Getting off a fast start: A historic look at early-season dominators
Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Gaige Herrera has won the first three events of the 2023 campaign, marking only the 13th time in NHRA history that a driver won three or more events to start a season. Here's a historical look back at other fast starts to seasons.
The NHRA world is abuzz this season with the fast start of second-year Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Gaige Herrera,…
John Jodauga's illustrations, words, and spirit were part of the NHRA for 50 years
John Jodauga, the talented motorsport artist, longtime former member of the NHRA National Dragster staff, and the man with the most mispronounced last name in motorsports, passed away May 11, and he and his artwork are remembered by his friends and colleagues.
John Jodauga, the talented motorsport artist, longtime former member of the NHRA National Dragster staff, and the man with the most mispronounced last name in motorsports, left us last week, passing away May 11 at age 77 after a…
From Half Day to Route 66, from 'the Greek' to 'Wilk,' an Illinois drag racing primer
Next weekend, the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will take its official return to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., to continue the state’s 70-year love affair with drag racing.
Next weekend, the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will take its official return to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., to continue the state’s 70-year love affair with drag racing. According to Mel Bayshore’s encyclopedic…
From Sweden with love: An artistic salute to Funny Cars of the 1970s and '80s
Swedish artist Lars “Loors” Svensson has created a very cool 1970s Funny Car poster that faithfully shows the flanks and noses of 24 recognizable floppers. It's his tribute to those colorful and memorable cars of the era.
A few years ago, I wrote a Dragster Insider column about drag racing fans who collected shards of shattered Funny Car body parts to adorn their man caves. Funny Cars were much more…
Remembering Bill Mullins
Veteran racer Bill Mullins, the only driver in NHRA history to win in Top Gas, Top Alcohol Dragster, and Top Fuel, passed away April 10 at age 88, and his story and life are remembered here.
Over the course of 40-plus years on the job, you meet a lot of racers. The overwhelming majority of them are nice, friendly, and open and accommodating of our probing and sometimes difficult questions. And then there was Bill Mullins, Southern…
The Magnificent 11: The short list of non-U.S. born racers to qualify No. 1
At the recent NHRA Arizona Nationals, Cristian Cuadra became the first Mexican-born racer to qualify No. 1 in a Pro class at an NHRA national event. Only 10 other non-U.S.-born racers have accomplished the feat. These are their stories.
The Insider is back in the saddle after back-to-back weekends in Phoenix and Pomona, and it was Phoenix and the final NHRA Arizona Nationals that provided the genesis for today’s column. Before we get there, let me tip my hat to the history of…
Remembering Doug Kerhulas and Dave Hough
It’s been a sad parade of losses in the sport here lately, but two recent ones struck deep nerves as we lost 1980s Top Fuel star Doug Kerhulas and Fuel Altered icon Dave Hough in the span of 10 days.
It’s been a sad parade of losses in the sport here lately, but two recent ones struck deep nerves with me as we lost 1980s Top Fuel star Doug Kerhulas and Fuel Altered icon Dave Hough in the span of 10 days. As a young fan in the 1970s in…
Remembering Walt Rhoades
Walt Rhoades, who had a successful NHRA career in nitro-, alcohol-, and gas-burning dragsters, passed away earlier this week, bringing to a close an amazingly diverse career.
Whether you love your dragsters with nitro in the tank, alcohol flowing through the fuel lines, or gasoline combusting in the cylinder, Walt Rhoades was probably your kind of guy. Rhoades, who had a successful NHRA career in nitro-, alcohol-,…
More early-1970s Funny Cars
The Funny Cars of the early 1970s were a wild breed, with everything from Volkswagen Beetles to Ford Mavericks and Pintos to GTOs and topless Corvettes rolling down the highway to match races near and far.
Last week’s roundup of East Coast Funny Car heroes of the early 1970s stampeding across their home turf included a promise to showcase the out-of-town competition, too, the…
East Coast Funny Cars of the 1970s
The West Coast may have been Ground Zero for the Funny Car population explosion of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but the East Coast also had its share of memorable early floppers. Here's a look back at some of those wild rides.
After back-to-back features on East Coast Funny Car racers Frank Mancuso and…
Funny Car icon Bruce Larson: NHRA's original triple-threat Pro driver
When Alex Laughlin, the new driver of Jim Dunn’s Funny Car, races at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, he’ll become just the second driver in NHRA history to have competed in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock at an NHRA national event. Meet Bruce Larson, who did it 30 years before.
When Alex Laughlin, the new driver of Jim Dunn’s Funny Car, takes the green light for his class debut in qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, he’ll become just the second driver in NHRA history to have competed in…
Frank Mancuso: Some good trips and some bad ones for the 'Travel Agent' driver
For every Don Prudhomme and John Force, there's a Funny Car guy who never quite made it to the top, but nevertheless was part of the fabric of the sport. Meet Frank Mancuso, whose Travel Agent Funny Car experienced the ups and downs of the sport.
When it comes to 1970s and ‘80s Funny Cars, especially the privateers and “low-buck” cars, I know I have a “West Coast bias.” Guilty as charged. I grew up at Irwindale Raceway and OCIR, so you can’t blame me, but I know that for every…
NHRA history: Is it real or Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence has come a long way and plays a role in our daily lives, but what does it know about NHRA Drag Racing history? Let's find out!
Whether you like it or not, the robots are here. They have been for years, assembling everything from your cars to your cupcakes faster and probably more precisely than any human. You probably got your first real taste of processor power with…
Fifty years ago: A look back at the highlights from the 1973 NHRA season
Fifty years ago may seem like a long time ago to some, but for many loyal followers of this column, it’s either about the time you started getting hooked on the sport of, for our less-senior members of the Insider Nation, it’s that wonderful place to dream of having been.
Fifty years ago may seem like a long time ago to some, but for many loyal followers of this column, it’s either about the time you started getting hooked on the sport of, for our less-senior members of the Insider Nation, it’s that wonderful place…
All the world was a colorful Circus when Bob Gerdes painted race cars
When it came to painting race cars, Bob Gerdes was the East Coast's Rembrandt, especially in the 1970s heyday of Funny Car. We lost Gerdes Jan. 2, but offer a fond look back at his history and the magic captured at his shop, Circus Custom Paints.
Although today's performances and packed fields might make an argument otherwise, for many (including most readers of this column, I’d surmise), the glory days of the Funny Car class were the early- to mid-1970s. It wasn't just the sheer number of…
A Little Christmas Miracle
Now that all the drama has died down and the worry beads have mostly been put away, I'd like to share my little Christmas miracle with you. Over the last 15 years in this column, I've had the honor of eulogizing a lot of drag racers…
Top Fuel dynasties: Torrence, Schumacher, Dixon, Garlits, Amato, Shirley, Beck
Brittany Force’s 2022 championship season brought to an end one of the most dominating eras in Top Fuel drag racing as Steve Torrence’s four-year reign as world champion was finally ended. But how does Torrence's streak compare to some of the other great Top Fuel domination in history?
Brittany Force’s 2022 championship season brought to an end one of the most dominating eras in Top Fuel drag racing as Steve Torrence’s four-year reign as world champion was finally ended. In his 2018 through 2021 championship seasons, Torrence…
Some top-shelf books that every drag racing history fan should check out
Looking for ways to learn more about the history of the sport you love so much? Here are four new books covering a good chunk of drag racing history that would go nicely on your bookshelf or make a fine holiday present.
Great American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A man is known by the books he reads,” and if that’s true, you know me as a lover of drag racing history and people. Well, if you’ve been around this library very long, you probably already…
Yeah, but what if? A semi-serious look at the points battles heading to Pomona
Brittany Force, Robert Hight, and Matt Smith lead the points in their classes heading into the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals, but, as history has shown and possible points values back up, nothing is certain at the final race of the season.
So, you think that the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship battle at next weekend's Auto Club NHRA Finals is just between Brittany Force, Justin Ashley, and Mike Salinas? That only Robert Hight, Ron Capps, or Matt Hagan can…
“T.V. Tommy” Ivo and the five-second Top Fuel run that ignited a controversy
Oct. 22, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the controversial breaking (or not breaking) of one of drag racing’s great barriers. “T.V. Tommy” Ivo received a 5.97 time slip, allowing him to lay claim to the first five-second Top Fuel clocking, but the run has been shrouded in controversy ever since.
Tomorrow, Oct. 22, 2022, will mark the 50th anniversary of the controversial breaking (or not breaking) of one of drag racing’s great barriers. At a match race at Keystone Raceway Park in New Alexandria, Pa., on Oct. 22, 1972, “T.V.…
Remembering Jody Smart
All racers are amazing people and fierce competitors, but some stand out for not just being great racers, but great human beings, too. We recently lost one of them, former Texas Top Fuel racer Jody Smart, and with the Texas NHRA FallNationals next up on the national event schedule, it seems the perfect time to remember him.
In my long-term residency here, I’ve met thousands of racers. Almost all of them are amazing people and fierce competitors, but there is a smaller number of folks who stood out for not just being great racers, but great human beings, too. We…
To heroes lost ...
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for longtime racing fans (and especially Funny Car fans) with a number of passings of some more of our heroes: Hayden Proffitt, Judy Lilly, Gabby Bleeker, Russell Long, and Bill Schultz.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for longtime racing fans (and especially Funny Car fans) with a number of passings of some more of our heroes: Hayden Proffitt, Judy Lilly, Gabby Bleeker, Russell Long, and Bill Schultz. Depending on your…
“Top Fuel at Indy,” 50 years ago
Calling something "Top Fuel at Indy" used to be the ultimate compliment. After all, what could be bigger than NHRA’s most recognized class at its biggest and most prestigious event? With that in mind, let's take a trip back 50 years ago, for Top Fuel at Indy, 1972.
In my first Christmas at National Dragster in 1982, back when the annual NHRA holiday party included a segment where gag gifts were given in a “Secret Santa” way, former ND Editor George Phillips mocked up an album cover for…
Wheelie neat! A look at seven decades of wild, wheelstanding crowdpleasers
The wheelstander exhibition vehicle wasn't born so much as it evolved from some experimental cars that just couldn't keep the front tires on the ground. Since 1964, they've been wowing crowds with their two-wheeled antics. Here's a look at some of those wild machines.
As kids, I think we were all enthralled with wheelies. Who could pop a wheelie on their Schwinn Stingray and ride it the length of the block? Then, as a teenager, I remember seeing wannabes with wheelie bars on their street cars (leading to the…
Altered States, Part 2: Breakage, tears, and fears, but ultimately a success story
Part 2 of the adventure follows our hero through some pretty severe trials and tribulations in pursuit of a competition license. It ain't as easy as it seems ...
“Altered States" (or How I Spent My Summer Vacation) Part 2: Sweating It Out at Quaker City Quaker City Dragway loomed ahead on the highway, beckoning us to come forward and try our luck. My official NHRA…
Altered States: Fear and loathing (and a lot of thrills) on the quarter-mile
It was the summer of 1984, and the challenge was laid down: Could a wannabe-race-car-driver transform from journalist into quarter-mile hero? First of two parts.
I’ve been working at NHRA for a long time — I celebrated 40 years in May — and it’s funny that after all of the things I’ve seen and done and written about (including this column), to…
Ed 'the Outlaw' Jones: Living life on two wheels for more than 45 years
Wheelstanders have been part of the NHRA landscape since the mid-1960s, and no driver has more experience or longevity than Ed "the Outlaw” Jones, who first started scraping bumpers in 1976 and continues to this day, more than 45 years later.
In the pantheon of drag racing exhibition vehicles, no class has been officially accepted by the NHRA longer than the wheelstander, and no driver has more experience or longevity than Ed "the Outlaw” Jones, who first started scraping bumpers in 1976…
40 Thoughts on 40 Years
National Dragster Editor Phil Burgess celebrated his 40th year with the NHRA on May 24, and he takes a look back at the changes to the sport that have occurred over the last four decades and shares memories of the people and places he's come to love.
I made what I thought was an innocent little post on Facebook earlier this week with a “How It Started/How It’s Going”-style meme photo, acknowledging my 40th anniversary in the employ of the NHRA, from May 24, 1982, until present (and counting…
You never know with nitro: A look back at seven great Funny Car upset wins
Nowhere does weird stuff happen more than in nitro Funny Car, where the combination of high horsepower and a short wheelbase can derail a favorite’s run to the winner’s circle. With that in mind, here’s a look back at some memorable upset wins.
Nitro drag racing is such a fickle sport, one where the slightest tuning miscalculation can send a potential race winner to the trailer for the rest of the day. And even if the tune-up is spot-on and the driver does everything correctly, the…
Everyone loves an underdog: Here's a list of five great Top Fuel upsets
Upsets are a part of nitro drag racing, and we almost had a couple of them at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. With that in mind, here's a list of five big Top Fuel upsets in NHRA history.
Everyone loves an underdog, and last weekend’s Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte almost provided us with a couple of those Every Underdog Has its Day kind of stories, as Mike McIntire Jr. in Funny Car and Cameron Ferré…