The National Hot Rod Association will bring its 60th anniversary celebration to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway twice this year, for the April 1-3 NHRA Nationals and the Oct. 27-30 NHRA Las Vegas Nationals.

The group was founded 60 years ago by Wally Parks in an effort to organize drag racing and shed the sport of its hoodlum image.  In the late 1940s, drag racers, who mostly raced on public streets, were considered outlaws by local residents and police departments.

The first organized drag strip, the Santa Ana Drags, began running on an airfield in Southern California in 1950 and quickly gained popularity because of its revolutionary computerized speed clocks.  In 1951, Parks’ efforts to get the racers off the city streets and onto organized and much safer drag strips heralded the birth of the NHRA.

The NHRA held its first official race in the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds parking lot in April, 1953. In 1955, the NHRA staged its first national event, known only as “the Nationals,” in Great Bend, Kansas. The club-like organization grew from these humble beginnings into the largest sanctioning body of motorsports in the world today.

In its infancy, the sport’s recognition grew – thanks to wildly-painted cars and legendary drivers – and drew thousands of spectators to each Barnum & Bailey-styled meet. Just about every car had a name (“Freight Train,” and “Praying Mantis,” for example) and drivers all had nicknames that were just as colorful (“Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, to name just two). All a promoter had to do was announce, “Bill ‘Grumpy’ Jenkins will be at the track next Sunday” and fans would line up to purchase tickets to witness the straight-line spectacle.

Today, the Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars are twice as fast as their ‘60s counterparts. Safety and spectator amenities have improved and the sport hosts national events in or near most of the major markets in the United States.

The Strip at LVMS came on board in 2000 and once again brought the biggest names in professional drag racing to the entertainment Mecca of the world. The Strip at LVMS and the NHRA have a number of attractions planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary at both Full Throttle Drag Racing Series national events.

The Strip at LVMS also plays host to local bracket-racing and Jr. Dragster events, in addition to special weekend events (Rockabilly Rod Reunion, Super Chevy Show and Pacific Street Car Association).