Wally Parks, the driving force behind the formation of NHRA, has died at the age of 94. It was Parks’ vision, goals and unconditional commitment to the need for speed and side-by-side racing in a safer, more controlled environment that created what is today the world's largest motorsports governing body.

"Today is a sad day in the world of NHRA and the sport of drag racing," said Tom Compton, president of NHRA. "Words simply can't describe the immeasurable impact Wally has had on the sport he created and the millions of people's lives he touched along the way. The name Wally Parks is synonymous with drag racing, and his vision and direction will guide NHRA for years to come. Everyone in drag racing, and the industries formed to service the sport, will forever be indebted to Wally, his vision, his focus and his desire to create, build and grow NHRA."

 
Update on condolences and services information
Richard and David Parks have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of well-wishes from so many that were touched by their father, Wally Parks, and would like to thank everyone for their emails, letters and phone calls. They have asked that all well-wishers send cards and letters to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Bldg. 3A, Pomona, CA 91768. In lieu of flowers, Richard and David ask that donations be made to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, whose goals are to foster the ideals for which he dedicated his life. Services are still pending and will be announced as soon as the details have been finalized.
 
Wally Parks lived a lot of life in his 94 years, traveling a road from teenage hot rodder to proud military veteran, record-breaking driver, consummate organizer, and unstoppable and unflappable champion of the sport of hot rodding on his journey to the unmistakable destination as a motorsports legend and American hero. Many of the captions were written by Parks in the years preceding his death.
 
Wally Parks was NHRA's first president and served in that role for more than two decades before hand-choosing his successor. Dallas Gardner, who was named NHRA vice president and general manager in 1978, became NHRA's second president six years later. Gardner, now NHRA's board chairman, remembers his mentor and friend.
 
NHRA President Tom Compton followed Wally Parks and Dallas Gardner into the NHRA presidency and worked closely with both throughout the recent years to assure NHRA's rapid growth and gains in the world of motorsports. In this message to the NHRA family, Compton shares his thoughts about Parks.
 
Few people knew Wally Parks for as long and as well as Dick Wells. Wells, currently a member of the NHRA board of directors, has worn many hats in his long relationship with NHRA, including that of editor of National DRAGSTER. In this article, he remembers his friend and mentor.
 
There isn't a Pro racer on NHRA's POWERade tour who didn't respect Wally Parks to the deepest level. Parks was more than just the man who gave them the sport that is their livelihood, he was a friend, a confidante, and an inspiration. He is remembered here by some of NHRA's all-time greats.

(Updated 12:30 p.m. Oct. 3)

 
Wally Parks hired Phil Burgess to work for National DRAGSTER more than 25 years ago, and the two shared a creative and passionate bond when it came to the NHRA's official publication. Burgess remembers his long and rewarding relationship with a man who was much more to him than a boss.
 
"Isn't it about time that the thousands of hot rod devotees around the United States band together in a national association?" So began a letter to the editors of Hot Rod magazine, published in its March 1951 issue. Its editor in those formative days of the hot-rodding scene was a transplanted Oklahoman whose active automotive interest didn't really surface until his family moved to California in the early 1920s, but who quickly became part of the car culture, tearing down Model-T Fords and Chevy 4s for street use and in the 1930s and '40s racing in weekend time trials conducted on the dry lake beds of California's deserts. His name was Wally Parks.
 
Whether it was the salt flats, the dragstrip, Pikes Peak, Baja, or Riverside Raceway, Parks loved to be behind the wheel. A small photo gallery showing the world's most famous hot rodder with his foot on the gas.
 
There's no doubt that Wally Parks was a man of the people. He never met a racer or racing fan that he didn't like, and whose interest in the sport he helped create he didn't truly appreciate. Many of them, whether they had ever met him or not, took the time to remember Wally Parks.

(Updated 1:30 p.m., Oct. 4)


Wally and the love of his life, his late wife, Barbara, in Pomona in 2000.


Wally Parks at the wheel of his trademark Ford roadster, his daily driver during the editorship at Hot Rod magazine. The car was re-created for Parks in late 2005 by the Cal-Rods Car Club.


A prime major achievement in 1951 was Parks' founding of the NHRA, with Hot Rod as conduit to a vast car enthusiast readership. Pictured with Parks, center, are early officers Ak Miller and Marvin Lee.


Hot Rod magazine's Bob Petersen, left, and Wally Parks shared close relationships with Detroit's finest automotive innovators, like Chevrolet's Zora Arkus-Duntov.


Parks, second from left, with some of NHRA's earliest division directors, from left, Bernie Partridge, Darrell Zimmerman, and Dale Ham.


Parks was well-loved and respected by the racers, including legends of the sport such as three-time Top Fuel champ Shirley Muldowney.


Parks received one of his highest honors in 1992 when he became drag racing's first inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala.


Parks, left, with Tom Compton, center, and Dallas Gardner, the only two men to have succeeded him as NHRA president in the sanctioning body's 56 years of existence.


The tall and the short of it: Parks with Pro Stock legend Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins and Miss Hurst Linda Vaughn in the Pro Stock winner's circle at the 1972 Springnationals.


In 2002, Parks was the first recipient of the Robert E. Petersen Achievement award. Petersen, left, a longtime friend and Parks' onetime boss when he was editor of Hot Rod, presented the award personally.


Opened to the public April 4, 1998, the NHRA Motorsports Museum was a longtime dream for Parks. It was renamed the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in February 2003.