An adapted excerpt from The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger by Lynsi Snyder
In-N-Out Burger and cars have always gone together like burgers and fries. Part of the association is quite natural. After all, as California’s first drive-thru restaurant and pioneer of the first two-way speaker, In-N-Out helped set the stage for the car culture of the 1950s and 1960s in the heyday of the American automobile.
Many formative years of both my dad Guy and uncle Rich Snyder were spent at the Irwindale Raceway, a local but nationally known dragstrip in the 1960s and 1970s.
Drag racing started becoming popular after World War II, initially on backroads, dry lake beds, and abandoned airstrips. The National Hot Rod Association was formed in 1951 to legitimize the sport of drag racing. The stated purpose was “to create order from chaos” by instituting safety rules and performance standards. The sport grew and by the 1960s had a nationwide following.
My grandfather, Harry Snyder, saw this as a business opportunity. In 1965, he purchased half-ownership of Irwindale Raceway, just a few miles from Baldwin Park. He put in two snack bars on opposite ends of the dragstrip. These snack bars frequently did as well as the main gate receipts.
Harry wanted to keep the two businesses separate so as not to tie the In-N-Out brand name he had been building for years with his new business venture. Initially, he even had different helpers to staff the venues. That plan lasted for exactly one big event; quality and customer service suffered so badly with the new crew that Harry borrowed In-N-Out associates there after.
At the racetrack, hungry racers and fans could buy In-N-Out burgers from the concession stands. The unbranded burgers were served with no tomatoes for reasons lost to history. Harry paid In-N-Out workers a premium to work the snack bars at Irwindale because he knew they could deliver the kind of food he wanted to serve. Though the burgers sold at Irwindale weren’t branded as In-N-Out, he used the same ingredients and the same methods that created such a devoted following at In-N-Out stores. The delicious burgers became part of the racetrack experience.
My father and uncle were in their early teens when Harry put them to work doing odd jobs around the track. The teens ran elapsed times out to the racers, helped clean the snack bars, and picked up trash around the lot. Steve Gibbs, who later became vice president of competition for the National Hot Rod Association, was the track manager at the time. Years later he recalled this about the two boys: “They weren’t spoiled little kids running around like you’d expect, being the owner’s sons. They were good kids. I never had to get too hard on them. They did their work. That’s the way I remember them. The Snyders had a strong work ethic. I think they wanted that for their boys too.”
Around 1972, Harry sold his interest in the raceway, but in the interim, both Guy and Rich had fallen in love with the unique culture created at Irwindale Raceway, where great cars were paired with great burgers. Both brothers started racing cars when they were older as well as collecting and fixing cars of all varieties. Later, of course, Guy chose to follow his passion for racing while Rich followed his passion for the burger business; but both learned how to run a business and have a whole lot of fun at the same time.
That love of racing was passed down to me. I started racing when I was eighteen, one year after my dad passed away. He is a big reason why I race today. I want to be connected to the sport he loved so much. I have great memories of being at the track as a kid, and every second was special. Today, as a mom of four and the president and owner of In-N-Out Burger, I continue to honor his legacy in racing my Top Sportsman 1969 Chevelle.
In 2023, In-N-Out brought our connection to drag racing full circle, acquiring the naming rights to the Pomona Raceway. We want to keep the connection strong between In-N-Out Burger, drag racing, and the Snyder family.
Lynsi Snyder is the owner and president of In-N-Out Burger. This article is adapted with permission from her book The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger, released Oct. 17, 2023, from Nelson Books.