge! This was a classic cartoon ad, with attempts to whip up the crowd into a frenzy with supposed driver quotes.

Figure 11

One of the last style changes in advertising that I have found is the article-like advertising for a big Funny Car race at Yellow River held on March 17, 1968 (Figure 11). This informational ad, posing as a news article, noted that Dyno Don was going to defend his title at Yellow River against eight challengers. This race was heavily promoted, and also featured an eliminations ladder style ad, and a series of cartoon ads featuring the competitors egging on their opponents. This race saw the Super Cuda put down Dyno Don in the finals; one of the few races Dyno lost at the River.

As a kid in the 60s, I couldn't attend many of the races, but I kept a scrapbook of all the ads. They were a big part of racing history in the Atlanta area.

Marvin T. Smith
Sociology and Anthropology
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA 31698

(Also, see Photos by Marvin T. Smith in our Photo Gallery.)

This article by Marvin T. Smith is an early draft from the forthcoming book Atlanta Drag Racing: The Golden Years that Marvin and David Dilbeck are writing.