Recently I had one of those great afternoons. Yes, lunch was involved, but it was the individuals at the table who really helped make it great. I was basking in the light of Wally Parks (of National Hot Rod Racing Association fame); Tex Smith, my mentor (sorry, Tex!); and STREET RODDER Senior Editor Ron Ceridono. True, Ron and I fought over the food, but there was some great bench racing in between.
For starters, the two major topics of conversation were the then-recent sale involving the NHRA, and the early days of Hot Rod with Wally as editor (later editorial director) and hot rodder supreme Tex as one of the staffers (other journalist legends on this staff included Ray Brock, Bob Greene, Don Francisco, Tom Medley, and Eric Rickman, just to name a few). As you could imagine, there were many stories about the high jinx that surrounds any magazine office, but then there were stories about how so many great story ideas were developed.
It wasn't long before the topics moved toward racing: That included the early days of the SCTA with Wally on board, with him then officially taking over as editor of Hot Rod in '49, and onto the fledgling days of the NHRA. It was incredibly interesting talking about how the NHRA came about, the early days of the Safety Safari (Tex told great stories on this subject), how the "Wally" trophy came to being (a great story for a future editorial), and why the quarter-mile distance was settled upon. Concerning the latter, acceleration attempts were originally tried on the dry lakes, but it was obvious this wasn't going to work with the absence of traction, so it was onto asphalt where the cars could hook up. Wally told us he was always in favor of running the eighth-mile instead of today's quarter-mile, saying he felt the eighth-mile was easier to see from a spectator's standpoint and more ideally suited to hold the fans' interest. From the racer's standpoint, he also thought safety was in the driver's favor, and parts breakage could be reduced significantly for the team owner. Few would argue that Wally wasn't right on all accounts.
Well, back to the present. I asked Wally if there would be any chance now that the NHRA may have more time to focus on Sportsman racing and maybe even eighth-mile events that might be tied with street rod events. He told me there are those in the NHRA who like that idea, but, like everything else, it takes time and resources to put something like that together. I told Wally I thought eighth-mile events-or Hot Rod Drags, as Ron and I like to call it-would be a hit with rodders across the country.
If you think about it, many of us like to attend rod runs and remain active. Unlike the early days of rod runs, with participant-driving events, modern rodding events are sedentary get-togethers, which are ideally suited for today's rodders who enjoy this low-key approach. But I have spoken to more and more rodders who would like to see some of the old-time driving events brought back. Well, the Hot Rod Drags could easily be one of these events. Most street rods are capable of running somewhere approaching 90 to 100 mph in an eighth-mile. While that may sound fast, it really isn't much faster (about 20-plus percent) than nearly every one of us drives on a day-to-day basis. For those of us who drive freeways and highways, we see speeds of 70 to 80 mph routinely-generally twice a day. With the fear of speed removed, that brings us back to another taboo with rodders competitively racing their cars-breakage. The acknowledged death knell in quarter-mile racing is that the majority of parts and expense occurs after the 1,000-foot mark, or well after the eighth-mile. Today's street rods are capable of being built well enough, and the parts are plenty strong enough to handle the acceleration requirements of the eighth-mile. I can see rodders coming to a rod run and having some fun running the Hot Rod Drags. It would be a great opportunity to show off just how well-built you street rod is! Not only that, but what a great way to show that you can not only build a reliable rod, but one that handles well on the interstate and equally as well at the track.
This is an idea that will have to germinate for a while, but as more and more rodders give it some thought, we should start seeing the rodding masses taking in the Hot Rod Drags. I can tell you that you will be seeing Senior Editor Ceridono and me trying our hands at the performance aspect of our hobby. Drop me a line and give me your input as to your likes or dislikes on Hot Rod Drags.