Why NHRA Nationals Raced in the Summer Heat
Drag racing fans have flocked to Pomona, California, since the gates opened at Auto Club Raceway in 1961. Moreover, the NHRA-operated facility has a rich history for drag racers that dates back to 1952. That’s when a young police officer, Sergeant Bud Coons, convinced his Chief and members of the city government that using the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds to give young people a place to race would ultimately save lives. Statistics proved Officer Coons was correct and drag racing in the Redlands had a home.
Pomona Raceway was nicknamed “The Fairplex”, and by 1984, the fan-centric track was hosting the opening round of the NHRA National Championship Series known as the Winternationals. In addition, Auto Club Raceway also hosted the last NHRA national of the season. Unfortunately, things got flipped upside down in 2020 with COVID-19 restrictions, as Las Vegas Motor Speedway had to host the season finale at The Strip. When restrictions were not lifted in time for the Lucas Oil Winternationals to be the 2021 season opener, the best option to reschedule the postponed event would have to be a mid-summer matchup before the Countdown to the Championship.
Pomona Rescheduled to Vacated 2021 Race Date
At Pomona, track management and the NHRA continued to work closely with California health officials for recommendations on a date for the event. After all, as the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Series was planning to launch, Auto Club Raceway was still being used as a drive through COVID-19 vaccination site. So, National Hot Rod Association officials sadly announced the postponement of the 61st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com at the Pomona track. Then, in mid-May, Washington State health officials announced a lessening of that state’s coronavirus restrictions. However, much uncertainty still existed in regard to the advanced planning of a large event. Since organizers of the Flav-R-Pack NHRA Northwest Nationals had little confidence in racing on the scheduled date, the NHRA offered the July 30-Aug 1 weekend to Auto Club Raceway. Although cooler than a below-sea level Death Valley, it would be hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement at the Fairplex in late July.
NHRA Winternationals Return in February 2022
After the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series 2021 season launched with a successful race at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals March 11-14 in Gainesville FL, it was good news when the NHRA and Auto Club Raceway released the dates of the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season opener for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals as Feb. 17-20. E3 Spark Plugs drag racing fans can visit NHRA.com/tickets to purchase reserved and general admission passes to both the 2021 NHRA Auto Club Finals Nov. 11-14, as well as seats for the 2022 NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals. More good news is the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum (open since 1988) has reopened its doors to the public. Located just south of the track, the NHRA Museum provides a place for fans to view and learn about hot rods, customs, race cars, and speed records. An array of one-of-a-kind vehicles tell the colorful story of drag racing’s continuous presence in Southern California.
Photo courtesy shutterstock.com