Born on the side streets of America, after the Second World War, the roots of drag racing were planted on dry lakebeds like Muroc, in California's Mojave dessert. That's where hot rodders gathered since the early 30's and speeds soared to over 100 mph (161 KMH) for the first time.
You could also say, that drag racing was born in 1913 in Goltry, OK with the birth of Wally Parks. Parks' family moved to California in the early 20's and Wally developed a big interest in cars early on. He visited his first high-speed event at a dry lakebed in the 30's, where he discovered his fascination for power. Then in 1937 Parks became one of the founding members of the "Road Runners Club".
Parks, meanwhile a test driver for tanks at General Motors, who served in the Army in the South Pacific during WWII, helped in 1947 to put together the Southern California Timing Association and later on became her General Manager.
The first SCTA Speed Week, organized in 1949 at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, was the result of Parks' relentless efforts. It was there, when the drivers first started to run against the clock, that they started to tune their cars for quicker acceleration instead of just trying to reach a high top speed.
The first drag strip, the Santa Anna Drags, started in 1950 on an airstrip in SoCal and rapidly gained popularity among the spectators of Muroc, due to its revolutionary computer-aided speed measuring system.
When Parks became chief editor of the monthly "Hot Rod" magazine he had the platform and the energy to establish the National Hot Rod Association. In being the NHRA's first president, he brought "order to the chaos" by introducing safety regulations and performance standards, which helped the justification of the sport tremendously.
In April of 1953 the NHRA held their first official race on a strip of the parking lot of the Los Angeles Fairgrounds in Pomona California. Ever since then, the track underwent a 6 Mio Dollar extension and renovation. The track also hosts the NHRA season-opening "Winternationals", as well as the season finale, the "Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA-Finals".
In 1955 the NHRA held their first national event, which was simply called "The Nationals", in Great Bend Kansas. Six years later, as the "Nationals" toured the country, to present the growing sport, before settling in Indianapolis, IN in 1961, the "Winternationals" became the NHRA's second event.
The aggressive changes to the Pomona track facilities, bringing it to "Stadium Quality", with lots of amenities for the fans, VIP-Lounges, huge grandstands, was the passion of Dallas Gardner, who became NHRA-president in 1984. Parks went on to become Chairman of the Board, and in 2000 Chairman of the NHRA Motorsports Museum. At this point Tom Compton stepped into Gardner's shoes, becoming the third president, and Gardner became Chairman.
Now in its fifth decade, the NHRA is the largest motor sport association worldwide, with 80.000 members, 140 member tracks, over 35.000 licensed competitors and over 5.000 events at its member tracks.
"Nobody could imagine, what was going to happen", said Parks about the immense growth and success of the NHRA. "We had the ambition to establish it in national sports, even though we were no planning- or marketing-geniuses or anything like that. Things just happened and we followed our instincts."
"We only had an idea and the strong desire to endure... to be able to control our fate and to be our own bosses. We wanted to build the organization on its own accomplishments. We saw the need - that was an easy way to safe drag racing - and with the help of a lot of good people and some luck, it seemed like we could have some success."