The Starting line: How organized racing came to be

There are many different types of racing at the professional level worldwide. Specifically, looking at the United States, there is an abundance of drag racing, land speed testing, open wheel racing and of course stock car racing. Here at the World of Speed we have a large variety of cars from these main categories and beyond. This is a quick look at how these main forms of racing came to be the lifeblood of motorsports in America.

Drag Racing - this type of competition is run strictly in a straight line. With cars becoming more readily available to the average consumer in the mid 40s, people started seeking out open roadways to race each other head-to-head. This was highly dangerous and very illegal. In an effort to minimize incidents and create fair competition, the NHRA, or National Hot Rod Association, was founded by enthusiast Wally Parks in 1951. In the last 60+ years of competition, the NHRA has grown to over 20 subcategories of racing called ‘classes.’ Here drivers coax their cars to not only go quick, but do so in a short distance. At the top level, cars run in excess of 300 mph on a ¼ mile strip.

Land Speed Testing - From the time that the first automobile and the first motorcycle were built the boundary of speed was pushed. Particularly prominent in Europe and the United States, land speed testing became an obsession of innovation. With drivers making runs all over the world, the FIA or Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile was established to standardize and record legitimate runs. This was a step in the right direction though there are many discrepancies noted in the early years. This is due to many factors including the different measuring units, regulatory timing rules and the enforcement of the two way gradient rule. In order for a land speed record to be recognized the car must make two runs in opposite directions to eliminate external factors such as weather or surface. The average speed is then taken between these two runs. To date over 50 land speed records have been set on American soil, most of which have been at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The fastest speed recorded thus far is 706.035 mph set by the Thrust SSCII.

NASCAR - Born in the southern states, NASCAR, or the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing began in the prohibition era when bootleggers needed agile cars to outrun the police. The term ‘stock’ refers to how the vehicles were originally made from the manufacturers and driven on the street. With the bootleggers tinkering away they were able to make the factory cars faster, more nimble and overall a stronger breed of street cars. By the 1940’s this type of racing was corralled for entertainment purposes. At Daytona Beach Florida in 1947 the NASCAR sanctioning body roared to life. More than 60 years later, NASCAR is the most viewed type of racing in the United .States generating billions of dollars.

Open Wheel - Cars with tires on the outside of their body panels are referenced to this broad type of racing. The most well-known type of open wheel competition is called IndyCar racing. In 1909 a 2.5 mile oval was built out of bricks in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1911 they held a 500 mile race between multiple cars from different makers. The idea was to not only test the cars speed and endurance but to prove which manufacturer had the best car. Although it has undergone many renovations, including paving the majority of the surface for a smoother ride, this track still stands today. Due to its history, this monument is referred to as the ‘Brickyard.’ Every year they hold that 500 mile race, now called the Indy 500. It is known for being the highest attended single day sporting event in the world. Cars that have grown out of the grassroots of Indianapolis are called IndyCars. They race all over the country on road, street and oval courses at speeds in excess of 220 mph.