Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 5, Page

By Jeff Burk
DRO file photos

Part II : We continue with Jeff Burk's 1987 conversation with Wally Parks and C.J. Hart.

I want to talk to you about the first U.S. Nationals.  And I'd like you to just go back and tell me what you remember and how you went about organizing the first one. 

PARKS: It was in Great Bend, Kansas, and was a result of the first year that we sent our safety crew around the country introducing and producing new drag racing events at facilities and different locations.  We sent them out the first year and we lit that fire out there and (they went to) a lot of places where they had never had an organized drag race.  And how we did that was to go into these individual communities where we had an established contact with a local club or association. 

Wally Parks (far right) at the first U.S. Nationals in Great Bend, Kansas.

Well, we'd gone out and built up all this excitement and had racers from a lot of different locations, but we didn't have a common meeting ground so we decided what we should do is put together a national event where they could all gather together and have a central meet.  So we started looking for locations and we had a club in Great Bend, Kansas, called the Sunflower Rod and Custom Club and they had access to the municipal airport; one leg of it, it was a great big triangular military base and so we had that opportunity and then we had an invitation from a similar group in Kansas City called the Kansas City Timing Association and they were going to be building a track in there so we had to make a decision and we went to a friend of ours in the Mobile Oil company in California -- they were our sponsor, they supplied the gas -- and told them what our predicament was and they said do you want to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond.  We said, we don't know, we've never thought of that. 

Tell me a little about the town and the local community involvement?

PARKS: The fact is that there was one motel and two hotels in the town and that's all there was. The main thing we were impressed with is it's the almost exact geographic center of the U.S.  We were going to make it so that everybody out there could come.  So we planned it there with this group and the Chamber of Commerce and they set up the facility and the track was concrete and very, very rough, which wasn't as important then as it is now. It went together very well except for the fact that we had seven inches of rain in just a few hours.  We got through Friday's running, but then Saturday was completely flooded; there was no way we could finish the thing.  There was so much water on the dragway, we couldn't have drained it by Sunday.  So, we had to postpone it and complete it in Arizona later.  Which we were more criticized for more recently than then.  Everybody understood why we did it then because the only finalists that were left then were from California, Arizona and Texas.  So, we thought it was the logical location for their benefit.

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