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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

NHRA to Name 50 Top Drivers During Anniversary Season

by nhra.com

GLENDORA, Calif. - If ever there was an ultimate endeavor that tested the limits of man and machine, the flat-out, hold-your-breath quarter-mile blast that we call drag racing is it. 

Whether the machine is a 6,000 horsepower, fire-breathing Top Fuel dragster, a short-wheelbased, wall-seeking Funny Car, a high-winding, 200-mph Pro Stock vehicle, or one of thousands of unique sportsman entries, it's the skill of the people inside the machine that help create the magic.

During NHRA's 50th anniversary celebration, the best drivers in the history of the sport will be recognized. Through NHRA's 50 years, many heroes have emerged from the motorized masses to stand ahead of their peers. 

To recognize these individuals, NHRA has assembled a panel of experts to help determine, through a special voting process, the best of all time on the quarter-mile.

It was decided early that the spectrum of people involved in the sport of drag racing -- from drivers and owners and crew chiefs to aftermarket suppliers and component manufacturers -- was too broad to gain a consensus, so the nominees were limited to those who had actually driven a race vehicle in NHRA national event competition. 

A panel of drag racing experts (see attached list), from diverse fields including print and television journalists, and longtime historians of the sport were asked to cast their votes for NHRA's Top 50 Drivers.

The panel members used the following criteria in the voting process: 

On-track success 
Contributions to the growth of NHRA drag racing 
Technological breakthroughs 
Marketing/sponsorship breakthroughs 
Fan popularity 

Each panel member supplied a ranked listing of drivers from 1-50. The votes were then tabulated using a weighted points formula (see below) and combined to arrive at the final list.

NHRA's Top 50 Drivers will be unveiled on NHRA.com and through the pages of National Dragster, in reverse order throughout the 2001 season, with a schedule leading up to the naming of the top driver at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway on Nov. 11.

NHRA 50th Anniversary Panel of Experts

JON ASHER has been a motorsports photojournalist for 34 years. From 1966- '72, he worked as a contract writer for NHRA, AHRA, and IHRA before taking a position with Car Craft Magazine, serving as the editor from 1979-83. He's now a Senior Editor for RACER Magazine, is the Motorsports Editor of Street & Strip Magazine, and is also the American drag racing correspondent for Motorsport News of Australia, and is also a monthly columnist for Daytona Magazine (Japan). In addition, Asher is the senior drag racing editor for Speedvision.com, and has helped produce the All-Star Drag Racing Team program for Car Craft Magazine since 1973.

DAN BENNETT owns Bennett Data and provides training, consulting, and support in a range of specialties from R&D, data acquisition, and computers up to and including crew chief responsibilities. A respected freelance journalist in print and Internet media, Bennett also does color/technical commentary for the Pro Stock classes at NHRA national events.

KEITH BURGAN is one of the sport's finest fabricators, but he's done a whole lot more. An Australian who has lived in the U.S. for the past 10 years, the guy they call "Roo Man" has built, wrenched on, painted, and driven race cars, was the South Australian divisional director of the Australian National Drag Racing Association and a member of its national rules panel. A year ago he opened his own shop, catering to both pro and sportsman racers, and next year will debut his own race team. Burgan has been covering drag racing since 1968 and currently provides copy for National Speed Sport News, Drag Racing USA and Dragster Australia, as well as several web sites.

PHIL BURGESS has been the editor of National DRAGSTER, the official publication of the NHRA, longer than any of his predecessors, having been promoted to the position in 1986, four years after joining the staff after a stunt as a freelance journalist. He also is the Editorial Director for all NHRA publications, including Jr. Dragster, special publications, and the popular NHRA.com web site, which he helped create in 1995, guiding NHRA into cyberspace long before the World Wide Web reached its current popularity. He attended his first drag race in 1970 and earned a competition license in Frank and Linda Mazi's blown Opel in 1984, spurring a deep love of the Comp eliminator class.

JEFF BURK has been professionally involved as a racing journalist since 1976 when he was a motorsports stringer for the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette and later founded Midwest Racer, a weekly newspaper that originated in 1978 and covered drag racing and oval tracks. Burk has been an editor at Petersen's Drag Racing magazine, the editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine, and has freelanced stories and photos for numerous automotive performance magazines and newspapers. Burk and wife, Kay, own Autographix Motorsports Communications, an advertising and PR agency and also publish Drag Racing Online, an internet-based drag racing magazine. 

STEVE COLLISON was a 30-year veteran of drag racing journalism. He was a staff writer at Car Craft magazine and National DRAGSTER, and the editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated (which became Drag Racing Monthly) and Cars Magazine. Prior to his untimely death in December 2000, Collison was the editor for Drag Racing USA. A frustrated racer, Collison set an AHRA Formula Stock national record in 1969 driving a big-block Chevelle, and an IHRA Pure Stock standard in 1987 in a 5.0 Mustang.

COLE COONCE is a freelance dragstrip journalist and since 1995 has been the publisher of Nitronic Research (www.nitronic.com), which bills itself as "the definitive drag racing website." Although he tries to find the "om" in all things related to the pursuit of horsepower, he has a romantic appreciation for a variety of "bad ideas" that graced the drag strip throughout the sports history, as well as a rabid yen for what he considers drag racing's "gunslinger" era, 1962-1971. Coonce has been working on "Infinity Over Zero," a history of the Land Speed Record, which will be available in March of 2001.

DAVE DENSMORE was NHRA's Publicity Director from 1975 through 1982. Today, he operates Denswood Sports Marketing in Rhome, Texas, a company that provides public relations and publicity services to racers and racetracks. In addition, he is a freelance contributor to a number of publications and websites including Speedvision.com. He counts among his current and past clients eight NHRA Winston Champions including Kenny Bernstein, Shirley Muldowney, the late Gary Ormsby, Gary Beck, Raymond Beadle, Richard Tharp, and Mark Oswald. He presently represents Team Castrol and drivers John Force and Tony Pedregon as well as Rockingham Dragway and Moroso Motorsports Park.

BRUCE DILLASHAW is an associate editor at National DRAGSTER. 

JOHN DRUMMOND attended his first drag race - the 1972 NHRA Northern Nationals at Fremont Raceway - at age six. After a 13-year hiatus, he returned to Fremont in 1984 and hasn't missed many West Coast races since. Last September, Drummond celebrated his 10-year anniversary with Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, where he is acknowledged as a driving force in the surging growth of the Goodguys Vintage Drag Racing Association. As a freelance journalist, Drummond's photography and drag racing articles have been published in National DRAGSTER, Super Stock and Drag Illustrated, Drag Racer, Drag Racing USA, Hot Rod Magazine, the Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette, Full Throttle News and dozens of others. 

STEVE EVANS was a familiar face to drag race fans for more than two decades working on NHRA's syndicated TV shows and for 18 years covered NHRA drag racing on TNN, ABC, and NBC. He was the host of the weekly television newsmagazine NHRA Today, which aired more than 500 shows between 1990 and 1998. Evans got started early, announcing drag races at age 19 at the fabled San Gabriel and Fontana tracks in California and later managed all three of Southern California's famed tracks - Lions Dragstrip, Orange County Int'l Raceway, and Irwindale Raceway. He began announcing national events in 1966 and a year later went to work full time for NHRA as editor of National DRAGSTER and later as public relations director. Sadly, Evans passed away unexpectedly in late October while on assignment in Las Vegas.

RANDY FISH is the Editorial Director for Drag Racing USA and Popular Hot Rodding magazines, former Managing Editor of Street Rodder, and former Editor of Popular Hot Rodding. A licensed NHRA Super Comp competitor, Fish was introduced to drag racing at Connecticut Dragway in the early '60s was a former crewmember for several Alcohol Dragster teams. He was the only kid in his fourth grade class who knew what a tachometer was, and how to spell it.

BOB FREY attended his first drag race in 1964 and has been announcing drag races for 35 years, beginning back in 1966 at Atco Raceway in New Jersey. He announced at the first PRO race in Tulsa in 1972 and worked for years as the Division 1 announcer. Frey, a noted drag racing statistics buff, has been an NHRA national event announcer for the past 16 years and currently is the co-host of NHRA Heat on ESPN2. For nine years, Frey was the co-host on "NHRA Today" show on TNN and hosted NHRA's live telecasts on TNN. Frey is a featured columnist in National DRAGSTER, Drag Racer Magazine, and a contributor to John Force's web site. 

STEVE GIBBS, Vice President-Director of the NHRA Motorsports Museum, has a long background in drag racing. He began working at Southern California drag strips in 1961, where his chores including freelance reporting. He managed famed Irwindale Raceway (1966-1968) and Fremont Drag Strip (1968-1969) before joining NHRA in September 1969. Gibbs first served as Competition Director and, until July 1997, as Vice President-Competition before accepting his museum post. He is a member of the Museum Board of Directors and of the NHRA Competition Committee. Gibbs was the 1991 recipient of the prestigious Car Craft Magazine "Ollie" award and is a selector for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

DON GILLESPIE attended his first race at Lions Drag Strip in 1969, and the Southern California-born teen returned a week later on his bicycle, with a camera, and never looked back. Soon, his photos were being published in National DRAGSTER and Drag News. Thirty-one years later, he is not only one of the more longstanding and continuous photo contributors, but also an accomplished writer. Following stints including Car Craft Magazine Photo Editor, director of public relations for the late Mickey Thompson, and Orange Country International Raceway photographer, Gillespie moved to Bristol, Tenn., in 1989, to be "closer to the big events." He continues to cover NHRA, IRL, and select NASCAR events for major motorsports teams and publications.

JIM HILL is a lifelong Florida resident who was first exposed to drag racing -- and fellow Floridian Don Garlits -- in 1959 at Amelia Earhart Field in Hialeah. In high school, he volunteered at the South Florida Timing Association and soon was writing stories and shooting photos for the sport's top publications. He went to work for Harvey Crane in 1966, creating ads including those that fueled the "Cam Wars" and later worked at Holley before returning to Crane Cams as Advertising and Sales Promotion Manager in 1976 and creating the Crane Cams 250 MPH Funny Car Club. In 1985, he opened his own advertising agency, serving several of the industry's top companies, then returned to Crane in 1990 where he currently serves as Director of Marketing and Advertising.

BILL HOLLAND attended the very first NHRA Winternationals in 1961 and hasn't missed one since. An active participant in the sport from 1959 through 1970, Holland was a partner in several Top Fuel cars from 1965-70. A former employee of Drag News in the mid-60s, Holland served as Editor of National DRAGSTER from 1969-74, then formed Holland Communications, Inc. His articles have been appearing in a variety of publications for more than 25 years.

JOHN JODUAGA is an associate editor at National DRAGSTER. 

GRAHAM LIGHT, NHRA senior vice president-racing operations, has been involved in many facets of drag racing. He's driven everything from supercharged gas dragsters to Top Fuel dragsters, the latter of which he campaigned between 1971 and 1978. He also managed Edmonton International Speedway, which he ran until 1982. He was Top Fuel runner-up at the '77 NHRA World Finals and finished ninth in the NHRA Winston points standings in 1978. In 1984, he was named NHRA's Pacific Division Director and two years later became competition director. In 1988, he was promoted to vice president of technical operations and in 1993 was elevated to his current position. He's a member of the ACCUS board of directors and a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

CHRIS MARTIN is the editor-at-large for Drag Racing Online, an Internet magazine. From 1975 through 1998, Martin held numerous positions at NHRA's National DRAGSTER, where for years he was "Tricky Tipster's" secret confidant. Martin, an acknowledged drag racing historian, also published the "Top Fuel Handbook," the first history of the Top Fuel class, in 1996. A former editor for R&B Collector, the country's first oldies magazine, and record reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, Martin recently has taken up poetry. His first effort, "Route 66 Sandpainting," was published in the November 2000 Hot Rod magazine.

DAVE McCLELLAND, the 'voice of NHRA drag racing,' brings a tremendous amount of knowledge, memories, and multi-faceted experience to the selector panel. McClelland has been involved in the sport since 1955, including a 42-year career in race announcing. For 30 years, he worked as a television play-by-play announcer. In addition, McClelland is a former NHRA Director of Communications, founder of Super Chevy Sunday, as well as a former drag strip track operator. McClelland also competes in nostalgia and Super Comp events and is the proud father of a three-time NHRA national event winner Kevin McClelland.

RO McGONEGAL has been involved with hot rods for 44 years and attended his first drag race in 1958, at Montgomery Airport in New York. After seeing Don Garlits smoke the tires the length of the track and hearing the sound of uncorked V-8s, his future was cast. He raced an injected, tilt-nose '55 Chevy that once held the F/Gas NHRA record. McGonegal began writing for Super Stock magazine in 1968 and was named Technical Editor at Car Craft in 1969. Two years later he was promoted to editor. He also has worked at Hot Rod and Motor Trend and freelanced for a time before rejoining the Hot Rod staff in 1995.

KEVIN McKENNA is an associate editor at National DRAGSTER. 

JOHN MILLER is an associate editor at National DRAGSTER. 

CARL OLSON, a former professional Top Fuel driver/owner (winner of the 1972 Winternationals and a member of the Cragar Five-Second club), is NHRA's Vice President Insurance/Risk Management & International Relations and the President of the FIA Drag Racing Commission. Olson also has driven land-speed cars (member of the Bonneville 200-mph Club), sprint cars, and is a member of the SEMA Hall of Fame.

BILL PRATT is the founder and publisher of www.draglist.com, a web site that lists detailed information on all pro, semi-pro, exhibition, and sportsman racers throughout history. The site also features a daily drag racing story and photo, more than 5,000 links, and many other features. Pratt also serves as an announcer for East Coast match races and is an occasional freelance photojournalist.

THOMAS POPE is the Motorsports Editor of The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer, where he has worked for more than 20 years. He's been a huge drag racing fan for years, once won a charity drag race at the NHRA Winston Invitational, and has been known to race from pit to pit to inhale the exhaust fumes from Alcohol Funny Cars. 

ROBERT POST is professor of history at the University of Maryland and author of High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, due to appear in a revised 50th-anniversary edition in spring 2001. As curator of transportation at the Smithsonian Institution, he was responsible for inducting Don Garlits' Swamp Rat XXX into its hallowed halls, where it has been on display since 1987. 

JOHN RAFFA has an extensive background in drag racing publishing, having served as Editor/Publisher of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated Magazine, Managing Editor/Editor/Publisher of Car Craft Magazine, and Editor-In-Chief of National DRAGSTER. He is currently Director of Communications for Norwalk Raceway Park and a contributor to Drag Racing Online. Raffa also participated in his first drag race 50 years ago in Hagerstown, Md., as a member of D.C. Dragons Hot Rod Club. In 1964, he won the Top Eliminator title at Capitol Raceway Park in the Beavers-Stoinoff Fuel Altered Roadster. In 1967, he set the top speed at the NHRA Winternationals Media Challenge.

GREG SHARP was called "the rod and custom trivia king" by Rod and Custom magazine and the Goodguys Gazette called him "one of the most knowledgeable hot rod historians on the planet." He's participated in all forms of hot rodding, from racing at Bonneville to judging custom car shows all over the country. He's best known for the hundreds of articles he has written for numerous automotive magazines. His subjects have ranged from a history of "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" to personality profiles for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. He has been employed by NHRA since 1995, and serves as Curator of the NHRA Motorsport Museum.

GEOFF STUNKARD is a full-time freelance photojournalist. Formerly the editor of IHRA's Drag Review magazine, he has been published extensively in the automotive media, particularly in the area of drag racing history. He is currently working with Shirley Muldowney on her autobiography. From 1993 to 1997, he published Quarter Milestones, a quarterly magazine devoted to drag racing history and memorabilia.

TODD VENEY, the former senior editor of National DRAGSTER, is now an aspiring Federal-Mogul Funny Car driver. The son of former Alcohol Funny Car World champ and current fuel-racing crew chief Ken Veney, Todd grew up in and around the sport of drag racing.

STEVE WALDRON is an associate editor at National DRAGSTER. 

DAVE WALLACE is a second-generation drag racing journalist and one of the sport's most respected historians. The Dave Wallace byline has been appearing for 40 years. His father, Dave Sr., began the streak as San Fernando (Calif.) Raceway's correspondent to Drag News. Dave Jr. succeeded his namesake in 1965, moved to Lions in 1968, became editor of Drag News in 1975, joined Hot Rod in 1977, and launched Petersen's Drag Racing magazine in 1984. Now 51, "Young Dave" covers nostalgia racing for Speedvision Online and Drag Racing Online, publishes the Hot Rod Nostalgia magalog, and presides over Good Communications Inc., a motorsports ad agency. He's still chasing front-engined fuelers.

DANNY WHITE is the Research Editor and a columnist for www.draglist.com, responsible for gathering all past and present drag racing statistics from newspapers, magazines, books, and the Internet. White bracket races at Paris Dragstrip in Texas and is building an NHRA Stock class car. He also serves as a freelance photojournalist.

Check out the NHRA 50th Anniversary Website at http://www.nhra.com/50th/index.html


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