NHRA: WORLD’S LARGEST AUTO RACING ORGANIZATION MAKING NOISE IN 2014
Nestled in the quiet community of Glendora, Calif., just minutes east of the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles, is the world’s largest and loudest auto racing organization, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Since it was founded by Wally Parks in 1951, NHRA has been dedicated to safety while providing millions of racing fans with the fastest and most spectacular form of entertainment on wheels.
With 70,000 members and more than 40,000 licensed competitors, NHRA is a thriving leader in the world of motorsports. Parks, who died in 2007 at the age of 94, formed NHRA as a means of getting hot rodders off the streets and on to legal dragstrips. Since those early days, NHRA has evolved into the largest promoter of professional drag racing in the world. Today, with more than 200 dedicated employees, NHRA offers drag racing opportunities for hot rod enthusiasts of all levels, from youth ages 5 to 17 in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League all the way up to the top of the professional ranks with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
The grassroots racing organization has come a long way in its more than 60 years of operation, but some things will never change. It’s easy to see why fans are so committed to NHRA drag racing, because they continue to have the best access to the behind-the-scenes action of racing. NHRA’s open-pits policy allows fans to get an up-close-and-personal view of the way that teams rebuild engines in quick fashion. Drivers are often found in their pit areas, signing autographs and chatting with fans, who can get behind the wheel themselves in a variety of racing simulators in the Nitro Alley Fan Zone. Those are just a few reasons why NHRA fans continue to be some of the most loyal in any sport.
There are approximately 120 member tracks across North America that host NHRA competitions each week in NHRA’s seven geographic regions. In addition to the marquee Mello Yello Series, which crisscrosses the U.S., making 24 stops in 21 cities in 10 months, NHRA offers popular weekly grassroots programs at many of its member tracks. One of the most popular is the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA, which offers anyone with a car, driver’s license, helmet, and auto insurance the opportunity to compete in grudge-match style drag racing. Serious weekend warriors can compete each weekend at their local track in the NHRA Summit Racing Series, which crowns national champions each season. The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series provides a developmental series for those who are interested in a career as a touring pro. And the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series features some of the nation’s wildest doorslammer race cars covering the drag strip at speeds approaching 250 mph.
NHRA’s key business partners include The Coca-Cola Company, whose Mello Yello brand sponsors the top touring series, and Lucas Oil Products, which sponsors the important developmental series. All of NHRA’s major series receive television coverage from NHRA’s exclusive multimedia partner, ESPN Inc. Other official sponsors of the sport include Coca-Cola, Toyota, Chevrolet, FRAM and Harley-Davidson, to name a few.
While Top Fuel dragsters routinely cover the race distance at more than 320 mph, NHRA is moving just as fast in popularity with auto racing fans. Second only to NASCAR in terms of attendance, fan appeal, television ratings and sponsorship commitment among the major motorsports organizations, NHRA is moving quickly into mainstream America.
NHRA is all about diversity. With more than 20 categories of competition, including Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle at the professional level, and a multicultural array of high-octane personalities it calls world champions, NHRA thrives on unique competitors accomplishing unique achievements. This season Courtney Force secured the 100th win by a female in the NHRA professional categories. In 2012, Antron Brown won the Top Fuel world championship and in the process became the first African-American to win a major auto racing title in the United States. In 2008, NHRA was named the Diversity in Motorsports Award winner at the 12th annual Urban Wheel Awards, held during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. NHRA claimed the award based on the success of Hispanic driver Tony Pedregon, who won his second Funny Car world championship title in 2007. Also in 2008, Tony’s brother Cruz won his second Funny Car crown. In 2007, Peggy Llewellyn became the first black female to win an NHRA event. She ultimately finished a career-high fourth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category points standings. In 2006, J.R. Todd, an African-American and former NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League competitor, recorded his first three professional wins in the Mello Yello Series circuit to earn the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as the season’s top rookie.
Information about NHRA is available in various forms, including the official magazine for members, National Dragster, and the highly acclaimed NHRA.com. The award-winning National Dragster covers every race from the first sportsman run to the final Mello Yello Series blast in the winner’s circle. NHRA.com has won several awards for its innovative, interactive coverage of all forms of NHRA drag racing and provides daily results, feature stories and breaking news at the click of a mouse.
For the 15th season, ESPN provides television coverage of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series mainly on ESPN2, with same-day tape or live coverage in most instances. Thousands of media outlets across the country, including the Associated Press and USA Today, provide regular coverage of NHRA racing.
Keeping with Parks’ original philosophy, NHRA President Tom Compton guides the sport and assures that safety and technological improvements will remain a top priority in 2014. Progressive changes will help NHRA continue to fulfill its leadership role in the motorsports world well into the future. NHRA will protect and further the best interests of the sport, constantly lobbying for beneficial safety and insurance legislation for auto enthusiasts. Participation on and off the track has made the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series one of the most popular forms of racing, reaching thousands of fans, members and sponsors at 300 mph.