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National Drag Race
According to the official website of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), drag racing was born in California's Mojave Desert. This was "where hot rodders had congregated since the early 1930s".
However, no one has officially been credited with the invention of the sport. Most probably, a few kids just started goofing around one day and then just carried on. Either way, the popularity grew during the early 30s. As motor vehicles became more affordable, and faster, speeds began to top 100 miles per hour. So naturally, the kids goofing around became even wilder.
Then came the Second World War. And things got more serious.
Post WWII: Drag Racing is Officially Born
Enter Wally Parks, military tank test-driver for General Motors. He served in the South Pacific during the War and founded the Southern California Timing Association in 1947.
The SCTA held its first Speed Week in the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949. This was a landmark in drag racing history. It was at this event that racers began to use a stopwatch to see how fast they could accelerate.
Santa Ana Drags: The First Drag Strip
Officially recognized as the first drag strip in the US, it was founded by C.J. Hart, Creighton Hunter, and Frank Stillwell. Inaugurated on June 19th, 1950, the strip was actually the auxiliary runway for the old Orange County Airport.
The strip became extremely popular amongst the crowds who raced at the Muroc lake beds in California. The computerized clocks and the novelty of being the only drag race strip in the US had an undeniable charm.
The National Hot Rod Association is Born
Wally Parks didn't stop with the SCTA. He became the editor of the magazine, Hot Rod. Shortly after, the National Hot Rod Association was born in 1951, with Mr. Parks as its president. Its purpose was to 'create order from chaos' to create safety rules and performance standards. These would go on to legitimize the sport.
The first official race held by the NHRA in the history of drag racing was in April 1953. Its humble beginnings were situated in the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds parking lot, Pomona, California.
In 1955, the NHRA staged 'The Nationals', in Great Bend, Kansas. The national championship event went around the country to showcase the burgeoning sport.
Throughout the 60s, the big 3 - Chevrolet, Chrysler and Ford began what would be referred to as the horsepower wars. With the demand for faster and more powerful cars for drag racing, notable engines such as the 454 big block Chevy, 426 Hemi, and 427 Cobra-Jet engines, capable of upwards of 500 horsepower were crammed into otherwise civilian cars. By the 1970s, drag racing began to take its modern form. Sponsors, volunteer crew members, regulatory authorities, etc. all came together.
Drag Racing Today
Today, there are 120 NHRA member tracks in North America and competitions are held every week. In total, there are 70,000 members and 40,000 licensed competitors.
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