About this section: Acknowledgements and thanks
The challenge of cataloging NHRA's 50-year history and parceling it into a section of NHRA.com was a daunting one. So much has happened since 1951 that is seemed impossible to condense it to readable lengths within web pages. And with so much being written about the NHRA, both from within and outside the organization, the NHRA.com staff wanted to offer the type of material and stories that couldn't be found anywhere else.
Early on, the scope of the project was much smaller. Initially, the Top 50 Drivers section and the Great Races series were the key features of the site; no small challenge in themselves. It took months to decide upon a panel of experts and to receive their votes and for Adriane Pierson to tally their votes. Selecting the greatest national events in NHRA history also was a time-consuming endeavor, finally nailed down with the expert help of the National DRAGSTER staff.
It wasn't until mid-November 2000, however, that NHRA.com webmaster Brent Friar and I hit upon the idea (in retrospect, a now-ludicrous proposal) that each of the 50 years have its own home page and that we should offer news stories from each year. Somehow -- obviously before we learned how to use a calculator -- we decided that 10 stories per year sounded right. The section of the website will launch with more than 400 individual stories; by the time the year is out, we will have added more than 100 others.
With 40 years of National DRAGSTERs -- spanning 1960 through 2000 -- at our disposal, we had plenty of material to choose from, though we knew that the pre-National DRAGSTER 1950s would offer a bit of a challenge.
Armed with a listing of major headline stories from 1960 through 2000, I painstakingly selected 10 stories for each year, aiming for a variety that encompassed national event results, major match races, and historic moments in NHRA history. Although the selected stories do not necessarily comprise the 10 biggest stories of each year, I hope they do offer a more global look at the year in question. I elected to run some of the individual national event eliminator stories their entire length, exposing to new readers some of the names of entrants long past and to offer old-timers a chance to say, "Oh yeah, I remember that guy!"
It turns out that deciding which stories to feature was the easy part. Although stories from the latter 1990s were available for reprint in digital format, the remainder existed only in aging newsprint in our back-issue library. Armed with lists of the stories we were seeking, I led a volunteer team consisting of National DRAGSTER staffers Candida Benson, Kevin McKenna, John Miller, and Duke Ritenhouse to pore over these old issues for the articles we needed. The articles were then photocopied and laid before the nimble fingers of our speed typist, Rosa Espinosa. Day in and day out, Rosa slogged her way through retyping more than 200 stories -- every article that appears for the years 1960-1979, and select articles from the 1980s and 1990s. It was a Herculean chore.
No matter how fast Rosa typed, it became clear that we would never finish the 40 years manually. Fortunately, the 1980 issues on were in better condition than their predecessors, and we were able to image-scan the text, using optical character recognition software to convert the images to words. Although the process required close copy-editing to insure that the words had been correctly translated, it was an incredible time saver. My thanks to Debbie Colleasure and Karl Landkammer from the National DRAGSTER Production Department for their help.
The 1950s were a whole 'nother story. We weren't sure that there were 10 major news stories in those formative years -- there were, after all, no national events until 1955, and only one national event each year from 1955 through 1959 -- or, if there, were, how we would know what they might be. With no National DRAGSTERs onhand to peruse, we were facing an uphill challenge until NHRA Motorsports Museum curator Greg Sharp offered his complete set of 1951-'59 Hot Rod magazines (during which time NHRA founder Wally Parks was the editor) and 1955-'59 issues of Drag Link and Tie Rod (National DRAGSTER's little-known predecessors). Greg went that even one better, laboriously photo-copying from those Hot Rod issues only the material related to NHRA (or which there still was plenty).
From those photo copies and the issues of Drag Link and Tie Rod, I was able to construct the stories that make up the 1951 through 1959 pages. The stories they tell are by no means the definitive history of NHRA -- Parks' book, Drag Racing Yesterday and Today, is the authoritative tome on that -- but I hoped to paint a colorful and wide-ranging series of essays that were part history lesson, part trivia, and part entertainment, something to interest both those who were familiar with the period and those who would experiencing it for the first time.
From that point on, it was "simply" a matter of entering all of the information into a database, designing the layout, choosing photos and graphics, designing navigation, and all of the other "fun" stuff at which Brent excels.
We hope that you enjoy this website throughout NHRA's 50th Anniversary and will use it not just this year, but perhaps for years to come, or whenever the need to settle a bet occurs. -- Phil Burgess