Twenty-twenty was a subpar year by every possible metric, and it especially spoiled a lot of great drag racing. And so 2021 is about making up for lost time. Many of you have extra cash burning a hole in your pocket as a result of diminished traveling last season — and those stimulus checks, hello! — so we’ve assembled a list of eight must-see races for any fan this year. We know…a lot of great races got left out, and if you’re anywhere near a drag strip, whether it’s hosting an event big or small, go spend some of your hard-earned money with them — but our aim here was to provide the drag racing fanatic a well-rounded intake of all the various experiences that the sport of drag racing has to offer.
Famed drag radial racing promoter Donald “Duck” Long puts on three major events annually at the South Georgia Motorsports Park, and while “Lights Out” in the spring and “No Mercy” in the fall provide more classes and cars for your entertainment, the Sweet 16 is our favorite of the trio. The event features three of the hottest classes in the sport — Radial versus The World, Pro 275, and X275 —and only a limited number of tickets are offered, making this a truly unique race to attend. Everyone’s a V.I.P., gaining up-close close access to the starting line on SGMP’s custom-built stage that hovers over the track, and the food and drinks are all-inclusive, all weekend long. We owe a few of the extra pounds we’re carrying around to the Long familys’ buffet of hot dogs and burgers.
The three classes traditionally receive 5-7 qualifiers apiece, making this a drag racing home-run derby if there ever were one. And with such exclusive entry, you never have to worry about finding a seat, a parking space, or the chance to chat with your favorite driver.
Traditionally held in March, the Sweet 16 has moved to the weekend of April 1-3.
Pro Mod vs. Fuel Altered Showdown
Nitro-burning altered and Pro Mods are two of the coolest inventions in the history of drag racing, and only one time all season can you find a swarm of both in one place. Even better…they’re racing each other!
Promoter Chris Graves puts on this epic race every summer, which typically draws upwards of 25 entries for the 16-car qualified field. The fuel altered and Pro Mods receive three qualifiers, and then the eight quickest of each style of car square off until only one remains. Last year, Kebin Kinsley, driving the “War Wagon” AA/FA, clocked the quickest pass by such a vehicle in history to the 1/8-mile — 3.44-seconds — on his way to victory.
The 2021 Pro Mod vs. Fuel Altered Showdown goes down June 25-26 at the Xtreme Raceway Park in Ferris, Texas, just outside Dallas.
The NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing
The Super Bowl is, as the name should imply, is the big one for NMRA and NMCA competitors, and while it’s not held at season’s end to decide a champion, it does provide a unique, once-a-year heads-up battle between the best of the two sister series for bragging rights. The best part of the Super Bowl, though, in our opinion, is that it puts all the best cars and drivers from the two series in one place so you get the best show for your dollar. If you dig door-car racing, this is the one to go to — Pro Mods, radial cars, a showdown of factory-built hot rods, classic nostalgia muscle, and on and on.
The 2021 NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing goes down May 13-16 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Illinois, a stones throw from downtown St. Louis, Missouri.
The LSFest, put on by the folks at Holley, has grown into one of the largest automotive enthusiast events in the world, and if late model performance and epic engine swaps are your thing, this is an event you have to attend at least once.
The 2021 LSFest, scheduled for September 10-12, has Kentucky’s iconic Beech Bend Raceway Park bursting at the seams with GM LS and LT-powered vehicles of every make, model, shape, and size, taking part in everything from drag racing to autocross, a drift challenge, road course racing, burnout challenge, dyno challenge, and more. There’s more going on than you could ever see and experience in one weekend….we know, we’ve tried!
The NHRA U.S. Nationals
Drag racing has a lot of new fans and competitors, and no matter where they are or what they enjoy watching and participating in, that’s a great thing. What those outside the NHRA sphere may not know, however, is that the world’s largest drag race, bar none, is held every Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis. For a long time, Indy on Labor Day was the center of the drag racing universe, and if you’re an NHRA fan, it remains just that. If you’ve never been, and drag racing is your thing, it is absolutely something you have to check off your bucket list in 2021.
The U.S. Nationals, held at the fabled and legendary Lucas Oil Raceway since 1961 (“the
Nationals” as it was known, was first conducted in 1955), hosts nearly 1,000 cars in over 15 classes of competition, from Top Fuel to Stock Eliminator, over a period of nearly a week. It is a marathon, it is prestigious, and it has no equal.
The Southeast Gassers Association
There is no finer or more legit throwback to the drag racing of old than the Southeast Gassers — this group is so dedicated to its mission of preserving the period-correct gassers of 1967 that even the vintage of the decals on the cars are scrutinized.
Electronics are outlawed, four-speeds and a clutch are the combination of choice, and dry-hops are a standard part of the pre-race procedure. And even better…they race heads-up, first to the finish line, just as the good lord intended. These men and women, clad in open-face helmets and 1960’s-era white driving suits, are the real deal…and the cars are as cool as the other side of the pillow.
SEGA was born of the south, but has expanded its reach to the Midwest in recent seasons; its Xenia, Ohio race actually drew the biggest turnout of cars in 2020 and is anticipated to repeat as the top stop on its schedule this season. If you can’t get to Xenia, there are 10 more races to choose from in Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, and Tennessee.
Sure, there are higher paying no-prep races to be found, but Outlaw Armageddon — held right in the street racing hot-bed of Oklahoma City — is inarguably its best. In fact, they call it the “World Series of No-Prep”, and they aren’t wrong. Given its centralized locale and the caliber of area racers — namely, all of the stars of Street Outlaws — this once-a-year battle royale draws out all the baddest big-tire racers from around the country at a befitting venue for such an outlaw-style show: Thunder Valley Raceway Park.
Last year’s event featured a whopping 80 big-tire, 36 daily-driver, 71 small-tire, 39 outlaw true street, and 15 truck/SUV class cars, making it one of the largest heads-up races of any genre, anywhere.
This year’s edition, August 13-14, will also feature no-prep motorcycle racing.
Rocky Mountain Race Week
Drag-and-drive style events are traditionally geared more to the participant than the spectator, but if you fancy a scenic drive alongside some really cool cars, mixed with a dose of drag racing every morning, Rocky Mountain Race Week is the ticket. And if you’ve got anything that even resembles a performance auromobile, sign up and join in yourself!
This year’s summer edition will begin in Great Bend, Kansas and proceed to Pueblo and Denver, Colorado, then to Kearney, Nebraska, before returning to Great Bend, all spanning the week of June 12-18. In a departure from other, similar events, RMRW affords two travel-only days, meaning competitors enjoy extra time to experience the trip (or fix their busted cars). We mapped this one out, and it is middle America road-tripping at its finest!