NHRA founder celebrates 90th birthday

GLENDORA, Calif. (Jan. 22, 2002) - More than 50 years ago Wally Parks had a vision of drag racing. Today his vision has become the largest motorsports sanctioning body in the world with more than 80,000 members and 140 tracks. Through his hard...

GLENDORA, Calif. (Jan. 22, 2002) - More than 50 years ago Wally Parks had a vision of drag racing. Today his vision has become the largest motorsports sanctioning body in the world with more than 80,000 members and 140 tracks. Through his hard work and dedication, he has accomplished many goals throughout his career. He will surpass another milestone on Thursday when he celebrates his 90th birthday.

When Parks founded the NHRA in 1951 his goal was to get illegal street racers to conduct their side-by-side battles in safer venues. He wanted to give racers of all ability levels an opportunity to compete. He wanted an organization that would be committed to quarter-mile acceleration contests, whose slogan was 'Dedicated to Safety'.

As Parks watches his vision gain in popularity at speeds of more than 330-mph, he remains a top leader in NHRA's affairs as an active board member. In addition, he spends much of his time overseeing the NHRA Motorsports Museum at the Fairgrounds in Pomona, Calif., where he serves as Chairman of the Board.

"Nobody ever envisioned the NHRA as it is today," Parks said. "It grew on its own values and its own qualities. It wasn't a predetermined goal or objective. We were small peanuts then compared to where we are now.

"It is far beyond our wildest dreams and I am so proud of what has happened. I know that since day one, it was the dedication of many that brought the NHRA together. We all wanted the same thing. Nobody ever visualized it would become an entertainment industry and have the prominence that it has today. We were so lucky. We were just having fun and that is the nice thing about it because NHRA is still based on having fun. I am so pleased with the current state of NHRA and I know its future is very bright."

He also lends support to the NHRA's president, Tom Compton. "We have a living legend right here," said Compton, only the third president in NHRA history. "If you want to know why something is the way it is, why he set NHRA up or what our mission is, he can tell you. He's a tremendous resource. I look up to Wally and it is really nice to see the guy who created the sport over 50 years ago tell the team that we are going in the right direction, that he supports what we are trying to do.

"It is an honor to work for him. It is great to be able to pick up the phone and ask him a question because he was there."

The NHRA will launch its 52nd year of championship drag racing when two 6,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters approach the starting line during the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, Feb. 6-9.

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., the NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States.  It presents 23 national events through its NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.  The NHRA has more than 80,000 members nationwide and 140 member tracks.  The NHRA-sanctioned sportsman and bracket racing series' provide competition opportunities for drivers of all levels.  The NHRA develops the stars of tomorrow by offering the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, NHRA Summit Racing Series, NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Street Legal Program. The NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League for youths ages 8 to 17.

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Series Automotive , NHRA