The Most Complete List
Craig Murto, Inside Motorsports (1997)
If you've ever competed in a professional drag
racing event, chances are you're on Bill
What started as a handwritten, penciled list
of racers kept by a 14-year-old fan in Cleveland has become possibly the
most complete list of
drag racers anywhere
in the world.
"I've been interested in racing
since the early 70s," Pratt
said. "I started making models and getting Hot Rod Magazine."
And he began keeping records of
racers. His meticulous record keeping is now the Drag
Racing List, which is published quarterly and lists about 20,000 drag
racers in every professional category from around the globe. It is also his
website, WWW.Draglist.Com, from which net browsers can subscribe to the
quarterly for $10 per year [actually, it's free! bp]
Listing every racer he can find from the
1950's on up, Pratt
admits nonetheless, "it has a lot of holes in it."
He fields between 20 and 50 emails each
day from racers, ad agencies, and fans, who ask questions or leave
uses to update the list.
He averages about 175 "hits" each day on the web site, and expects
nearly 80,000 in 1998.
To say that the 39-year-old Waldorf, Md.,
resident is involved in the sport is an understatement. He handles public
relations for Maryland International Raceway, where he also acts as the
He began getting involved at the track in drag
racing as a teenager at Thompson Dragway in Standardsville, Ohio. He
mostly worked as a mechanic on the 1967 Pontiac LeMans that he and a friend,
the driver, took to the track. That lasted until the two joined the Navy.
"Our thought was to get in the Navy,
save some money, and build a Pro Stock Vega," Pratt
said. That dream never materialized, and Pratt
spent 20 years in the Navy, much of it floating around on the U.S.S.
Nimitz. There he became a telecommunications specialist, a field in which he
currently works as a consultant.
Once off the water, Pratt
settled down in Maryland, and proceeded to compile his list.
When he first attempted to sell it, in the mid-80s, he met Tod Mack, who not
only raced Funnycars at the time, but also owned MIR. Pratt
wanted permission to sell his list
to the fans packing MIR's
"He was impressed with the
said. "He asked me if I'd be interested in writing stories about the
track." And so Pratt's
part-time career in PR got started. That kept him at the track, often in the
tower as races unfolded. Pratt
developed a deep understanding of his sport, and often rattled off facts
about drivers as they approached the line. The track announcer, Lewis Bloom,
surprised Pratt one
day with the opportunity to provide color commentary over the microphone.
"He got so tired of me talking about
these racers in the background, he shoved a microphone in my face and said,
'Don't tell me, tell the fans,'" Pratt
In that way, Pratt
became the color commentator at the pro shows from the late 80's
until 1990, when Royce Miller began leasing MIR. Some of his favorite
memories come from those times.
One of the biggest highlights of his life
in racing was when
Duane Nichols put together the United States Super Circuit in the late 80s, Pratt
said. "He tried to make a go of turning the top sportsman cars into a
professional circuit," Pratt
recalled. "That was fantastic, getting to meet all my racing
The very first USSC event was held at MIR.
Racing greats such as
Bill Kuhlmann, Robbie
Vandergriff, Norm Wizner, Mike Ashley, Ronnie Sox and "Animal Jim"
Feurer were some of the racers who participated.
"It was like the beginning of
Funnycars all over again," Pratt
said, noting that the top sportsman cars of the day developed into the Pro
"I got to hang out with some of the
writers I'd been reading." John Asher, Jeff Burk and Brett Kepner --
the man who came up with the name "Pro Mod" -- were some of those
writers Pratt got to
In fact, Kepner now helps Pratt
with the list.
Originally he saw an ad for the book, ordered it, and was impressed, Pratt
said. So impressed he helped Pratt
by adding some of the more obscure racers he was familiar with that Pratt
doesn't miss much. His web site is sophisticated, and offers users the
chance to buy nostalgic videos and photos online, produced by long-time drag
racing photographer Ray English.
racing weaves its way into Pratt's
personal life. His wife, Denise, to whom he's
been married since 1989, supports his involvement. "She's
into it," Pratt
discloses. "She'd rather I wasn't on the computer so much, but at least
she knows where I am."
In fact, Denise Pratt's
father, Don Fender, along with Darrell Zimmerman, founded the first
dragstrip in Colorado. Zimmerman went on to become the NHRA's
Division 5 director.
The couple has two children; Jason, 6, and
"They love it," Pratt
says. "They both love going to the track, and they both love Bunny
During the week Pratt
calls the action as a telecommunications consultant, and expects to be
working on the upcoming problems computers world-wide will experience when
the calendar rolls into the year 2000.
a kid in New Zealand who said he's
cracked it," Pratt
going to be a daunting task."
a self-taught programmer, and much of the knowledge that helps him in his
work he obtained while attempting to computerize his drag
racing list. He's
even developed a computer drag
racing game with which players can choose to be any drag
racer Pratt lists.
"Everybody that we've got currently
we put them on a disk," he said. "The player can select a car in
any category of his choice and race against anybody in that category."
For $10 the game can be yours, and it, too, is available on the web site.
The site takes time to manage, though, and
Pratt admits it's
not easy. Family obligations beckon, and he does his best to answer. His
six-year-old plays soccer, for instance, and such activities take time.
"I'm probably on the computer about five hours each night, after they
go to bed."
He says he'd "like nothing more than
to stay home and build an empire" with his drag
racing interest, but he realizes that may not happen. "I really
don't think I'll make a lot of money out of it, it's
too specialized a thing," he admits. "Only a small group of
hardcore fans need to know what Joe Blow in Cleveland ran in Iowa."
But improvements to the web site are in
the works. Pratt
would like to create "hyperlinks" to many of the names on the list,
enabling the user to click on the name and see a picture of the driver's
might not even exist to be improved if it weren't for Danny White, Pratt
said. A bracket racer and Sunday school teacher in East Texas, White
"brought the list
back to life" when Pratt
stopped doing the book for a couple years when he became so busy doing
consulting work during Desert Storm that he "fell off the face of the
Earth." Now White is the research editor for the Drag
"He does most of the paper
winners and losers," it lists "that driver in that car for that
"I'd eventually like to make a
snapshot of each year since 1950," Pratt
said, although he doesn't keep track of racers by sanction. "I don't
care if a guy can only afford to run one weekend a year. If he's
out there, giving it a shot, he's
got a place in my book."
And that includes the "quicker
bracket racers," Pratt
said. He has begun allowing the bracket racers to list
themselves on the web site. "I can't go out and solicit those guys, but
if they take the time to fill out the form, I'll list
has experts from around the world who help verify those lists and update
them. "They know their local guys better than I do."
receives subscriptions to publications such as National Dragster and
Dragster Australia in return for a subscription to the list.
"They see it as a valuable resource," he said.
Some of the people who value Pratt's
work may surprise you. Robert Post, the technology curator for the
Museum of American History, "is a big fan of the book," Pratt
by Craig Murto