Lots of famous competitors in the early days of their careers can be seen competing in various classes where they cut their teeth as drivers and engine builders. Future drag racing stars Art Malone, Tom Hoover, Arnie “the farmer” Beswick and Dave Strickland are featured in this video as they battle it out in classes from top fuel all the way down through the Junior stock classes.
This is also at a time when the flagman was still used to start the races. It’s interesting to watch how the old “staggered start” handicap system was used before the popular acceptance of the “Christmas Tree.” The staggered start is obviously not as efficient, precise or fair as the tree, but you have to admit the flagman adds a sense of flair and excitement for the spectator that can’t be found watching the lights blink.
You can also really appreciate the advancements in safety since those days. Competing in a national event driving in jeans and a T-shirt would not be tolerated today. Even the fire suits used back then now look more like the aluminum foil used to wrap baked potatoes on the barbecue. But, they did the best they could with what they had. Remarkably even with the rudimentary safety requirements at the time, drag racing experienced fewer and comparatively minor casualties than other motorsports.
The 2013 drag racing season is well underway and there will probably be a national event coming soon to a giant racing megaplex near you. There’s also probably some sort of local drag racing venue near you where you can easily get involved. Do yourself a favor. Dust off the rod, change the plugs, drive through the gate and bust off a few passes. It’ll remind you why you’re a hot rodder!