People, Places & Racing News

NHRA FOUNDER WALLY PARKS PASSES AWAY AT 94

NHRA FOUNDER WALLY PARKS DIES AT 94: Wally Parks, the driving force behind the formation of NHRA, died Friday, September 29, 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. "It is a sad day in the world of NHRA and the sport of drag racing," said Tom Compton, president of the 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 the 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." Parks, who founded NHRA in 1951, received countless awards in the motorsports world and played a pivotal role in the establishment of an entire industry devoted to speed and automotive aftermarket parts and accessories that today is a multibillion-dollar business. Yet Parks never implied that he did it all himself. His pride and joy, and where he spent most of his time in recent years while still serving on NHRA's board of directors, was The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by Automobile Club of Southern California at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif.  “Wally spent his lifetime doing what he loved,” said Dallas Gardner, chairman of the NHRA board of directors. “He marked the path and led the way for this incredible industry and the sport of drag racing. Wally was NHRA, and through his dream came a path to follow with lofty goals and ambition. He put the people in place and trusted in them. He has not abandoned us. He has left us with a road map that he knows will be followed.”

JOHN FORCE UPDATE: John Force, drag racing's most prolific winner with 125 NHRA POWERade tour victories and 14 Funny Car championships, who was injured in a high-speed crash two weeks ago at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas, is expected to be released from the hospital today or Tuesday. Once Force is released from Baylor, he will travel to Indianapolis to consult with his crew chiefs about chassis changes and with Dr. Terry Trammell, an orthopedist specializing in motor racing injuries.   Force's goal is to travel to Richmond, Virginia, for this week's Torco Racing Fuels Nationals to provide moral support for teammate Robert Hight, who is prominently in contention for the $500,000 POWERade championship.

POWERADE COUNTDOWN TO ONE WILL BE SET IN VIRGINIA: POWERade Countdown to One fields in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will be set during this weekend’s Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals at scenic Virginia Motorsports Park near Richmond, Virginia. There are several close battles to keep an eye on. Following the race, only the top four competitors in each pro category will be eligible to win world championships during a two-race shootout in Las Vegas and Pomona, California. In Top Fuel, Bob Vandergriff Jr. is 21 points behind Brandon Bernstein, who currently holds down the No. 4 cutoff position. In Funny Car, with fourth-place driver John Force on the sidelines recovering from injuries suffered in a high-speed crash at the last event, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Gary Scelzi and Mike Ashley are all battling for the final two spots in the top four.  In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin hold the third and fourth place spots, but Jason Line and Kurt Johnson are looking to crash the party.

AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD NOMINEES ANNOUNCED: Five NHRA rookie racers, representative of three Pro categories, have been selected as nominees for the 2007 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award. The nominees for the prestigious award are, in alphabetical order, Ashley Force (Funny Car), Craig Hankinson (Pro Stock), Barry Henson (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock) and Matt Scranton (Pro Stock). The award, which recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and traditional trophy to the winner, will be presented during NHRA's annual championship awards ceremony Monday, November 5, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles.

TEAM JEGS CHEF GETS REALITY TV SHOW: The most accomplished chef in motorsports will bring his unique and rollicking blend of culinary and hot-rodding experiences to the small screen when FSN Ohio debuts "The Racing Chef" at 10 p.m. ET on October 8. The reality show follows the exploits of Team Jegs chef Nicky Morse as he crisscrosses the country for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, chasing down exotic ingredients and cooking up world-class cuisine for the Coughlin family and members of the Team Jegs racing crew. “It's a cooking show, a backstage racing pass and a travel adventure all in one—not to mention a rare personal glimpse into the Team Jegs racing experience,” said Don Lee of Horizons Companies, the Columbus, Ohio, company producing the show. The idea for the series was hatched by Lee and Morse, along with Scott Woodruff, director of media and motorsports marketing for Jegs. "As anyone that has ever met Chef Nicky knows, he's definitely one of a kind," Woodruff said. "His life revolves around food and creating new dishes, and he's so passionate about what he does that it really takes you into his little world. It's great entertainment. Because of his unique position with our race team, Nicky's become quite a celebrity in the racing markets we visit. He takes the sport of drag racing to audiences we may not normally reach, and because of his captivating personality and humor, he attracts new fans wherever we go. Our hope is that this TV show will expand the fan base even further. It's not only funny, it's interesting too, and I think it will appeal to men and women alike."

COUGHLIN BROTHERS WINNERS AT JEGS NORTHERN SPORTSNATIONALS: Hometown favorites Mike and John Coughlin were among winners at the Jegs Northern SportsNATIONALS at National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio. Mike claimed the Top Sportsman victory while brother John earned the win in the Jegs Top Dragster Shootout. Other winners included Bill Baker (Stock); Doug Doll Jr. (Comp); Rock Running (Super Stock); Michael Sawyer (Super Gas); Karsten Blume (Super Comp); Jeff Hurst (Top Dragster); Charlie Westcott (Mopar Hemi Challenge); and Lynn Hoosigian (Super Street).

COMING ATTRACTIONS

TORCO RACING FUELS NHRA NATIONALS, VIRGINIA MOTORSPORTS PARK, OCTOBER 5–7: The Countdown to One fields will be set when the POWERade Series returns to the East Coast, where Cory McClenathan, the late Eric Medlen, and Jason Line won in 2006.

NHRA SPORT COMPACT FALLNATIONALS, OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK, OCTOBER 6–7: The drivers of the Xplod Series return to this historic track to fight for points that will lead to the year-end world championship. Look for records to fall in the cool fall weather. This also marks the last race for the Eastern Region Sportsman Championship.

ACDELCO LAS VEGAS NHRA NATIONALS, THE STRIP AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, OCTOBER 25–28: The Countdown to One begins with the Top 4 in each professional category battling it out for POWERade World Championships. The 2007 Technicoat Top Fuel Shootout also will take place at the event, pitting the top drivers in Top Fuel battling against each other for $100,000 and bragging rights.

AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, NOVEMBER 1–4: The final race in the inaugural POWERade Countdown to the Championship will determine world champions in the four professional categories. The race usually provides great drama, such as Tony Schumacher’s thrilling record-breaking final round run to win the race and the Top Fuel championship last season. Other defending winners include John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

.INSIDE THE NUMBERS

56: Wally Parks was 38 when he started the journey to build the NHRA as an opportunity to get hot-rod enthusiasts organized and take their competitions off public streets and onto safer, controlled dragstrips. Today his vision is 56 years old and going strong. He played an integral role in all 56 years of the development of what has become the world’s largest motorsports sanctioning organization. From its first sanctioned event in Pomona, California, in 1953, to its first national event in 1955 in Great Bend, Kansas, to today’s 23-race NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship that criss-crosses the United States and is televised on ESPN2, Parks was able to see his idea blossom beyond his wildest dreams. “When Barbara (Parks, wife) and I first started the NHRA, we never could have dreamed that it would grow and become what it is today,” Parks said in 2001 during NHRA’s 50th Anniversary celebration.  “We thank all of the drivers, team owners, sponsors, track operators, fans and NHRA employees that have dedicated a major part of their lives to achieve the current level of popularity associated with NHRA Drag Racing.”

DRIVERS TELL ALL

DON ‘THE SNAKE’ PRUDHOMME REMEMBERS WALLY PARKS: “I was always very close with Wally and Barbara as they both helped me tremendously in the early days of my career.  As a young kid starting out, they both really took me under their wing, giving me advice, and we had a special friendship. Both Wally and Barbara meant a whole lot to me.  I’ve said before that when I look back at all the people I’ve met, not just in racing, but in life in general, I always think of them as people that I really loved and admired. It’s like losing a member of your family, and it goes way beyond racing.  Wally’s vision and what he represented is what we are all about.”

For more information, visit www.nhra.com.