If you haven't seen a Jr. Dragster, then you haven't seen the future of NHRA Drag Racing ...
The NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League offers kids ages 5-17 a chance to race half-scale dragsters in a controlled environment at many of NHRA's 130 member tracks throughout the United States and in Canada long before they can obtain a state driver's license. Membership in the Jr. Drag Racing League is required for competition.
The cars that Jr. Drag Racing League competitors race are called Jr. Dragsters and are half-scale versions of Top Fuel dragsters. Using a five-horsepower, single-cylinder engine, a Jr. Dragster can go as fast as 85 mph and as quick as 7.90 seconds in an eighth-mile, though younger age groups are restricted to slower times/speeds.
Many of NHRA's 130 member tracks offer weekly Jr. Drag Racing League programs where kids can race to earn points toward track championships in their age group. The points leaders in each class are then chosen to represent their track at the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Western or Eastern Conference Finals depending on the location of the track.
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 Eastern and Western Conference Finals are the premier events of the JDRL season, each awarding Wallys and 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 2014-15 Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders; 2013 Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon (also a two-time Super Comp national champion); Top Fuel racers Leah Pritchett and J.R. Todd; Funny Car competitor Blake Alexander; Pro Stock drivers Deric Kramer, Chris McGaha, and Vincent Nobile; Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Katie Sullivan and Melissa Surber; 2015 Super Stock/2013 Stock national champion Justin Lamb; 2015 Super Comp national champion Kevin Brannon; 2015 Top Sportsman national champion Jeffrey Barker; 2014 Super Gas/2013 Super Comp national champion Luke Bogacki; 2014 Stock national champion Austin Williams; 2011 Stock national champion Joe Santangelo; and 2010 Super Stock national champion Ryan McClanahan.