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NORTHWEST NITRO: Flip Top Floppers


Welcome to Northwest Nitro. These are all old photos I took during what I would consider the golden years of drag racing. Back then there were lots of great nitro funny car and top fuel shows every Summer in the Northwest. It was easy to get hooked on the cackle, the long burnouts, and the big names like the Hawaiian, the Blue Max, Jungle Jim, the Ace, the Mongoose and the Snake. Not to mention the local favorites like 240 Gordie Bonin, Twig Ziegler, Kenney Goodell, Jerry Ruth, Nitro Nick, Mike Miller, and Ernie Hall.

Today, the professional nitro cars can only be seen on the NHRA circuit when the tour comes through the Northwest during the "Western Swing". If that were the case back in the 70's I would have never had the opportunity to experience this spectacle and would have never had any interest in getting involved. Luckily, I've seen the best and worse of what this sport has to offer through the lens of a camera, as a crew member, a driver, and even a track announcer.

The first series of photos are mostly from around 1978 and were shot in Woodburn and Portland. I will be adding new versions of Northwest Nitro when time permits as there's plenty more old photos to scan including more action shots. Some of these pics are rare and you won't see some of these cars anywhere else on the internet so feel free to drag and copy what you want. I didn't shoot them not to be seen.

I hope you enjoy this first blast from the past!

Rich Bailey


32 Funny Cars at Portland International Raceway in 1978. For years this was the biggest and most popular race in Oregon. Some of the cars in attendance included the Blue Max, the Hawaiian, Ed McCoulloch, 240 Gordie Bonin, Twig Ziegler, Chicago Patrol, Bryan Reins, Mike Miller, and Gary Densham,


Twig Ziegler at Woodburn after burning up his body in a pit fire two weeks prior in Portland. Twig debuted this Mustang the following season and crashed it in Boise one year later. Twig was a Northwest favorite.


Mongoose vs Snake at the Oregon Open in Portland in 1978. The Snake and the Mongoose were always a big draw and partly responsible for the sport's growth in the 70's.


So Cal's "Lttle John" Lombardo and Portland regular Ed "the Ace" McCoulloch in 1978

Rich Rogers and Kenney Goodell at Woodburn Dragstrip in 1976 others there included Gordie Bonin and Jeb Allen who was in for the Mongoose who burned his car down the prior weekend!


John Force in Portland and Dale Pulde in Seattle. Pulde was in Portland the prior day but that race got rained out!. A little known fact about Force is that he raced this same car at Woodburn that year at the NHRA points meet. Little did any one know back then that Force would eventually become one of NHRA's biggest names winning over 100 national events.

The Bubble Up team was perhaps the Northwest's most successsful Nitro Funny Car team, 240 Gordie Bonin drives the car here in Woodburn in 1976 and in Portland in 1978. Notice the no.2 on the Firebird. Finishing second to the Snake that year was nearly as good as winning the title as Prudhomme won nearly every national event that year so for everyone else it was a race for second.

Wendle White's White Lightning and Eugene's Springer and Price were Woodburn regulars. Wendle's car and trailer were formally that of Kenney Goodell. In fact, Goodell drove it for Wendle when it still had a Dodge body on it. The Springer and Price car was an A/FC before the class was banned.


Big Jim Dunn of Funny Car Summer fame at PIR and the late "Nitro Nick" Harman in Woodburn in the US Marines car. After racing nitro funny cars he switched to a jet for a couple of years.


Dean Rowlely's monza with Gordan Fabeck driving in Portland and the popular Green Elephant at Woodbrun with Mike Miller driving. Fabeck was the runner up at the Winternationals in Top Fuel that year.