(Click on the photo to peruse the gallery.)

 

Girls fight over him. 

Grown men kiss him.

Some grab him by his legs and hoist him high above their heads.

And everybody wants to go home with him.

No, he is not The Most Interesting Man in the World. His name is Wally and he stands just 12 inches tall.

Wally is the trophy awarded to winners of National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events. Named and modeled after NHRA founder Wally Parks, this coveted statuette is to professional drag racing as "Oscar" is to the motion picture industry.

Although the NHRA is 60 years old, Wally is a younger man. Prior to 1969, there was no uniform award for winning national drag racing events. Throughout the early decades of professional drag racing, each drag strip victory lane photo depicts a different trophy. Some big, some small - some forgettable.

Manufactured by American Trophy & Award Co. in Chicago, Wally has occupied the victors' platform at every national event for the past 44 years.

Girls fighting over Wally? It's a true story. It happened at the 1982 NHRA Springnationals at Columbus, Ohio. Two-time Top Fuel Dragster champion Shirley Muldowney faced Lucille Lee to make NHRA history as the first all-female final. Shirley won.

Unlike the Stanley Cup, there is no handler to keep Wally clean and bright and shiny. Once he's handed to the race winner, it's every (statue) man for himself. Defending NHRA Top Fuel Dragster champion Antron Brown planted a big kiss on the trophy when he won the 2011 NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas. (And we have the pictures to prove it.) Not to be outdone, Allen Johnson gave his Wally a soaking, sticky energy drink shower when he won the Pro Stock category at last year's NHRA Big O Tires Nationals in Las Vegas.

"It's obviously an award all the drivers covet - not so much for what it is as for what it represents" said seven-time Top Fuel Dragster champion Tony Schumacher, who, like Wally, was born in '69. Schumacher has won 72 Wallys during his Top Fuel career and has no plans on stopping. "I'd like to grab a bunch of them before I'm done."

Wally is elusive. You can't purchase a Wally online or at the local trophy shop. You have to earn him. Some drivers and riders spend a lifetime trying in vain to win just one.

Perhaps Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Steve Johnson told it best, when he explained the obsession to NHRA.com, "It's as real as a glass of water, but as hard to get as a million dollars."

Which driver has earned the most Wallys? Fifteen-time NHRA Funny Car world champion John Force owns 137 and would like to take Wally No. 138 home with him from the NHRA Toyota Nationals this weekend in Las Vegas.

"Most of mine are at the shop, but I always carry one with me on the bus," admitted Force. "When I look at them, I know I've accomplished something in the sport."

-- John Bisci

NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Thursday, Oct. 24 - Kids 12 and under admitted free.
7:30 a.m. - Spectator gates open.
8 a.m. - Sportsman qualifying.
2 p.m. - Comp Eliminator qualifying.
5 p.m. - Comp Eliminator qualifying.
5:30 p.m. - Track closed.
5-7 p.m. - Free NHRA Fanfest at Fremont Street Experience (driver autograph session, show cars).
6-8 p.m. - Free Don Schumacher Racing driver autograph session at New York New York Hotel & Casino.

Friday, Oct. 25 - Kids 12 and under admitted free.
7: 30 a.m. - Spectator gates open.
8 a.m. - Sportsman eliminations.
10:30 a.m. - Comp Eliminator qualifying.
11 a.m. - Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying.
12:45 p.m. - Pro Mod qualifying.
1:15 p.m. - Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying.
2 p.m. - Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying.
3:15 p.m. - Pro Mod qualifying.
3:45 p.m. - Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying.
4:30 p.m. - Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying.
5:50 p.m. - Jet Car exhibition runs.
6 p.m. - Track closed.

Saturday, Oct. 26 - Kids 12 and under admitted free.
7:30 a.m. - Spectator gates open.
8 a.m. - Sportsman eliminations.
10:30 p.m. - First round of Comp Eliminator eliminations.
11 a.m. - Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying.
12:15 p.m. - Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying.
1 p.m. - Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying.
2:15 p.m. - Pro Mod qualifying.
2:45 p.m. - Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying.
3:30 p.m. - Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying.
4:30 p.m. - First round of Pro Mod eliminations.
5 p.m. - Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying.
6 p.m. - Track closed.

Sunday, Oct. 27 - Kids 12 and under admitted free.
7:30 a.m. - Spectator gates open.
8:30 a.m. - Sportsman eliminations.
9 a.m. - First round of Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car eliminations.
10:15 a.m. - Opening ceremonies begin.
11 a.m. - Final eliminations begin.
4:30 p.m. - Track closed.