They came from near and far to celebrate a legend and what he means to them
The friends of NHRA Drag Racing legend Don "the Snake" Prudhomme gathered recently to celebrate the nitro-racing icon on his 80th birthday.
The story of Swamp Rat 17: Don Garlits' most misunderstood Top Fueler
Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat 17, the Wynn’s Liner, had a very short life in 1973 and is roundly considered to be among the few disappointments of the more than 40 Swamp Rats he campaigned. Here's the story behind this most misunderstood car.
Earlier this year, I wrote a column about racecar experiments that didn’t come to fruition and cited, chief among them, Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat 17, the Wynn’s Liner, which had a…
Remembering Ron Colson
If your association with drag racing goes back four decades, it’s a pretty good bet that you know who Ron Colson was, and a fairly good bet that your paths had crossed at one point. If you're newer to the sport, it's time you learned something about Colson, who passed away March 19.
If your association with drag racing goes back four decades, it’s a pretty good bet that you know who Ron Colson was, and a fairly good bet that your paths had crossed at one point. Colson, who drove Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars for decades…
Remembering Doug Thorley
The drag racing and performance aftermarket worlds lost another giant last week with the passing of Doug Thorley, who died at age 92 at his home in his native Utah. Here's a fond look back at his career.
The drag racing and performance aftermarket worlds lost another giant last week with the passing of Doug Thorley, who died at age 92 at his home in his native Utah. Thorley not only created an aftermarket titan in Doug’s Headers in 1958 but also…
NHRA and Hot Wheels: Together Again
Earlier this week, NHRA announced a partnership with Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand to bring NHRA-branded drag racing diecast cars to the mass market, the continuation of a relationship that began in 1970. Here's a look back at how it all got started.
In case you missed it earlier this week, NHRA announced a partnership with Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand to bring NHRA-branded drag racing diecast cars to the mass market, a release that certainly…
Fire and despair in the desert
It's one thing to lose a race car to fire on the dragstrip and another to lose it in a trailer fire on the way to the track. John Lombardo Jr. recounts the "surreal and unpleasant night" in 1984 when legendary Funny Car owner Joe Pisano's rig burned to the ground in the California desert.
It's no secret that nitro Funny Car racing can be a perilous endeavor. Mechanical failures on nitromethane-burning engines have been around since the class' inception in the mid-1960s and are a foreseeable if not predictable result of…
The life and times of Denny Savage, a Funny Car driver's Funny Car driver
Denny Savage was an old-school Funny Car driver, born in the class' earliest years in the mid-1960s, and enjoyed a career that lasted well into the 1980s while driving famed cars such as the Hawaiian, the Chi-Town Hustler, and more than a dozen others. This is his story.
The name Dennis Walter Petersavage may not roll off the lips of drag race fans and historians, but for the better part of two decades, he made his presence known in the Funny Car ranks as Denny Savage, a guy who could and would drive any Funny…
Not every innovation works
Innovation has always been a hallmark of drag racing. New ideas – sometimes brilliant, sometimes harebrained – surfaced every weekend at tracks across the country. Some worked, some didn’t, but it even some that didn’t work still advanced the sport.
Input from last week’s column about the Cars That Changed Drag Racing was, as expected, voluminous and wide-ranging. There were some really good recommendations for the list (…
Cars that changed drag racing
In a sport like ours, where evolution carried us from stripped-down Model Ts to 330-mph Top Fuel dragsters, what are the most significant race cars that have marked the milestones along the way? We want to hear your thoughts!
A big part of our story as human beings is carved in our past, begging the inevitable question of “How did we get here?” Whether that’s the story of human evolution, mass manufacturing and marketing, social media, or your own family tree, I think it…
Charging into Funny Car history
Don Schumacher Racing’s Dodge Charger Funny Cars swept all 11 races last season, but the Charger is certainly not a new body style to the class, having been around since the class’ mid-1960s creation. Here's a look back at some of them.
Don Schumacher Racing’s Dodge Charger Funny Cars swept all 11 races last season plus three to end the 2019 season, giving them a stretch of 14 wins on top of five world championships over the last 10 seasons, but the Charger is certainly not a new…
Random Racer Roundup
Challenged to cite a random drag racer from their memory banks, dozens of NHRA fans responded to share their thoughts abut racers past and present whose accomplishments resonate with them.
The tweets that became a viral thread that launched a Dragster Insider column that spawned a follow-up now has an offspring. Challenged by yours truly to cite a random drag racer from your memory banks, dozens of you responded to share your picks…
Passings of original NHRA DD Darwin Doll, car owner Dale Creasy Sr. add to 2020 toll
Darwin Doll, one of NHRA’s original division directors who oversaw the Northeast Division from 1964-78, and longtime nitro Funny Car owner Dale Creasy Sr. both passed away recently, adding to a year of tremendous losses within the sport. We salute them all one final time.
Darwin Doll, one of NHRA’s original division directors who oversaw the Northeast Division from 1964-78, and longtime nitro Funny Car owner Dale Creasy Sr. both passed away recently, adding to a year of tremendous losses within the sport. We salute…
89 questions about Chris “the Greek” Karamesines (or should there be 92?)
Drag racing's legendary "Greek," Chris Karamesines, ended his driving career at the close of the 2020 season at age 89. Or is it 92? There are so many questions. After all, when your drag racing career spans 67 years (61 of them in Top Fuel), there’s a lot of room for questions we'll try to answer.
When it comes to the life and times of Chris Karamesines, there will always be some things you can debate. His age. Whether or not he made the first 200-mph quarter-mile pass. How much gold plating really was on his famed Top Fueler. After all,…
50 years, 10 manufacturers, 84 body styles: A guide to Pro Stock diversity
Although it’s pretty clear that the Chevrolet Camaro has become the body style of choice in Pro Stock over the last decade, it certainly wasn’t always the case. Here's a look back at the variety that has made the class a fan favorite for 50 years.
The 2020 season was supposed to be a yearlong salute to the Pro Stock class, which was celebrating its 50th year of competition. All sorts of special promotions for fans were planned, as were television, web, and print features across NHRA…
Yuichi Oyama. Who? Japanese Top Fuel racer made waves, scored upsets in 2002
Not many people (well, only one, actually) can say they caused Top Fuel legend Don Garlits to not qualify at the U.S. Nationals, upset Kenny Bernstein in the last race of his "Forever Red" retirement tour, and was the first Japanese national in an NHRA Top Fuel final. That guy was Yuichi Oyama.
Last week’s “Name a random racer” column drew an avalanche of emails that will be fodder for a feature column, but, as promised, this week I’m talking about my…
Name a random NHRA racer ... go
Challenged on Twitter to pick a random NHRA driver, fans responded with a wide-ranging and impressive list of their favorites. Now you get your chance, too.
Fandom is such a unique thing. What attracts one person to a specific celebrity or athlete varies differently from what others may think. Some people become fans based on accomplishments, others on intangibles like work ethics, personality, and…
1971: Garlits goes 'Big,' Funnies go 220, Sox goes wild, and NHRA goes to Canada
As NHRA prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2021, here's a look back 50 seasons ago, when Don Garlits introduced the first successful rear-engine Top Fueler, Funny Car performance zoomed out of sight, Ronnie Sox won six of eight Pro Stock events but not the world championship, and NHRA went to Canada.
As I mentioned in this space last week, NHRA is preparing for its 70th-anniversary celebration next year, a chance to reflect and remember all of the great racers and great moments that helped get us where we are today. As you can imagine, this…
Welcome back, and welcome to my great drag racing debates
After a six-week hiatus, the Dragster Insider column returns with a couple of burning debates from NHRA history.
Annnnnnd … we’re back. Back when I was doing this column two to three times a week, Jr. Fuel hero Jimmy Ige once kindly admonished me to not worry about apologizing if I missed a column here or there, but, criminy, it’s been…
Exclusive book excerpt: Don “the Snake” Prudhomme: My Life Beyond the 1320
Our recent review of the new autobiography, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme: My Life Beyond the 1320, stoked so much interest that Prudhomme and his publisher, CarTech, have provided National Dragster with an exclusive excerpt from the book for his fans to enjoy.
My review of the new autobiography, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme: My Life Beyond the 1320, a few weeks ago here stoked a ton of interest…
Swamp Rat 14 rides again; the history of one of Top Fuel's most important cars
Steve Torrence won the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in a Don Garlits tribute car modeled after Garlits' famed Swamp Rat 14, one of the most important cars in Top Fuel history. Here's the story behind the success of Garlits' original SR14.
Even from 2,000 miles away, I could feel the electricity in the air when Steve Torrence made his first burnout in his Don Garlits Swamp Rat 14 tribute car at last weekend's Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. I was on the couch in Glendora,…
Everything you always wanted to know about 'Snake' (but were afraid to ask)
NHRA Drag Racing legend Don Prudhomme's new book is a great book for “Snake” fans, especially those wanting to know as much about the man as his machines. It's packed with great photos and eye-opening personal background and racing anecdotes from his amazing career in the sport.
I’m not going to lie. I consider myself one of the foremost experts on the life and times of Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. It’s a depth of knowledge honed from years of fandom and work products — memorizing stats, cars, places, and things…
Dave Miller: Diamond in the rough
"Diamond Dave" Miller made a ton of NHRA fans in the early 1980s when he unveiled a 200-inch wheelbase Top Fueler when everyone else was in the 260-inch range. The popular driver passed away recently and is remembered here for his perseverance and passion.
Innovation and experimentation were early hallmarks of drag racing competition, with cars like Lloyd’s Scott Bustle Bomb, the Allison-powered Green Monsters, Jack Chrisman’s sidewinder, and Mickey Thompson’s Panorama Special streamliner showing that…
Quiz: Drag racing's hometown heroes
Drag racers come from all across this wonderful land, but how well do you know some of the famous hometowns and their hot-rodding residents? Take the quiz and find out!
The weekend before the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, I was heading home from a responsibly-distanced family get-together at the beach (try to muzzle your jealously), driving across Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, which was…
Reliving the U.S. Nationals Top Fuel final that no one will ever forget
Even 50 years later, it remains among the most dramatic and poignant footage ever recorded at an NHRA national event. The 1970 U.S. Nationals Top Fuel final, Don Prudhomme vs. Jim Nicoll. Nicoll’s clutch explodes at the finish line, cutting his front-engine dragster in two at his feet.
Even 50 years later, it remains among the most dramatic and poignant footage ever recorded at an NHRA national event. The 1970 U.S. Nationals Top Fuel final, Don Prudhomme vs. Jim Nicoll. Nicoll’s clutch explodes at the finish line, cutting his…
Tony Schumacher: Indy Top Fuel dominator
Tony Schumacher has won Top Fuel at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals a class-record 10 times and has his sights set on tying the event's all-time record at this year's event. Here's a look back at his "Big Go" history, with insight from the man himself.
For most of us who grew up as drag racing fans in the 1960s and early ‘70s, Don Garlits was Top Fuel, and when it came specifically to Top Fuel at Indy, there was no doubt that “Big Daddy” was The Man. He won the event in 1964, 1967, 1968, 1975, and…
Remembering Fuel Altered pioneer Leon Fitzgerald, Pro Stock's Sonny Bryant
Drag racing lost two more of its early pioneers this week with the passing of Fuel Altered racer Leon Fitzgerald and Pro Stock racer and crankshaft manufacturer Sonny Bryant.
Drag racing lost two more of its early pioneers this week with the passing of Fuel Altered racer Leon Fitzgerald and Pro Stock racer and crankshaft manufacturer Sonny Bryant. Fitzgerald died early last week from an unreported cause while Bryant…
Legendary NHRA Division 5 Director Darrell Zimmerman plied his trade in the Rocky Mountain region for more than 30 years. A successful racer, 'Zim' joined the NHRA team in the late 1950s and carved a legendary career and made legions of friends throughout the sport.
NHRA founder Wally Parks deservedly gets a lot of credit for organizing the sport of hot rodding in general and drag racing in specific, he was always the first one to tell you he certainly didn’t do it by himself. And because much of…
The history of the Summernationals
When NHRA staged the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals last weekend in Indy, it resurrected one of the most storied event names in NHRA history. Here's a look back at the 50-year history of the NHRA Summernationals name.
Two events into NHRA’s monumental Return To Racing during the COVID-19 pandemic, a rebirth that continued with last weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Summerationals in Indy, I’m reminded of the longstanding Summernationals-related pun that was already…
The Kuhl one
Drag racing lost another of its great figures last week with the passing of former Top Fuel owner, crew chief, and engine builder Mike Kuhl, who is remembered in this column by the two people closest to him, his former driver/partner Carl Olson and his soulmate Lynn Rose.
When I was a teenager, like a lot of boys that age, I was assembling plastic kit models -- getting airplane glue everywhere and learning just how sharp an Xacto knife was (four stitches!). I…
Fan Fotos: A Texas-sized collection from three decades of photo greatness
David Graves has been shooting photos in Texas and the surrounding states for decades and shared with us a collection of some of his great Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Sportsman-racing images.
Drag racing is a multi-generational sport across many platforms, with kids and grandkids following their elders not only behind the wheel on the dragstrip or twirling the wrenches in the pits but into the grandstands but behind the camera lens…