It sure doesn’t seem like 1997 was all that long ago, but alas, it’s coming up on two decades, and my how things have changed and evolved in our sport in that timeframe — a fact perfectly illustrated in this footage filmed in what is arguably the heyday of street legal drag racing, at the NMCA Muscle Car Nationals at the then-Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.
With the voice of street car drag racing, Al Tucci, calling the action, this video provides a spectacular look back at the relatively simpler times of heads-up, street legal drag racing with the likes of Pat Musi, Tony Christian, Chuck Samuel, Spiro Pappas, and a host of other names that you’ll still recognize in racing today flogging their true street machines down the quarter-mile.
Beyond the absolutely packed grandstands that were commonplace with the NMCA in the 1990s, the biggest thing of note are the dramatic differences in performance that racers have achieved in these 18 years. Like big-tire Pro Street cars recording mid seven-second runs and 10.5-inch tire Super Street cars in the mid eights — both of which were mind-boggling at the time.
Interestingly, as well, this marked one of the very first events ever held at what was then a brand spanking new track in Madison, Illinois. The facility had only just been completed, and you can see parts of the construction, including the spectator side grandstands, haven’t even erected yet.
If you were a fan of the NMCA in the ‘90s or grew up racing in St. Louis, this 27 minutes worth of footage is well worth your time for a very cool back at just how much has changed in 18 years.