October 1, 2007
NHRA founder Wally Parks dead at age 94
Glendora, California – Wally Parks, the driving force behind the formation of the NHRA drag racing association, has died at the age of 94. Parks’ goals of side-by-side racing in a safe, controlled environment helped to create the NHRA in 1951, which is today the world’s largest motorsports governing body. In addition to the association, Parks played a pivotal role in the establishment of an industry devoted to automotive aftermarket parts and accessories that has become a multi-billion-dollar business.
Born in Oklahoma, Parks moved to California with his family as a child; there, he later took an interest in hot rods and in early speed trials conducted in the Mojave Desert. In 1937, he helped form the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), and served as one of its officials until World War II. He returned to the SCTA as general manager after working as a road test driver and process engineer for General Motors; he was responsible for America’s first hot rod show, presented by the SCTA in Los Angeles in 1948.
That year, Parks helped co-publishers Bob Petersen and Bob Lindsay introduce Hot Rod magazine, and was later named its first editor; in 1949, he organized the campaign that led to the opening of the Bonneville Salt Flats for hot rod speed trials. Among his many awards were SEMA’s Man of the Year in 1973, and induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Parks was predeceased by his wife Barbara, who died in 2006 after a long illness.