In its first four years of existence, the National Hot Rod Association had made tremendous inroads in earning nationwide acceptance for hot rodding. Although NHRA’s main goal had always been the unification of hot rod enthusiasts into one national group for the common good of the sport, which it accomplished in helping to form 3,000 clubs that helped provide positive publicity
for the sport, drag racing soon became NHRA's calling card.
With the NHRA's help and guidance, and the clubs' commitment to following its guidelines, new dragstrips began springing up across the country. NHRA provided a key weapon in this fight by convincing two of America’s oldest, largest, and most conservative insurance companies -- Aetna Casualty and Surety and the Indemnity Company of North America -- to provide general liability and participant coverage for NHRA-sanctioned dragstrips.
The Drag Safari embarked upon its second nationwide crusade, an 18-week, 20,000-mile tour, helping sanctioned strips present 18 official Regional Championships in Californian, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. It was during this tour that many newspapers began to refer to the Drag Safari as the NHRA "Safety Safari."
The Safari's final stop was Great Bend, Kan., where NHRA staged its first National Championship Drags, Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 on the 8,000-foot runway of the Great Bend Municipal Airport.
NHRA's first National Champion would not be crowned that weekend, however, as rain forced the final to be run two months later in Arizona, where 25-year-old Calvin Rice (pictured) of Santa Ana, Calif., defeated Fred Voight to become NHRA's first National Champion.