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In 1960, AHRA had undergone some more significant changes and these involved a lot more than what fuel was run. Garlits had been elected president of the organization in 1958 with Kansas City racer and insurance salesman, Jim Tice, being installed as vice-president. Garlits, as could be expected, would have an extremely difficult schedule to wrestle with. On the one hand, he was voted to handle a growing hot rod association, and on the other, he had a full-on, year-long racing schedule. He simply couldn't do both.

“AHRA was originally set up as a non-profit organization and realistically, I suppose I could’ve been seen as a figurehead president,” Garlits recalled. “Jim Tice used to be involved in insurance and he took the company books with him to Kansas City, while I was racing in Florida. I didn't think there was anything crooked going on, he was a businessman, but over the years, AHRA changed subtly into a profit-making organization.”

By late 1959, Tice had become president of the organization, and not surprisingly, AHRA’s National Championships race was held at Kansas City International in 1960. The 1960 event marked the final time AHRA would be a one-race organization. A year later, AHRA’s assault on the drag racing world was two-pronged.

In 1961, AHRA made a bold move west when it hosted its first Winter Championships on January 28-29 in Henderson, Nevada. As with so many first-time drag races, there were problems. There were no lights at the old airport track and the race was called on account of darkness. The three teams left for overall Top Eliminator honors were Waters-Sughrue-Guinn (A / FD), Chet Herbert-Lefty Mudersbach (AA / GD), and Fred Dabney (A / MR) and they decided to split the money. AHRA then designated Mudersbach as the event champion based on the fact that he’d set low e.t. with an 8.83.

Interestingly enough, NHRA bounced back from a disastrous 1960 Winter Nationals (a joint production with NASCAR) in Flagler Beach, Fla., and hosted the first of their fabled Winternationals events in Pomona, Calif., a weekend later.

AHRA’s Winter Championships cleaned up a good deal the following year when the organization moved to two-year-old Fontana Raceway in Southern California, a track that had lights, ample pits and good traction. The Fuel Eliminator title went to Kansas City chassis builder Rod Stuckey at the wheel of the Ansen Automotive dragster after they finished ahead of Jim Ward in Ted Cyr’s dragster in the final.

The second move by AHRA was its switch of National Championship sites to Green Valley Race City in Smithfield, Texas and if there was one track that was identified with the organization it was this one. If NHRA had Indy and IHRA Bristol, then Green Valley was AHRA's equivalent. From 1961 through 1976, AHRA held a national event at this facility, always either its National Championship drags or its World Championships events. For 16 consecutive years, the AHRA biggie was always at Green Valley.

Bill Hielscher vs Harold Tomlinson (heads-up Super Stock). Green Valley Race City, Smithfield, Tex.

It wasn’t until 1977 that one of the organization’s top Sportsman racers and Green Valley track owner Bill Hielscher switched hot rod sanctions and went NHRA that season.

For the most part, the first half of the 1960’s for AHRA were stable in regards to race location. AHRA began holding its winter championship race in Arizona, beginning in 1963 at Mel Larson's Arizona Raceway in Phoenix. Except for a one-stop show at Irwindale Raceway in 1966, AHRA’s winter programs were held at Beeline Dragway just off McDowell Rd. in Scottsdale, Ariz., from 1964 through 1974.

As the decade of the 1960’s wore on, though, AHRA branched out to other venues. In 1964, AHRA added a Summer Nationals event at U.S. 30 in Gary, Indiana, and a year later, moved west to Wilmington, Calif. and Lions Dragstrip with an AHRA World Championships race. In 1967, AHRA grew to five national event sites and in 1969, AHRA ballooned up to a super-healthy 10 national events, holding races at Scottsdale, Detroit, Memphis, Bristol (twice), Lions, New York National Speedway, Rockingham in N.C., and Tulsa, Okla.


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