10 Books Every Racer Should Read
A competition on any level, is a competition on every level. Beating the team in the other lane means mastering everything they know—and leveraging something they don’t. But if traditional drag racing expertise gets passed around at tracks and shops like secret knowledge, how do you get ahead if you’re not part of the team? How do you learn things that others haven’t? Where do you go, and who do you ask?
Especially while you’re practicing social distancing?
Many of the greatest technical minds that have ever worked in motorsports have contemplated the acceleration, aerodynamic, and thermal challenges of drag racing. While too few of them have authored books, we polled past and present drag racing writers to ask what technical and historical books they had on their shelves. We came up with a list of the 10 must-read books for every drag racer. We’ve also included a few technical resources we think you should add to your library.
The Chrisman Legacy—Always Faster, by Tom Madigan, EJJE Publishing Group (2010)
The Chrisman family has mastered everything with an engine. If you’re looking for inspiration, quality build techniques, motivation for your work ethic, or a lesson in motorsports history—this book is for you.
Door Slammers: The Chassis Book, by Dave Morgan, Lamplight Productions (1993)
From the mind of NHRA National Dragster’s first technical editor, this book offers fundamentals every car builder should consider. From setting up your first car for drag racing to how and why certain techniques work better than others.
Don Garlits and his Cars, by Don Garlits, Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing (2009)
From one of the greatest innovators in drag racing comes the personal story of Don Garlits and his ground-breaking Swamp Rats dragsters.
Drag Racing: Drive to Win, by Frank Hawley and Mark Smith, Motorbooks International (1989)
Hawley’s philosophy of driving a drag car is practiced by many of the NHRA’s greatest drivers. Now you can learn first-hand how to go faster and be more successful in any car.
Drag Racing: Yesterday and Today, by Wally Parks, Trident Press (1966)
Published by the founder of the NHRA, Wally Parks connects the dots from the days of dry lakes racing, through the ugliness of illegal street racing, and on to the sustainable pursuit of sanctioned drag racing in his clear and crafted style.
Fuel & Guts: The Birth of Top Fuel Drag Racing, by Tom Madigan, Motorbooks International (2007)
The story of how Top Fuel drag racing became a legendary motorsport in the ’50s and ’60s, written by one of the racers who reported on it and lived it.
High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing 1950-2000, by Robert C. Post, The Johns Hopkins University Press (2001)
A look at the entrepreneurial, the technological, and the personal motivations that have made drag racing a proving ground for all aspects of motorsports.
NHRA Rulebook, National Hot Rod Association, (2020)
More than 70 years of drag racing and motorsports experience curated into 364 pages, the 2020 NHRA Rulebook is a must have for all racers. It’s now viewable online for FREE.
Prepare to Win, by Carroll Smith, Carroll Smith Consulting (2012)
A frank look at the procedures and practices every crew chief and car builder will benefit from—written by the team manager of Carroll Shelby’s Le Mans winning Ford GT40 program. Also check out are Smith’s other books; Tune to Win (1978), Engineer to Win (1985), Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners, and Plumbing Handbook (1990), and Drive to Win (1996)
The Birth of Hot Rodding, by Robert Genat and Don Cox, Motorbooks International (2003)
Where it all began, with a forward by Wally Parks. This book is for those interested in the first principles of drag racing—as taught by the men and women of the Southern-California dry lakes.
Plus! Add These Books to Your Racing Library:
Auto Math Handbook, by John Lawlor, HP Books (1992)
Best Damn Garage in Town: The World According to Smokey, by Smokey Yunick, Carbon Press (2001)
Chassis Engineering: Chassis Design, Building & Tuning for High Performance Handling, by Herb Adams, HP Books (1993)
SAE Books, Reports, and White Papers
Welder's Handbook: A Guide to Plasma Cutting, Oxyacetylene, ARC, MIG and TIG Welding, by Richard Finch, HP Books (2007)