Drag racing's roots were derived in California's deserts, where hot rodders had congregated since the early 1930s and speeds first topped 100 mph. So the backroads of America in the years after WW2 showed the start of what those in the nhra love.
One of the most prominent early players in the drag racing scene was one Wally Parks. Wally founded drag racing's most successful and influential sanctioning body, what would later turn into the nhra.
In 1947, Parks, a military tank test-driver for General Motors, helped organize the Southern California Timing Association and later became its general manager. The first SCTA "Speed Week," held at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949, was the result of a diligent effort of Parks. It was here that racers first began running "against the clock" - actually, a stopwatch - coaxing their vehicles to accelerate quicker rather than simply to attain high top speeds, a paradigm shift in racing that may have turned it into a true competitive sport.
When Parks became editor of the monthly enthusiast magazine Hot Rod, he had the power to form the National Hot Rod Association in 1951 in order to institute safety rules and performance standards that helped legitimize the sport. He was the nhra s first president.
The nhra held its first official race in April 1953, in Pomona, Calif. Four decades later, that track has undergone a $6-million expansion and renovation and hosts the nhra season-opening Winternationals and the season finale, the Automobile Club of Southern California nhra Finals. The aggressive upgrading of facilities to 'stadium' quality, with fan amenities, VIP towers, and tall grandstands, was the passion of nhra President Dallas Gardner, who took the reins in 1984 when Parks became Board Chairman. In 2000, Tom Compton became just the third president in the national association s history as Gardner ascended to the role of board chairman and Parks became chairman of the nhra Motorsports Museum.
Now in its fifth decade, the National Hot Rodding Association is the world's largest motor-sports sanctioning body with more than 85,000 members, 144 member tracks, 32,000 licensed competitors, and nearly 4,000 member-track events.