The NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League will celebrate its 25th anniversary during the 2017 season, commemorating a quarter-century of participation from thousands of kids ages 5-17.
The NHRA will celebrate 25 years of the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League competition at Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events across the country in 2017, as well as at the annual NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Western Conference Finals and NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Eastern Conference Finals. The NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Western Conference Finals takes place at Osage Tulsa Raceway Park in Tulsa, Okla. on June 15-16, while the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Eastern Conference Finals takes place on July 20-22 at Bristol Dragway.
The NHRA unveiled the Jr. Dragsters on July 9, 1992 during the NHRA’s national event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown. It featured the first Jr. Dragster exhibition race by Jill McKenna and David Napp, the son of Vince Napp, who was the catalyst for the start of the league. The NHRA then started the Jr. Drag Racing League (JDRL), providing an opportunity for thousands of kids ages 5-17 to race half-scale dragsters in a controlled environment at many of NHRA’s member tracks throughout the United States and Canada.
"My father’s dream for Junior Drag Racing was really to ensure the future of drag racing because all the other motorsports had karting or a motocross beginning as young as age 5," said David Napp, marketing director and co-owner of Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. “It's a great legacy for him and I'm proud to witness the continued growth of the league."
NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League competitor’s race cars called Jr. Dragsters, which are half-scale versions of the iconic Top Fuel dragsters. They go as fast as 85 mph and as quick as 7.90 seconds in the eighth-mile using a five-horsepower, single-cylinder engine, though younger age groups are restricted to slower times and speeds.
The NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League has shown impressive growth since its start in 1992, and it also has been where many top NHRA drivers got their start in racing. The list includes world champions like Pro Stock’s Erica Enders and Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon, who won a JDRL national championship in 1997, as well standouts such as Top Fuel’s Leah Pritchett, Funny Car driver J.R. Todd, Pro Stock competitors Deric Kramer, Chris McGaha and Vincent Nobile, as well as Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Cory Reed and Melissa Surber.
“It's hard to believe it’s been 25 years,” Enders said. “It is such a cool deal. I was blessed enough to have a family that supported what I wanted to do from early on. My dad raced and I still very clearly remember the night we were in the garage talking while he worked on his hot rod, and I opened National Dragster and read the story about the JDRL starting up. It obviously changed everything for me. Just look at the life it's turned into for me. I get to do what I love.”
For Enders, her success in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League was chronicled by the Disney Channel movie Right On Track which profiled her and her sister’s first steps in the sport.
“The Disney movie just made the whole thing explode. After it came out there were little girls dragging their dads to the Pro Stock pits to see us and say hello,” Enders continued. “So many kids over the years said I inspired them to race and that's so flattering. I hear people all the time say they didn't even know drag racing until they saw the movie. It was so big for me and for the Jr. Drag Racing League. To see how many kids do this now is so crazy.”
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.