Where Did Drag Racing Originate?

did-drag-racing-originate Credit: Karl Gehring/Denver Post/Getty Images

The world's first drag races took place in California's Mojave Desert, where dried-out lake beds provided the perfect locale for uninterrupted racing. According to the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), drag racing's official governing body, an American man named Wally Parks is largely responsible for the development of organized drag racing. After serving in World War II, Parks helped to found the first organized drag racing body, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), which held its first official event in California's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1949.

The NHRA itself was born out of California's post World War II drag racing scene. This organization's first official race was run in 1953 in the Los Angeles area city of Pomona, California, using a section of parking lot at the county fairgrounds. This site has since undergone multiple different modernization efforts.

Military bases in California were also the site of early drag racing activity. According to PBS, one of the first organized races took place in 1949 at California's Goleta Air Force Base, which was largely unused after the war. The end of the second World War likely had a huge influence on drag racing culture. The first official drag strip, which was known as the Santa Ana Drags, was also established in California in the early 1950s, impressing its users with its ultra-modern timing clocks, which relied on computerized components.