NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

BUY TICKETS

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.
02 Feb 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Frank Mancuso
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…
View More

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!
27 Jan 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Chat GPT
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…
View More

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.
20 Jan 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
1973
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…
View More

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.
13 Jan 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Bob Gerdes
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…
View More

A Little Christmas Miracle

16 Dec 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
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…
View More

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?
25 Nov 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Comparing Top Fuel dynasties
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…
View More

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.
18 Nov 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
books
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…
View More

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.
04 Nov 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
What if
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…
View More

“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.
21 Oct 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
“T.V. Tommy” Ivo
  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.…
View More

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.
07 Oct 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Jody Smart
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…
View More

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.
09 Sep 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Heroes
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…
View More

“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.
26 Aug 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Top Fuel at Indy
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…
View More

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.
05 Aug 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Wheelstanders
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…
View More

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 ...
08 Jul 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Altered States
“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…
View More

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.
01 Jul 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Altered States
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…
View More

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.
10 Jun 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Ed 'the Outlaw' Jones
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…
View More

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.
27 May 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
40 thoughts
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…
View More

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.
20 May 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Funny Car 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…
View More

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.
06 May 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
great Top Fuel upsets
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…
View More

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.
15 Apr 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
1992 NHRA 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…
View More

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.
08 Apr 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Shay Nichols
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…
View More

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.
25 Mar 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
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…
View More

“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.”
04 Mar 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Danny Ongais
  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…
View More

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.
25 Feb 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Barry Setzer
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…
View More

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.
11 Feb 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Winternationals
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…
View More

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.
04 Feb 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Pro Stock
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…
View More

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.
28 Jan 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
1972
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…
View More

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.
14 Jan 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Swamp Rat I: Built on the framerails of a '31 Chevy passenger car that Garlits bought at a junkyard for $35 in 1956 90
Let’s admit it: There’s never been another drag racer quite like Don Garlits, and there’s probably never going to ever be anyone like “Big Daddy.” Heck, there’s probably no one else in the world exactly like Donald Glenn Garlits, who turns 90 years…
View More

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. 
07 Jan 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Dick Venables
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…
View More

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.
24 Dec 2021
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Decembers to remember
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…
View More