Drag Racing History

At it's simplest, Drag Racing is a straight line run of two or more vehicles from one spot to an agreed end point. The true beginning of this sport is hard to pin down as I imagine Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble racing from stop sign-to-stop sign in their stone steamroller wheels. In just the case for finding the beginning of Drag Racing, let us talk about "ORGANIZED" racing or sanctioned racing.

The undisputed first organized race happened nearby our Burns Stainless HQ at the Santa Ana Airport (now John Wayne International Airport) in the heart of Orange County, California. We mentioned it in a previous article. A Deep History of Relentless Innovation.

Santa Ana Drags

"...The weather was a perfect 70° on this final day of Spring in 1950 when C.J. “Pappy” Hart opened the first sanctioned dragstrip in the United States on an auxiliary runway at the Orange County Airport. Santa Ana Dragstrip had installed revolutionary computerized timing clocks so the racers could actually get accurate times for each run. There was a pit area, restrooms, a concession stand and grandstands with plenty of parking..."

The timing clocks changed the industry, not only by having a definite mark to brag to your buddies how fast you beat the competitor, but for entrepreneurs who now had evidence of how their parts were a factor in that faster time. Driver skills were brought to the forefront too with reaction times, 300 foot, 600 foot times etc. 

Drag Racing Headers

Sanctioning bodies were developed across the county to maintain competition consistency and safety. The largest sanctioning body is the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) followed by the IHRA (International Hot Rod Association. The IHRA was formed in 1970 by businessman Larry Carrier operating primarily in the south-easter United States with headquarters in Bristol, Tennessee. It is now headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida and became a sportsman only series eliminating national events.

Drag Racing Cuda

The NHRA was formed by Wally Parks in 1951 one year after the opening of the Santa Ana Drags. Parks was a military tank test-driver in 1947 and served in the Army in the South Pacific during WWII. A fan of Dry Lakes Racing in Southern California, Parks helped organize SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) and later became its general manager.  Parks, as editor of Hot Rod Magazine formed the NHRA to "create order from chaos" by instituting safety rules and performance standards that helped legitimize the sport of Drag Racing.

NHRA held its first official race in April 1953 in the parking lot of the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, California. Over 40 years later the track has undergone a 6-million dollar expansion and renovation and hosts the NHRA "Winternationals" Season Opener and the series "Finals".

Image: National DRAGSTER NHRA

In 1955 NHRA staged its first national event called "The Nationals" in Great Bend, Kansas. For 6 years the Nationals moved around the country before settling in 1961 in Indianapolis.

At the U.S. Nationals 2022

With over 50,000 members and more than 35,000 licensed competitors; NHRA is a thriving leader in the world of motorsports. Parks, who died in 2007 at the age of 94, initially started NHRA as a means of getting hot rodders off the streets and on to legal drag strips. Since those early days, NHRA has evolved into the largest promoter of professional drag racing in the world. Today, with more than 200 dedicated employees, NHRA offers drag racing opportunities for hot rod enthusiasts of all levels, from youth ages 5 to 17 in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League all the way up to the top of the professional ranks with the NHRACamping World Drag Racing Series.

NHRA Today

Where every bit of horsepower counts!

Racers for years have come to rely on Burns Stainless for their performance exhaust needs. From Tubing and Bends, to Collectors and even lightweight Race Mufflers, our products are designed to extend the power-band and give you that competitive edge.

Racing Exhaust

Sadly people continue to race on the streets and drag strips in Southern California are disappearing due to pressure from local residents, yet the Orange County District Attorney continues to plea on the news to "Take it to the strip" when there are NONE in the county. Maybe it is time for the county to open its own track?

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