30 years ago: The 1992 NHRA season was a year full of historic firsts
The 1992 season as a whole was filled with big news, history-making moments, and craziness, so we thought we'd take a 30-year hop back in time to remember that amazing season.
For the last week or so, we’ve been saluting the history of Houston Raceway Park on NHRA.com, having created a list of 10 memorable moments from the past 33 years, some of which read like mini Dragster Insider columns. On Tuesday, I wrote about…
Female Pro Stock pioneer Shay Nichols: A life well lived (and then some)
Female Pro Stock pioneer Shay Nichols Hoffman lived a fast and exciting life long after she left the class: Fishing boat captain, world-class angler, helicopter pilot, commercial scuba diver, prison chaplain, author, and more.
Among the many great joys I get in crafting this column beyond getting to share the stories of our sport’s legends and trailblazers is the chance to speak with them. Despite my best sleuthing (and I’m pretty good at that), sometimes it’s hard to…
Magnificent Seven: A history of female racers in NHRA Pro Stock competition
In its 52-year, 902-race lifespan, only seven female drivers have raced in NHRA Pro Stock competition. From Shirley Shahan and Shay Nichols in 1971 through barrier-breakers Lucinda McFarlin and Erica Enders to current rookie Camrie Caruso, here's a look at that magnificent seven.
Thirteen years before Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders turned a tire in the class and six years before current rookie hotshot Camrie Caruso was even born, Lucinda McFarlin made NHRA Pro Stock history as the first female racer in the class to win a…
“On the Gas”: The drag racing life and times of Danny Ongais
Long before Danny Ongais became a household name as a revered IndyCar driver, he belonged to the world of drag racing, where he first sated his need for speed. In this week's Dragster Insider, friends and fellow racers remember the guy nicknamed “On the Gas.”
Long before Danny “On the Gas” Ongais became a household name across the country and around the world on television and radio as a revered IndyCar driver, he belonged to us, to the world of drag racing, where he sated his need for…
Remembering Barry Setzer
Barry Setzer, who for two years in the early 1970s was the owner of the quickest and fastest Funny Car on the planet, passed away Jan. 31 at age 79.
As an impressionable, almost-teenage drag racing fam in the early 1970s whose primary contact with the sport was through the many monthly magazines, Barry Setzer was a bit of an enigma. His name was everywhere in 1972 and ’73, plastered on the…
The magic of Pomona
NHRA has been racing down the Pomona dsragstrip since the early 1950s and will once again kick off its season next week with the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. Here's a look back at some memorable images over the past 70 years.
Pomona. For NHRA racers and race fans around the world, the name means one of two things: either the exciting start to another season of NHRA racing or the dramatic conclusion of a year of racing. From 1961 through to today – skipping last year’s…
By The Numbers: Pro Stock readies for 900th event 'birthday' in Pomona
Pro Stock made its debut at the 1970 Winternationals and will celebrate its 900th competition event at this year’s Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com. Here's a look at some statistics from the first 899 events.
The popular Pro Stock class made its debut on Jan. 30, 1970 at the season-opening Winternationals and will celebrate its 900th competition event at this year’s NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals…
That was then, this is now: A look back at the NHRA season 50 years ago
The 2022 NHRA season is already being hyped by racers and fans alike as a can’t-miss campaign, but let’s turn back the clock exactly 50 years and take a look back at the highlight-filled 1972 season.
The 2022 NHRA season is already being hyped by racers and fans alike as a can’t-miss campaign, with new cars, sponsors, teams, and partnerships boosting car counts and intrigue to impressive levels. Because it’s what we do here at the Insider, let’s…
90 for 90: Happy Birthday, Don Garlits
There’s never been another drag racer quite like Don Garlits, and there’s probably never going to ever be anyone like “Big Daddy.” The icon of our sport turned 90 years old Jan. 14, and we’re celebrating him with a massive 90-image photo gallery spanning his career.
Remembering the "other" Dick Venables and the "other" James Warren
Anyone who knows anything about drag racing knows the names of Dickie Venables and James Warren. But today we're going to acquaint you with the racing Dick Venables and James Warren that maybe you didn’t know, both of whom we lost in the last week of December.
Anyone who knows anything about drag racing — and especially readers of this column — knows the names of Dickie Venables and James Warren. Venables is well known as a three-time (and counting) Funny Car world championship crew chief with Matt Hagan…
Decembers to remember
Every December is a time to stop to reflect on the past 12 months: What went right, what went wrong, what we can do better in the next year. Or, if you're the author of a long-running column about drag racing history, a look back at some memorable December stories.
It's late December, and we've all got a lot on our plates. Maybe you're thrashing on the hot rod in your garage before winter shuts you down for a few months, or maybe you're headed to a sunny beach somewhere to escape the cold. Or maybe you're…
Don Garlits, Bob Taaffe, and the 72-hour car build that led to drag racing lore
Don Garlits' amazing win at the 1967 Nationals, so well remembered for his post-race starting-line beard shave, might not have been possible without Bob Taaffe, who helped "Big Daddy" build a new car in just 72 hours. Garlits remembers Taaffe after his recent passing.
“When the Godfather calls, you come running.” Fred Miller told me, joking about Don Prudhomme inviting him to come out from Florida to California for his…
The Hot Rod Story
In 1952, hot rodding had a bad name. An NHRA pamphlet, the Hot Rod Story, set a blueprint for moving forward with a rallying call that reads almost like the Gettysburg Address of NHRA. You should read this to know from whence we came.
The 2021 NHRA season was a yearlong celebration of NHRA’s 70th anniversary, an opportunity for us to reflect on its humble beginnings and stand in awe of how big NHRA has grown from the seeds planted by a letter to Hot Rod magazine…
More 'Lost' Photos found
More great photos from the National Dragster archives: Shirley Muldowney, Blaine Johnson, "Flash Gordon" Mineo, John Myers, Buster Couch, Al Hofmann, Richard Tharp, and many more!
As the date of The Big Move approached in late October — timed horribly with our impending trip to Las Vegas — ND…
Name That Funny Car
The annual Manufacturers Meet at Orange County Int'l Raceway in Southern California was a big deal back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, drawing the best of the best. But how many can you identify? We've got the answers!
Last week’s “lost photos” column inspired a ton of response from fans who remembered many of the subjects of the photos, but none drew more interest than the group photo of Funny Cars on the Orange County Int’l raceway track prior to the annual…
Snakes, Mongooses, Rats, and Terrible Towels: Not just another photo collection
Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Roland Leong, Gary Beck, and more are part of an eclectic and interesting batch of rediscovered photos.
Moving stinks. We all agree on that. But anyone who’s ever moved also knows that it’s a great way to find lost or forgotten things. Just look at the 1955 Nationals entry list…
Finals Flashback: 1971 World Finals where upsets and breakage ruled the day
Take a 50-year trip back in history to relive the 1971 NHRA World Finals, where upsets winners and surprising breakage helped decide the world championships.
The 2021 season wraps up next weekend at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with the Auto Club NHRA Finals, the 57th running of the race that’s colloquially best known as “the World Finals.” From 1960 through 1964, NHRA’s world champions were…
Found! 1955 Nationals entry list
On the eve of NHRA's historic 1,000th national event, a blast from the past: The official entry list for the 1955 National Championship Drags, NHRA's first national event, is like a time capsule for our sport, filled with legendary names from drag racing's early greats.
I knew I had it somewhere, but where? Somewhere along the way, someone had given me a copy of the hand-typed official entry list for NHRA’s first national event, the 1955 National Championship Drags in Great bend, Kan., The Big One that got this…
Of missing jackets, missing friends, missing columns, and moving on down the road
The return of the Dragster Insider includes the tale of the missing firesuit, memories of John "Tarzan" Austin and Dal Denton, and moving on from one NHRA home to another.
Hello, Insider nation! Long time no see. Between running six national events in eight weeks, a bunch of travel, my “streamlined” staff, producing the biggest issue in NHRA National Dragster history (244 pages!), and the process of the big…
From Calvin Rice to John Force, a look at the history of NHRA's all-time winners
One thing that likely will never change in our lifetimes is that John Force is the winningest driver in NHRA history (154 victories and counting), but he wasn't always the GOAT of winners. Here's a historical look back at NHRA's winningest drivers over the decades.
A lot has happened since the last Dragster Insider column, including four straight weekends of national event racing (hence the column’s absence), but one thing that hasn’t changed, and likely will never change in our lifetimes, is…
Indy 1971: 'The Great Burndown'
Staging battles are all the talk right now, but the most epic burndown in NHRA history happened in the Top Fuel final 50 years ago at the 1971 U.S. Nationals between Steve Carbone and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits.
Two weeks ago in Topeka, Pro Stock racers Bruno Massel and Mason McGaha set the internet ablaze with the controversy surrounding their three-and-a-half-minute starting-line staging duel, a battle that neither won after they were both disqualified…
Can't beat the heat: Before Justin Ashley, there was the tale of Jim Harnsberger
A lot of people gasped when Justin Ashley had to withdraw from the Winternationals Top Fuel final due to heat exhaustion, but it wasn’t the first time that’s happened in NHRA Top Fuel history. Meet Jim Harnsberger, who had the same thing happen to him 50 years ago while preparing his car for the final.
When Justin Ashley had to be pulled out of his car before the final round of Top Fuel at the summer Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals…
A History of the Western Swing, 1989-2021
The NHRA Western Swing has been around since 1989, but this year, it has a new look and a shot at making some more history. Here's a detailed history of the Western Swing with a look back at those who have swept the Swing and those who have gotten close.
When NHRA introduced the Western Swing in 1989 — a three-races-in-three-weekends test of technology and tenacity from the high-altitude climes of Denver to Northern California’s Sonoma Wine Country to Seattle in the Great Northwest — it was a real…
Remembering Leslie Lovett
Twenty-five years ago, the NHRA world lost one of its finest people and greatest emissaries when National Dragster Photo Editor Leslie Lovett died of a heart attack, but his legacy and images continue to power and inspire the sport.
Shining the spotlight on Funny Car: 900 races, 92 winners, 23 champions
The Funny Car class hit its milestone 900th event last weekend in Epping. Here's a look back at the 92 winners, 23 champions, and interesting facts and trivia covering the class' history.
It was less than two years ago — at the fall Las Vegas event in 2019 — that Top Fuel reached its 900-event milestone, and its nitro-burning little brother, Funny Car, reached the same…
Book review: Drag Racing's Warren "the Professor" Johnson
A lot of people love Pro Stock. Kelly Wade LOVES Pro Stock. And she loves people, making her the perfect person to tackle the daunting task of chronicling the life and times of “the Professor,” Warren Johnson.
A lot of people love Pro Stock. Kelly Wade LOVES Pro Stock. The former NHRA National Dragster staffer turned drag racing public-relations pro began her passionate affair with the class early in her two-plus-year…
More Tales From The Starting Line
When your dad loves both drag racing and photography, that's where you end up. Rick Bain shares his story of growing up shooting photos on the starting line of some iconic Southern California tracks. Plus: Autograph hunt!
The tales about starting-line photography (mid)adventures from yours truly and others struck a nerve with many of you, some of who shared their stories. I really love these, because they resonate with a lot of us. Those heady early days at the…
Winter is coming ... and so is another epic chapter of racing in Pomona
Winter is coming. That’s the watchword for Southern California fans as the fabled Winternationals is officially back on the schedule for the last weekend of July. Take a walk back through some other hot Pomona times from the past 60 years.
Winter is coming. That’s the watchword for Southern California fans as the fabled Winternationals is officially back on the schedule for the last weekend of July. I know … the Winternationals in the middle of summer? Weird, right? Then again,…
Tales from the Finish Line
From flaming Funnies to flipping Pro Stockers, tumbling Top Fuelers, and acrobatic Alcohol Funny Cars, a fond look back at a career spent watching the drags from the finish line.
As I mentioned in my last column, Tales From The Starting Line, I spent a lot of time shooting photos on the starting line at NHRA national events, backing up Leslie Lovett or Bill…
Tales from the Starting Line
Access to the starting line at an NHRA national event for professional photographers is a coveted goal for many, offering a ringside seat to motorsports' most powerful experience. Here's the story of two ways to get there. (We recommend the first.)
The imminent closing of Atlanta Dragway after last weekend’s running of the final NHRA Southern Nationals brought back instant memories of the grief myself and my fellow Southern Californians went through with the closings of Lions Dragstrip,…