History of the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League
It all started with a man and a dream for his kids
When Vince Napp (right), an NHRA member-track owner with a passion for drag racing, built a half-scale dragster for his kids in 1991, he never dreamed that his invention would launch an exciting new sport for thousands of young people across North America. But that's exactly what happened.
Napp showed his Jr. Dragster to NHRA officials in early 1992, a timely presentation considering that NHRA had already been planning a publication for its younger drag racing fans. The Jr. Dragster became a catalyst for the NHRA to start a whole new league: the Jr. Drag Racing League (JDRL).
NHRA unveiled the Jr. Dragsters July 9, 1992, during the 23rd annual Mopar Parts Nationals at Napp's Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. The capacity crowd witnessed the first Jr. Dragster exhibition race by Jill Caliendo and Napp's son, David.
July 9, 1992: David Napp, near lane, and Jill Caliendo
Two more dragsters were built, and an exhibition tour continued at the remaining 10 national events of the 1992 season. At each site, an information tent was used to determine interest and solicit information sign-ups. The response was overwhelmingly positive. NHRA member tracks began adding JDRL programs, and dozens of builders began filling orders for Jr. Dragsters. Racers began competing at local tracks in 1993 as the League grew at an astounding rate. Jr. DRAGSTER
, the official publication of the JDRL, debuted in September of that year.
In 1994, NHRA sponsored the first Jr. Drag Racing League National Championships at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Ind., which drew more than 500 young drivers.
Each season, the JDRL continues to achieve new levels of success. More than 20 years after the first exhibition run, the JDRL has thousands of participants, who compete at about 130 tracks across the country. The NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League Eastern and Western Conference Finals are the premier events of the JDRL season, each awarding Wallys and close to $50,000 in purse money every year.
The league has produced a number of the strong drivers who have gone on to achieve great success in a number of NHRA's "big car" programs. From the Summit Racing Series programs at NHRA's 130 member tracks to the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing and Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, former Jr. racers are using the skills they learned in the Jr. Drag Racing League to compete and win in "big cars." "Big car" standouts who got their start in the Jr. Drag Racing League include 2013 Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon (also a two-time Super Comp national champion); Top Fuel racers Spencer Massey, Leah Pritchett, and J.R. Todd; Funny Car competitor Blake Alexander; Pro Stock drivers Erica Enders-Stevens (the first woman to ever win in Pro Stock), Danny Gruninger, Chris McGaha, Vincent Nobile, and Shane Tucker; Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Katie Sullivan; 2013 Stock national champion Justin Lamb; 2013 Super Comp national champion Luke Bogacki; 2011 Stock national champion Joe Santangelo; 2010 Super Stock national champion Ryan McClanahan; and 17-time national event winner Brad Plourd.