On that day in 1950 the first “official” drag race took place at an out-of-commission Army airbase in Santa Ana, California. Soon that airbase was established as Santa Ana Drags, the world’s first commercial dragstrip. When it closed nine years later, drag racing had become a nationwide sport with established rules and classes, national championships, and a major sanctioning body. Today, drag racing has evolved into a huge worldwide motorsport—and it also still exists at a smaller grassroots level not much different from what those guys in Santa Ana were doing 70 years ago.
When Did Drag Racing Really Start?
To say when drag racing began involves a lot of speculation about an activity that, in all likelihood, has been around since the creation of the second automobile. In the April 1950 issue of HOT ROD magazine, editor Wally Parks (one year before establishing the NHRA) wrote an article describing “controlled drag races” as an alternative to the type of racing that hot rodders had been doing on the dry lakes of Southern California since the ’30s. Parks’ description might seem foreign to today’s drag racing fans, such as his explanation that the “number of entrants in each heat race depends on the width of the course.”
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