The National Hot Rod Association – more commonly referred to as the NHRA – is a North American drag racing organisation. It was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks, at a time when autos tuning and hot rodding were becoming increasingly popular. His aims were to take drag racing off the highways and inner-city streets and into safe and well-organised venues, as well as to provide clear rules to ensure safety amongst the hot rodding community.
Now over 60 years old, the NHRA is as strong as ever; with around 80,000 members, it is one of the biggest organisations of its kind. The first NHRA-sponsored nationwide event was back in 1955, and took place in Great Bend, Kansas (on a training field specially constructed for World War II, a popular form of makeshift racetrack at the time). Since then, the range of events for the NHRA has grown rapidly, and today the most important events in drag racing are hosted by the NHRA.
In particular, the national event series, known simply as the Nationals, is the highlight of the drag racing year, being the largest, richest, and oldest drag racing event in the world. Officially named ‘The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals’, after its main sponsor, the Nationals are held in Clermont, Indiana, at the famous Indianapolis Raceway. The series consists of 22 events per year, and brings together the greatest cars and drivers from the whole of North America.
The top division of the NHRA – known as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series – consists of four classes: Funny Car, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Stock and Top Fuel Dragster. But the NHRA also welcomes non-professionals (who make up 95% of their members), and for this reason maintains Sportsmen Classes. Sportsmen Classes are made up of a variety of different races, including ones as diverse as Snowmobile, Stock Eliminator, Super Street, and Top Alcohol Funny Car.
With a rising membership, and a new sponsorship deal struck with Coca-Cola, the NHRA continues to grow. Second only to NASCAR in terms of popularity and mass appeal, the NHRA, once on the fringes of sports entertainment, is now becoming a part of the American mainstream.