By: Drew Hierwarter
It all began in 1951 with a letter to the editor of Hot Rod magazine; “Isn’t is about time that the thousands of hot rod devotees around the United States band together in a national association?” It was about time and the editor who read that letter sat down with his publishers and proposed his ideas for the “National Hot Rod Association”, known today as the NHRA. By the end of the first year the fledgling NHRA had over a 1,000 members. They spent the next few years promoting organized, legal drag racing all over the country, in the pages of Hot Rod, and with their traveling “Safety Safari” They helped car clubs get started and they showed them how to put on drag racing meets and other hot rod activities. And by 1955 they held their first National Drag Racing Championship in Detroit, the Motor City.Today, the NHRA boasts a membership in the tens of thousands making it the largest motorsports organization in the world. Its twenty-three national events are a showcase for professional drag racers who race in front of hundreds of thousands of fans for millions of dollars in prize money and sponsorships. All of these events are televised nationwide and watched by millions. But each of these events still caters to hundreds of semi-professional and amateur competitors. Anyone with a car that meets the rules can still race at an NHRA national event.
The magazine editor who started it all back ’51 was a hot rodder. He was a racer on the dry lakes of Southern California and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. And yes, he too occasionally had raced on the streets around Los Angeles. He had a Ford Model A hot rod roadster that he drove to work at the offices of Hot Rod magazine every day. His name was Wally Parks. He passed away this weekend at the age of 94. Thank you Wally, you will be missed.