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Profile of a Season: 1973

Greetings history fans! It's time for another look at a past FEAR season with dates common to the present year-here comes 1973!

The orbiting space station "SKYLAB" was going up in 1973, while the Nixon administration was steadily being brought down by the congressional WATERGATE hearings. For motorists, things started out quiet and peaceful in 1973, with gas hovering in the low to mid thirty-cent per gallon range, and ended the year much higher, courtesy of the ARAB OIL EMBARGO. Not only were we gouged at the pumps, but we got to sit in long lines for the privilege. Sometimes one might not even get the nozzle in their tank before the "Out of gas" signs went up!

Provided enough fuel to drive to the local theater, movie goers in'73 were treated to Linda Blair vomiting record lengths in "The Exorcist", good cop Al Pacino fighting the bad cops in "Serpico", and a new agent 007 in the James Bond flick "Live and Let Die". Probably one of the most memorable movies for car buffs was "American Graffiti", which introduced us to the future superstars Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss, as well as a grown-up Ron Howard. The film took us back to the cruising days of 1962 when gas was ironically only about ten cents lower than early '73, and cars were just getting hotter every year. In 1973 the muscle car was dying off, given tighter emissions and insurance regulations.
On the racing front, long time northwest racing official Jens Kloster passed away in March. Jens was part of the speedway staff, and had helped build the figure-eight track with Rick Norton in 1965. A&P sports began their third year of track management, with former (and future) FEAR champion Wayne Crum at the promotional helm. Wayne's season began on a very painful note, while testing a superstock for Ewart Grove prior to the season opener, the cars throttle stuck wide open coming out of the south turn, sending him and the '65 Galaxie airborne into the drainage ditch that used to run parallel to the back straightaway of the fifth mile oval. Not only was he momentarily partially ejected from the car, his helmet came off, causing him to receive a serious head injury. Thankfully, a registered nurse just happened to be watching the practice, and actually got in the car to attend to him until the ambulance crew arrived!

The regular season opened April 15th, with several firsts (and lasts). The figure-eights pitted this year only on the back straight of the 3/8 oval, which made a great vantage point for pit crews to watch the races. Memorial day week-end featured the "Heidelberg northwest championships", a two-day event for the figure-eights and foreign stocks, with mixed open comp racing for stock and superstocks, and most crews camping inside the track Saturday night. In August, FEAR traveled to Yakima Speedway to run on the half-mile with an intersection through their pits. John Beeson and Bob Sheckler (who was subbing for Roger Estrin in another superstock) hit hard at the x there. Supposedly both cars were repaired to finish the season at Evergreen.

New drivers this year who went on to very notable and long FEAR careers were Nelson Downey and Mick Tomlin. Mick's car was a very huge '59 Lincoln Continental! Retiring at the end of this season were Ken Ronne, Cliff McCracken, Stan Johnson, Bob Sheckler, John Beeson, Dick Chase, and Maure Englehart. Sheckler swept the stock championship (his third) in a big-block '63 Plymouth, followed by Lee Daily in his 390 powered '61 Ford Starliner. Carl Zaretzke took his third superstock crown in his 57 chev, which was not red, but purple in '73! The original MR. CLEAN, Roger Estrin was second for the year in a sharp '62 Plymouth.

Tom Claibourn, F. E. A. R. historian