NHRA Celebrates 50 Great Years of Hot Rodding In 2001
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Wally Parks founded NHRA in 1951 to unify the ever-growing number of car clubs assembling around the country and to take this new breed of race car enthusiast off the street and into a safe, organized racing venue.
Working with civic leaders and local law enforcement, Parks began building nationwide recognition and support for his vision, and in a short time, the NHRA emerged as the premier sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing.
The very first NHRA national event took place in Great Bend, Kan., and featured a variety of roadsters, coupes, and other exotic vehicles engineered specifically to be the first to the finish line from a standing start. More than 200 participants from around the country converged on the small Midwestern city for the meet.
As the NHRA celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2001, it has emerged as one of the most popular spectator sports, with a 24-event, nationally televised tour. National champions are crowned in five professional categories, including Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, and Pro Stock Truck. Sportsman champions in seven categories are also crowned.
"When Barbara and I first started the NHRA, we never could have dreamed that it would grow and become what it is today," said Parks. "We thank all of the drivers, team owners, sponsors, track operators, fans and NHRA employees that have dedicated a major part of their lives to achieve the current level of popularity associated with NHRA Drag Racing."
During its first 50 years, the sport has seen continued growth, in part by the sponsorship by R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand starting in the mid-'70s. Today, NHRA and Winston are celebrating a 27-year partnership, one of the greatest marketing relationships in all motorsports.
As the world's largest sanctioning body with more than 80,000 members nationwide and more than 140 member tracks, the NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States.
Tom Compton, who became only the third president of the NHRA in January 2000, will lead the NHRA into the future.
"It is an honor for me to serve as president as we arrive at our golden anniversary," said Compton. "With all of the excitement being generated around the sport, I believe we are already building significantly on the foundation passed down by Wally and Dallas Gardner and I am confident we will take NHRA Drag Racing to new heights."
The NHRA-sanctioned sportsman and bracket racing series' provide competition opportunities for drivers of all levels. The NHRA develops the stars of tomorrow by offering the NHRA Federal-Mogul Drag Racing Series, NHRA Summit Racing Series, NHRA Summit Import Drag Racing Series, and the NHRA Street Legal Program. The NHRA also offers the Castrol GTX Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 8 to 17.
NHRA's national headquarters are located in Southern California, long considered the birthplace of organized drag racing.