ZYLA: The Racing Briefcase


I’ve recently been working on a few stories involving nostalgia funny car racing and came across some important information regarding an illness that continues to grow in numbers, and has stricken all-time great nitro driver Dale Pulde.

After writing a newspaper column on Dick Harrell, the late, great “Mr. Chevrolet” who died in a funny car accident in 1971, and Pulde, lifelong companion of Harrell’s daughter, Valerie, I found out about the perils of a disease called Valley Fever, which nearly ended Pulde’s life.

Dale Pulde and Valerie Harrell

Pulde explained he had gotten ill three years in a row after attending races at Bakersfield, Calif. Starting with a cough, doctors prescribed cough syrups and other medicines, and he would then feel better. By 2010, however, his condition stared to deteriorate and doctors ran numerous tests to try and find out why Pulde was totally exhausted. None came up with the correct diagnosis.

Thanks to Valerie, who did much online investigating, she remembered fellow racer Jack Harris had previously told Pulde of his own battle with Valley Fever. Harris noted that he had contacted the disease in Utah from dust attributed to nearby mining. In a story written by well-known drag racing writer Bobby Bennett, Valerie recalled a helicopter landing and stirring up dust when they were racing at Bakersfield. Things started to click.

Known officially as Coccidiodomycosis, Valley Fever attacks the body’s respiratory system via fungus spores breathed in from the dust.

The Bakersfield race track is located in Kern County, now believed to be “a hyper-endemic” area for contacting Valley Fever.

Things got so bad before the correct diagnosis, Pulde was coughing up blood as the disease attacked his right lung. Bacteria then formed, leading him to nearly losing his life. Thankfully, today Pulde is feeling better, but Valley Fever has no cure. Valerie recommends reading the book “Valley Fever Epidemic,” by David and Sharon Filip. It explains in detail about the incurable, debilitating and deadly disease, and especially the problems associated with the common misdiagnosis.

Additionally, the cost of antifungal drug treatments is expensive, costing up to $20,000 per year. States on the “Valley Fever list” include Arizona, where 65-percent of cases are contacted, and California, where 33-percent contract the disease. The other two-percent are contacted in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

This column is different from my usual “Racing Briefcase” columns, but certainly worthy of space if NSSN can help even one person fighting this disease unknowingly. Additionally, Pulde and Harrell are well known to racing enthusiasts and deserve helping inform everyone about this deadly disease. Sadly, Valley Fever is still rare when it comes to public knowledge.

If you currently live near a track that features IHRA Nitro Jam Nostalgia Funny Car racing, Pulde’s “War Eagle” will be one of the star attractions. Step up and say hello to a Valley Fever survivor and great race team.

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