Wall Street Journal Goes to Bat
for Organized Drag Racing
NHRA Offers an Official Statement
on Illegal Street Racing
By Bill Pratt
In response to recent horror stories in the straight press about "illegal drag racing": on the streets, Wall Street Journal writer
Kimberley A. Strassel has gone to bat for drag racing with a reasoned article. Click here to read the WSJ piece:
The WSJ offers readers a chance to respond. Please take a few moments to do so. Here's what I sent to the WSJ:
Thanks for a thoughtful and reasoned article, Ms. Strassel. You nailed it on almost all accounts.
It's ironic that in professional drag racing's 50th anniversary year, more attention is being paid to illegal street racing than to a legitimate sport that generates hundreds of millions of dollars and has literally tens of thousands of weekly participants at every level on six continents.
Organized drag racing was invented to get racers off the streets and to impose safety standards on the cars. Untold hundreds of competitors have crashed -- and walked away -- during organized drag racing's 50-year history. Some have not, but the percentage of racers experiencing serious injury or even death is incredibly small when compared to the number of racers who compete and the speeds at which they routinely travel.
Your comments about the sport's leveling effect are right on. Organized drag racing has leveled the competition among more than just class lines. Sex discrimination has been put aside.
Drag racing is one of the only sports in the world in which women and girls compete on a completely even basis with men and boys. Shirley Muldowney was the sport's first three-time world champion, and in the sports premier category -- Top Fuel dragster. And she's still racing.
Every week across the country, little girls compete side by side with boys in "Junior Dragsters," mini-dragsters outfitted with lawn mower engines. These eight to 17 year olds are having fun under strict safety guidelines. Most are straight-A students, and the girls are just as competitive as the boys are.
Bright, articulate, responsible people make up the vast core of organized drag racing's promoters, competitors, and fans. This sport is truly a slice of America (not to mention Canada, and increasingly a slice of Australia, Europe, Japan, South Africa, and other countries). Some families relax on weekends by enjoying boats or camping; other families relax on weekends by pitching in on their race cars.
Illegal street racing is for morons, but organized drag racing is for everyone.
Here is the NHRA's official position on illegal street racing:
NHRA STATEMENT CONCERNING ILLEGAL STREET RACING
GLENDORA, Calif. (June 27, 2001) - NHRA President Tom Compton addresses the NHRA's position on illegal street racing following the release of The Fast and the Furious by Universal Pictures:
"The National Hot Rod Association does not endorse the illegal street racing activities depicted in the current movie, The Fast and the Furious. The illegal street racing portrayed in the movie is not drag racing. Drag racing is an organized sport for high-performance vehicles conducted on a safer, controlled race course.
"During our 50-year history, the NHRA has worked tirelessly to improve safety for competitors and fans attending drag racing events. In fact, the NHRA was formed in 1951 by Wally Parks to take hot rod enthusiasts off the streets by providing racing opportunities at organized venues. Working with civic leaders and law enforcement officers to accomplish his vision, Parks developed what has evolved into the premier sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing.
"Today the NHRA operates as the world's largest motorsports organization, with more than 80,000 members and 5,500 events nationwide where 35,000 licensed racers and some 300,000 amateur racers compete and race on a weekly basis. These enthusiasts compete at our 140 member tracks, located throughout the United States. At the highest level, we offer our NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, a 24-race tour throughout the United States with an exclusive broadcast package on the ESPN network. It has been, and always will be, our primary mission to be "Dedicated to Safety," a slogan which was a mainstay of our logo for many years and one that still represents the spirit of NHRA as we celebrate our 50th anniversary.
"Earlier this year, NHRA developed, created and invested in the Summit Import Drag Racing Series, which features a national schedule for Import racers with national television coverage on ESPN2. Sensing an increase of illegal street racing activities taking place among import enthusiasts, we designed this series to provide an avenue to educate this segment on all the activities currently offered at NHRA member tracks to get them off the streets and into a safer, controlled racing environment.
"In addition, NHRA, along with its member tracks, offers the NHRA Street Legal Program providing, in many cases, weekly opportunities for fans of drag racing to participate in a safer and controlled environment. It is still one of the only experiences of its kind to provide a place for enthusiasts to take their street-legal vehicles and race.
"Recognizing the inherent problem in the birthplace of drag racing, Southern California, NHRA, along with the California Speedway in Fontana, last week unveiled the newest quarter-mile track for the NHRA Street Legal series. We continue to work, not only in Southern California, but also across the country, with individuals to build and support similar tracks designed primarily to service the casual racer.
"Finally, we offer competition opportunities for youths ages 8 to 17 in our popular Castrol GTX Junior Drag Racing League, which educates young kids about the pitfalls associated with illegal drag racing and the need to participate in organized events to quench their thirst for side-by-side racing activities."
ABOUT THE NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., the NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. It presents 24 national events through its NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. The NHRA has more than 80,000 members nationwide and more than 140 member tracks. 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 NHRA Castrol GTX Jr. Drag Racing League for youths ages 8 to 17.