NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Days of Future Past: An NHRA weekend spanning the gamut of time

There are times when the size and scope of the NHRA Drag Racing universe can escape us until we find ourselves in the middle of something truly special. Such was the case last weekend.
19 Jun 2024
Brian Lohnes, NHRA on FOX announcer
Days of Future Past

There are times when the size and scope of the NHRA Drag Racing universe can escape us until we find ourselves in the middle of something truly special. Such was the case last weekend when three drag races were held simultaneously across the country, which defined the past, present, and future of the sport. More than 1,000 NHRA racers ranging in age from less than 10 years old to more than 80 years old took to the sprawling Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, the brand new Flying H Drag Strip outside of Kansas City, Mo., and Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Ky. 

The three tracks and three events were an impromptu display of how this most diverse of motorsports continues to thrive, evolve, and celebrate the roots of its colorful existence. We’ll explain. 

The Past

The Wally Parks NHRA Nostalgia Nationals, a long-running event as part of the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series, packed hundreds of racers from around the nation as well as some of the coolest hot rods, customs, and classics that you will ever see into the historic and wholly fantastic confines of Beech Bend Raceway Park. The track, with its covered grandstands and seats that date back to a baseball stadium built in 1920s, is a venue without compare for this style of competition. Along with a slate of Sportsman categories, nitro burning front-engine Top Fuel Dragsters, AA/Fuel Altereds, and Nostalgia Funny Cars wowed the crowd, and the Saturday evening Cacklefest once again became a moment of time travel where some of the sport’s most notable and historic iron fired up in unison to throw header flames and nitro plumes into the gloaming. 

The event serves as not only a race but a reunion of friends who have spent their lives tied to the sport as racers, enthusiasts, or just plain dedicated fans. There is a unique appreciation for time at this event, time that has passed and time that is yet to be enjoyed. The often intense competition on the track is perfectly balanced with the sharing of stories, reliving of past glories, and the simple pleasure of being surrounded by the cars and people of an era that helped define the NHRA and establish it as part of the fabric of American motorsports. 

The Present:

As the race in Bowling Green was going on, more than 550 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitors went through the gate at the Flying H Drag Strip outside of Kansas City for the first big regional event in the young history of this new facility. Mother Nature attacked at one point, dropping multiple inches of rain in a short span and placing some racers in the tough position of not being able to even physically get to the staging lanes. In this situation, leadership shone through. The track management at Flying H, working hand in hand with NHRA divisional staff, coordinated a convoy of dump trucks and heavy equipment to come in and build a new access road for those racers hit hardest by the deluge. 

The race schedule was highly interrupted by the weather, but again, the partnership of the leading track management and the Division 5 officials managed to not simply finish one half of the double race weekend but complete it all. The days were long and the midnight oil was burned, but ultimately, racers were able to compete in two races run to completion, seemingly against all odds. 

The format of the modern “double” is something that doesn’t fit the feel and style of an event like the Wally Parks NHRA Nostalgia Nationals. Trying to execute it at Beech Bend wouldn’t be delivering what the competitors want at a race such as that, but it is more and more what the modern racer desires. More track time with less distractions is the order of the day for the modern index racer, Stock and Super Stock competitor, as well as the blazingly fast runners in Top Sportsman and Top Dragster. 

Huge props to all the racers, the staff and management at Flying H Drag Strip, and the NHRA Division 5 staff for going above and beyond and literally moving the Earth to facilitate an event that racers will long remember. 

The Future

The third element of this weekend in the NHRA world was the Right Trailers Western Conference Finals for the Summit Racing Equipment Jr. Dragster League. Hundreds of the most talented kid racers from all over the country went to the Texas Motorplex with their sights set on fun, on finishing first, and on trying to nab championship honors. 

What’s important to realize here is that this is yet another style of event format, different from both the nostalgia race and the Lucas Oil Series race at Flying H. The Jr. Dragster Conference Finals are designed to be a race, of course, but the weekend is full of different activities for racers and families to participate in. From the Great Backyard Water Balloon War to the Big Tire race, and so many other elements, the Texas Motorplex designed a unique and wonderful format that will continue to show growth for years to come with families and fellow racers. 

The ability to take drag racing from simply an activity where going down the track is the only thing the racers and families have to look forward to and transforming into a multi-day celebration of camaraderie, friendship, and, yes, competition is not an easy one. The planning for this takes months, especially to the level the Motorplex took it. In the end, the biggest winner from a race like this is the sport as a whole. The more families that leave a first-class track knowing that they had a great experience, spent quality time together, and got to enjoy the people as much as the competition, the more apt those families are to keep drag racing in their lives. 

Building the next generation of drag racers takes a load of work, a load of creativity, and the ability to take the concept of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and heave it in the trash. 


The huge takeaway from a weekend where three races in three locations served three completely different subsections of drag racing in three totally different ways is simple. All drag racers are not created the same, nor do they all want the same things. Yes, the sport was contested the same way, largely, in the three locations. 

All three tracks had two straight lanes and cars running their hardest to make the finish first and most accurately through the slate of classes each event showcased. All three tracks had people manning the water boxes, the starter switch, and the other basic elements were covered, but all three races were highly distinct in their layout, their presentation, and their execution. All three races gave their participants what they envisioned when making the commitment to attend. 

In Bowling Green, that was plenty of time trials, a massive car show, a Cacklefest, and a pit area full of racing legends. At Flying H, that was the highest level of Sportsman racing on the planet, two complete race programs, and the ability to lock horns with the best in the nation. At the Texas Motorplex, it was an event wrapped in unique interactive entertainment for the participants, a time for families to be families together, and a heaping helping of stout competition where those families could celebrate their wins and learn from their defeats. 

Last weekend showed us the best in three distinct realms of NHRA Drag Racing, and it won’t be the last time this season that we’ll see such diversity of competition in simultaneous action. Be a part of it if you can!