History Of Drag Racing Essay

2370 words - 10 pages

What is drag racing? According to amhistory.si.edu drag racing is defined as the straight dash over1/4 mile from a standing start for the shortest elapsed time(amhistory.si.edu). Drag racing is a form of racing that is unique to the United States. It grew directly out of illegal match racing on rural roads by high-school students in the postwar 1940s-early 1950s. Teens would rebuild their cars and “soup them up” to show off their mechanical skills. The most objective way to prove whos was better was the standing-start race of two cars over an identical short distance (amhistory.si.edu). The famous quarter mile distance was chosen merely because it was easy to measure on a straight stretch of road and because any farther distance would be unnecessarily dangerous. Many of the cars they raced were, “worked-over old cars that could hit nearly 100 mph in ‘the quarter’,” (amhistory.si.edu)
NHRA.net stated drag racing was very popular and planted most of its roots on dry lake beds, like Muroc, in California’s Mojave Desert. Hot rodders started gathering there in the early 1930s and this is where speeds first topped 100 mph (nhra.net). This may have been the start but it could also be argued that drag racing was born with Wally Parks in Goltry, Oklahoma in 1913 (nhra.net). Four decades later Wally would found drag racing’s most successful sanctioning body. Parks's family moved to California in the 1920s and he had an early interest in cars. He went to his first dry lake time trial in the 1930s. In 1937 Parks was one of the founders of the Road Runners Club (nhra.net).
According to NHRA.net in 1947 Parks helped organize the Southern California Timing Association and later became its general manager. The SCTA had what they called “Speed Week”, and it was held on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949(nhra.net). This was the place where drivers first began running against the clock, which at the time happened to be a stopwatch, trying to get their vehicles to travel quicker instead of just trying to reach high top speeds(nhra.net). Also, organized races frequently took place on disused military runways with the first one dating back to 1949 at the Goleta Air Base in California. Two years later, Parks became the editor of the monthly magazine “Hot Rod” and after that he had the power to form the National Hot Rod Association in 1951. He said this program would, “create order from chaos” by instituting safety rules and performance standards that helped make the sport more legit. He was the first president of the NHRA (nhra.net). According to topspeed.com, “as soon as people saw the opportunity to race in safer and well-timed events the sport of drag racing was truly born,” (topspeed.com). C.J. Hart was the man who opened the first official drag strip in 1950. This drag strip ran races until 1959 and by that time the NHRA had multiple national events taking place across the United States (topspeed.com).
PBS wrote that as the sport evolved, racing got more...

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