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Rare 50-Year-Old Panoramic Drag Race Photos

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2020-11-30 Douglas Glad,Hot Rod Archives
a screenshot of a computer: LEAD-Elapsed-Times-Racetracks © Hot Rod Archives LEAD-Elapsed-Times-Racetracks

Never-before-posted panoramic photos from drag racing's most exciting era at Ontario Motor Speedway and Pomona Raceway.

We can't get enough of old photos of drag racing from what some people consider the most exciting years—and we're lucky that those photos exist. HOT ROD magazine is built on a sacred burial ground of archival photos—and we think it would be disrespectful to let them rest in peace. So we like to dig them up, shake them off, and share them with you as often as we can. Several years ago, Elapsed Times was our sister magazine devoted to historical and retro drag racing. Thomas Voehringer, our photo archivist at the time, always had a killer photo or a box of stunning pics at arm's length. One day he strolled into the editorial offices with an orphan box of panorama shots from the Pomona Raceway (now the Fairplex) and Ontario Motor Speedway from the late '60s and early '70s. They were much more than we could have imagined.

Related: Fire and Smoke! Funny Car Drag Racing Gallery from the 1960s and 1970s

We're not sure if these photos were published back when they were taken or just shot as an exercise in photography. The beauty of these photos is in the extra details—like the staging lanes, the parking lot, the people, and even the advertisement banners—that were caught candidly on film. These amazing long-overlooked images capture what was going on at Ontario and Pomona half a century ago. Hope you enjoy them.

Scene at Pomona Raceway

graphical user interface © Hot Rod Archives

This multiple exposure shot from Pomona's Winternationals is so strange looking that we ignored it at first. Then we really started to look: multiple images on the track, flopper in the foreground. What's not to like?

1971 NHRA Winternationals

a large jetliner sitting on top of a bridge © Hot Rod Archives

Here is a simple panoramic shot from the 1971 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.

Getting Close to the Action

© Hot Rod Archives

Here is a long shot of the crowd at Pomona. The place was wall to wall. Take a look at the low guardrail and chain-link fence—all that separates the photographers from the dragsters. Drag racing photogs take it for granted that their cameras create a magic protective shield against flying flaming parts.

Look at Those Crowds

a close up of a bridge © Hot Rod Archives

In this ground-level Pomona shot, cool is the '71 Road Runner parked in the lane and the Firebird on the far side of the fence. Look at the size of the crowd packing the stands, likely because TV sucked in 1971—and because seeing dragsters race in just part of the fun. Hearing them, smelling them, and feeling your bones shake in your body when they pass has yet to be duplicated on a screen.

Duster at Ontario Motor Speedway

a group of people riding on the back of a car © Hot Rod Archives

This is from Southern California's Ontario Motor Speedway circa 1970. The Duster up front grabbed our attention. So did the fat-tired Challenger in the far lane. The race control tower is currently used after it was moved to the Fairplex in Pomona.

Before the Suburbs

a large bridge over a body of water © Hot Rod Archives

If you have ever been to or seen the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, you can see that a lot has changed from the time of this photo. The staging lanes and the track haven't moved much, but the surrounding farmland is now suburban sprawl. Look closely, and you'll see a barn on the far right and a spectator sitting on the porch.

Local Spot for Staffers

© Hot Rod Archives

Pomona was a local track for Petersen Publishing staffers (HOT ROD, Car Craft, etc. ), likely allowing them time to experiment deadline-free. That might explain the casual shots outside the starting line photog corral. This staging lane shot is packed with history. To the far right is Roland Leong's Hawaiian Funny Car. Note the winged Sox & Martin A/MP (Modified Production) and the line of Pro Stockers, including a 'Cuda in Sox & Martin livery.

Funny Car and a 1971 'Cuda

© Hot Rod Archives

Parts of this photo are what editors like to call soft, but the hero of the shot is crystal clear. What appears to be a support vehicle for a Funny Car is a new '71 340 'Cuda sporting some period Cragars with Goodyear Polyglas GT tires.

Stock Eliminator and Modified Production

a group of people on a bridge © Hot Rod Archives

Another shot at Pomona, this time during the call for Stock Eliminator and Modified Production. To the far right is another killer support vehicle in the form of a Dodge Charger with either Cragar wheels or Supremes and skinny whitewall tires. Scope the Crower jacket (right) and the foam top STP hats.

Wish We Had the Footage

a fighter jet sitting on top of a snow covered road © Hot Rod Archives

We included this skybox shot for the KTTV Los Angeles camera in the foreground catching the burn-for-the-distance rail jobs at Pomona. We wonder where that footage is now.

Don Prudhomme's 'Cuda

a group of people riding on the back of a boat © Hot Rod Archives

The obvious hook here is Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's 'Cuda front and center versus a flamed Duster at Pomona.

So Many Classics

a truck that is sitting on a runway at an airport © Hot Rod Archives

We weren't going to post this photo until we noticed the awesome Maverick on the left and the tail of Dick Landy's Challenger on the right. Imagine being there.

Story edited and formatted for HOTROD.com by Tim Bernsau. Panoramic images designed by Ryan Lugo.

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