NHRA President Tom Compton, second from left, was joined at the announcement by Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's David Napp, left, one of the original Jr. Dragster drivers whose father, Vinny, conceived the idea; former Jr. Dragster driver/current Top Fuel pilot Leah Pritchett; and NHRA Vice President-Racing Administration Josh Peterson.
Effective June 15, the minimum age for kids eligible to participate in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League will be 5 years old. The announcement was made at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the birthplace of the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League.
The NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League was founded in 1993 by NHRA and Raceway Park founder Vinny Napp. Napp developed the first small-scale replica dragster for his son in 1991, and the first pair of NHRA Jr. Dragsters launched down the Raceway Park dragstrip in 1992. Today the league has grown dramatically, and the program is offered at most NHRA member tracks across the United States.
In the 5-year-old classification, the Trainee category, participants can begin running a Jr. Dragster with a crate engine from Briggs & Stratton with a slide valve limiting the power output of the engine. Trainee participants will make single passes down the dragstrip to get familiar with the car and track surroundings in a non-pressure environment.
Another separate classification for 6-and-7-year-olds also has been created, the Youth category, which will allow participants to begin competing head to head on the track at the 13.90-second index with a crate engine and slightly increased power output from the Trainee category engine.
“It is important to provide competition opportunities for children in these age groups so they can become exposed much earlier to the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League and the sport of NHRA Championship Drag Racing,” said Josh Peterson, NHRA vice president of racing administration. “With similar introductory programs available in stick and ball sports for ‘pee-wee’ competitors, we wanted to put an NHRA Drag Racing option into that mix for families to consider.”
NHRA also instituted a new licensing process for all new Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League participants that require each driver to complete a cockpit orientation, basic driving test, track orientation, and test passes.
The NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League also offers different categories for age groups up to 17 with speed and elapsed time restrictions for participants based on age and experience. Those categories are novice (8-9), intermediate (10-12), and advanced (13-17).
In addition to the weekly programs offered at NHRA member tracks, the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League offers two marquee events. The NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League Western Conference Finals is set for July 10-12 at Utah’s scenic Rocky Mountain Raceways, and the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League Eastern Finals will be held July 24-26 at Tennessee’s famed Thunder Valley, Bristol Dragway. Nearly 1,000 kids compete for individual and team honors at the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League Eastern and Western Conference Finals, with nearly $50,000 being awarded at each event, including $2,500 and an NHRA Wally champion’s trophy to each individual winner.
The NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League creates family involvement in drag racing at an affordable level. Many of the league’s former participants have gone on to compete in other NHRA classes. Top Fuel racer Shawn Langdon (the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel world champion and a two-time Super Comp national champion in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series) and current NHRA Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens are among the league’s most accomplished graduates.