After writing our recent column on Dick Harrell, Dale Pulde and his lifelong companion Valerie Harrell (daughter of the late, great Dick Harrell), the duo informed me of important information regarding an illness that continues to grow in numbers, and has stricken all-time great nitro funny car driver Dale Pulde. It's called Valley Fever, and it nearly ended Pulde's life not long ago.
Pulde explained he had gotten ill three years in a row after attending races at Bakersfield, CA. 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, which was giving rides at the time, landing and taking off and stirring up lots of dust when the Pudle "War Eagle" funny car team was 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.
Before a 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.
States on the “Valley Fever list” include Arizona, where 65-percent of cases are contacted, and California, responsible for 33-percent of the disease's victims. The other 2-percent are contacted in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.
This column is different from my usual “Cars We Remember,” but certainly worthy of space if Auto Round-Up Publications 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 the disease and its deadly consequences. 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. (See www.wareagleracing.com and www.dickharrell.com ).