Part 3: NHRA's first sanctioned event
All of these helped lead to the first officially-sanctioned NHRA event, the Southern California Championship Drags, April 11-12, 1953 in Pomona, a joint venture of the NHRA and the Pomona Valley Timing Association in cooperation with the San Diego Timing Association and the Pomona Choppers, the Gripers, and the Varmints clubs. SDTA President Paul Wallace, was chosen as starter, flagging the races with the flourish that had labeled him one of Southern California's best while SDTA Vice President Jim Nelson took charge of inspection and the staging lanes. Bozzy Willis, of the SDTA advisory council, and Pomona police officer Bud Coons, one of the region's most ardent supporters who later that year was named to the NHRA Board of Directors, alternated in the announcer's booth.
NHRA board member Otto Crocker's timing system was used under the watchful eye of Bud Graeme and officials of the NHRA acted as observers, referees, and judges of the meet.
The spectator turnout was phenomenal and far surpassed anything the organizers could have wished in their wildest dreams. Between 2,500 and 3,000 showed up for the first day's time trials while an estimated 15,000-16,000 were on hand for the final day.
The entry list swelled to 375 vehicles that made a total of 850 timed runs, including 175 in eliminations.
Top speed went to "Bean Bandit Mk. II," with Carlos Ramirez at the wheel. The yellow dragster roared through the speed traps at 132.35 mph with an elapsed time of 11.08 seconds. Low e.t. was set by a motorcycle, Lloyd Krant's Harley-Davidson, in 10.93 seconds.
Thirty-nine class trophies were handed out. Dawson Hadley, at the wheel of his and Fred Carrillo's dragster, had the second fastest speed, 127.7 mph, and third quickest e.t., 11.53, but took home the dragster class trophy, nosing out Jake Smith's popular "Thingie." Unfortunately for Hadley, the run resulted in a broken piston, which forced him to sit out the "Fastest Eliminating Car" competition (a predecessor to Top Eliminator), which was settled between Ramirez and Smith.
At the wave of the starter's flag, Smith's "Thingie" jumped out to an early lead of several car-lengths, only to be chased down by less than a car length by the Bandit.
Future star Don Nicholson tied with Bill Davis in the Class C Coupe and Sedan Gas section after two dead-heat runs failed to produce a winner.