GLENDORA, Calif. (Jan. 23, 2002) - NHRA Founder Wally Parks celebrated his 89th birthday today. A motorsports pioneer who moved drag racing off the streets and into safe, organized race tracks, Parks continues to be actively involved in NHRA ...
GLENDORA, Calif. (Jan. 23, 2002) - NHRA Founder Wally Parks celebrated his 89th birthday today. A motorsports pioneer who moved drag racing off the streets and into safe, organized race tracks, Parks continues to be actively involved in NHRA decision-making by serving on the drag racing sanctioning body's board of directors. In addition, he is chairman of the board for the NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California. The popular museum, which features a wide variety of historical race cars from drag racing as well as other motorsports, is located in Pomona, Calif.
His efforts and ambition, 51 years ago, created what has become the world's largest motorsports organization, which today provides competition opportunities for more than 80,000 members nationwide and sanctions drag racing events for more than 140 member tracks.
Parks, an Oklahoma native, didn't develop an interest in cars until his family moved to California when he was 8. During his high school days, he became active in building stripped down Model-T's that raced in speed trials conducted on nearby Mojave desert dry lakes.
In 1937, Parks played a significant role in the formation of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), the oldest active organization of hot rod car clubs.
In 1947, Parks helped co-publishers Bob Petersen and Bob Lindsay form Hot Rod magazine. Parks headed a campaign that opened Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats for hot rod speed trails in 1949. It was two years later that Parks formed the National Hot Rod Association, using Hot Rod magazine as a medium to communicate to its nationwide readership.
As a result of his many achievements in the auto racing community, Parks has received many honors during his lifetime. Parks was one of the earliest recipients of Car Craft magazine's prestigious "Ollie Award" for his many contributions to the sport of drag racing. He was named "Man of the Decade, 1962-1972" by Popular Hot Rodding magazine and recognized as "Man of the Year" in 1973 by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
The American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) honored Parks in 1988 and again in 1994 for his pioneering efforts in motorsports. Parks received two of his highest honors in the early '90s: In 1992 he was drag racing's first inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame; and in 1993 he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich. In 2001, Parks joined the likes of Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet and Walter P. Chrysler when he was inducted into the prestigious Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich.