POMONA Calif. - It is the drag strip where hot rodding was born. Technically-speaking, the first National Hot Rod Association national event was held at a secluded section of an airport in Great Bend, Kan. in 1955, however the first sanctioned...
POMONA Calif. - It is the drag strip where hot rodding was born. Technically-speaking, the first National Hot Rod Association national event was held at a secluded section of an airport in Great Bend, Kan. in 1955, however the first sanctioned NHRA event was contested at Pomona Raceway, the most historic and tradition-rich facility in the sport of drag racing.
NHRA held its first sanctioned-event, the Southern California Championship Drags, April 11-12, 1953, at the legendary track. An estimated 16,000 spectators gathered on the final day of the two-day meet to watch nearly 400 cars compete. A top speed of 132.35 mph was recorded by Carlos Ramirez's 'Bean Bandit II' dragster, while the low elapsed time was set by motorcyclist Lloyd Krant, who powered his Harley-Davidson to a run of 10.93 seconds. Nearly 40 class trophies were distributed to winners that included Dawson Hadley and "Dyno" Don Nicholson.
Many memorable NHRA national events have been held on the quarter-mile track during the last 50 years, producing a winner's list with a distinguished who's who of the sport of drag racing, including Jack Chrisman, Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Mike Snively, Connie Kalitta, John Mulligan, Don Schumacher, Bill Jenkins, Bob Glidden, Shirley Muldowney, Ronnie Sox, Pete Robinson, Gene Snow, Raymond Beadle, Kenny Bernstein and John Force among others.
For Force, the sport's most prolific winner and a 10-time Winston Funny Car champion, it doesn't get any better than racing at the track that's very close to his Yorba Linda home.
"That's where Wally Parks started it all," said Force, who will be among competitors going for the victory in perhaps one of the most significant events ever held at the fabled drag strip, the Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals presented by American Racing Wheels, July 5-7. The $2 million race, the first nighttime drag race to be held in Southern California in more than 20 years, will celebrate the storied history of the world's largest motorsports sanctioning organization. The 13th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series will be televised live on ESPN.
"Pomona Raceway is our Yankee Stadium," said Funny Car driver Del Worsham, a resident of nearby Chino Hills. "It's the last remaining example of where this sport really came from and it's a direct connection to our history. When a new Yankee ballplayer stands at the plate in the Bronx and thinks about (Babe) Ruth and (Lou) Gehrig getting ready to hit from the same spot, it gives them chills. It's the same for us at Pomona. All of our legends have left from that same starting line."
The track, which also will host the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals (Nov. 8-11), is truly a magical place for many drivers.
"Pomona is big part of our history," said Larry Dixon, past Top Fuel winner at the Winternationals. "The same way NASCAR has Daytona, we have Pomona. It has been around from the start of our sport. There aren't too many people that have raced through the years on our tour and haven't run at Pomona."