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Wally Parks (1913 - 2007)


Pumpkin Pilot
Staff member
Elite Explorer
February 8, 1999
Reaction score
City, State
Wayoutin, Aridzona
Year, Model & Trim Level
'93 XL Pumpkin Edition
Patriarch of Drag Racing Dies at Age 94

GLENDORA, Calif. (Sept. 28, 2007) - Wally Parks, the driving force behind the
formation of NHRA, has died at the age of 94. It was Parks' vision, goals and
unconditional commitment to the need for speed and side-by-side racing in a safer,
more controlled environment that created what is today the world's largest
motorsports governing body.

"Today is a sad day in the world of NHRA and the sport of drag racing," said Tom
Compton, president of NHRA. "Words simply can't describe the immeasurable impact
Wally has had on the sport he created and the millions of people's lives he touched
along the way. The name Wally Parks is synonymous with drag racing, and his vision
and direction will guide NHRA for years to come. Everyone in drag racing, and the
industries formed to service the sport, will forever be indebted to Wally, his
vision, his focus and his desire to create, build and grow NHRA."

"Wally spent his lifetime doing what he loved," said Dallas Gardner, chairman of the
NHRA board of directors. "He marked the path and led the way for this incredible
industry and the sport of drag racing. Wally was NHRA, and through his dream came a
path to follow with lofty goals and ambition. He put the people in place and trusted
in them. He has not abandoned us. He has left us with a road map that he knows will
be followed."

Parks, who founded NHRA in 1951, received countless awards in the motorsports world
and played a pivotal role in the establishment of an entire industry devoted to
speed and automotive aftermarket parts and accessories that today is a
multibillion-dollar business. Yet Parks never implied that he did it all himself.
His pride and joy, and where he spent most of his time in recent years while still
serving on NHRA's board of directors, was The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
presented by Automobile Club of Southern California at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif.

Details regarding arrangements and planned events will be released at a later date.

WALLY PARKS, 1913-2007
NHRA founder
Chairman of NHRA Motorsports Museum

The primary driving force behind the formation of the National Hot Rod Association,
Wally Parks was the visionary whose early goals created what today is the world's
largest motorsports governing body.

Parks, who founded NHRA in 1951, never implied that he did it all himself.
Reflecting on the tremendous growth and success of NHRA, he noted how fortunate he
was that so many dedicated people had shared his outlook that almost anything is
possible if you believe in it strongly enough. One of the most dedicated was
unquestionably his late wife, Barbara Parks, who was regarded as the most
influential behind-the-scenes force in the growth of NHRA. Mrs. Parks succumbed to
cancer in late January of 2006 after a long battle with the devastating illness.

But without Parks' vision and perseverance, much of what has happened may not have
been achieved.

Born in Oklahoma and living in Kansas until age 8, Parks and his family then moved
to California, where his automotive interests surfaced. In his high school years, he
became active in building stripped-down Model-T Fords and Chevy fours for use on the
street and in early speed trials conducted on dry lakebeds in the Mojave Desert,
north of Los Angeles.

In 1937, Parks took part in the formation of the Southern California Timing
Association (SCTA) - an organization focused on conducting land speed record events
- serving as one of its officials until World War II began. In 1946, following
military service in the South Pacific, Parks was elected president of the
reorganized SCTA. In 1947, after 10 years of employment as a road test driver and
process engineer for General Motors, Parks left GM to assume a new role as the
SCTA's general manager. It was his concept that produced America's first Hot Rod
Show, presented by the SCTA in 1948 at the Los Angeles Exposition Armory.

In 1948, Parks helped co-publishers Bob Petersen and Bob Lindsay in the introduction
of Hot Rod magazine, which became one of the world's largest-circulation
auto-enthusiast publications, and later was named its first editor. In 1949, Parks
organized the campaign that led to the opening of Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats for
hot rod speed trials - a still-thriving annual activity.

In 1951, utilizing Hot Rod as a conduit to nationwide readership, Parks formed the
NHRA. In 1963, he resigned his position as editorial director for all of Petersen's
automotive magazines - Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Car Craft, Sports Car Graphic and Motor
Life - to assume full-time administrative duties as president of NHRA.

An early recipient of Car Craft magazine's prestigious Ollie Award for his many
contributions to motorsports, Parks was named Man of the Decade, 1962-1972 by
Popular Hot Rodding magazine and was recognized as Man of the Year in 1973 by the
Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). The American Auto Racing Writers &
Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) honored Parks in 1988 and again in 1994 for his
pioneering efforts in motorsports. Parks received his highest honors in 1992 and
1993. He was drag racing's first inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of
Fame in 1992 in Talladega, Ala., and in 1993, he was inducted into the Motorsports
Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich.

In 1994, the tributes to Parks' legacy continued to pile up. A large bronze statue
of Parks was presented at NHRA's Gainesville Raceway, which was eventually moved to
its current location in front of the NHRA Motorsports Museum at Fairplex in Pomona,
Calif. Later in 1994, Parks and wife Barbara were co-inductees into the Don Garlits
International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Ocala, Fla., for their pioneering efforts,
which spearheaded NHRA's success. Parks also was the first recipient of the Don
Prudhomme Award, a trophy presented by NHRA to an individual who has made a profound
impact on the growth and positive image of the NHRA POWERade Series.
At the 2001 NHRA Awards Ceremony, Parks was presented the prestigious Blaine Johnson
Award for his dedication, perseverance and nurturing commitment to the sport
throughout the years.

In 2002, Parks again was recognized for his many contributions to the sport of drag
racing. He was presented with the inaugural Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement
Award at the fourth annual Hot Rod & Performance Trade Show in Indianapolis. The
late Petersen, a renowned automotive publisher and creator of multiple automotive
magazines, then presented Parks with the all-bronze sculpture which was created to
honor the entrepreneurs who have contributed to the history, growth and well-being
of the hot rod industry.

In late 2003, Parks received another honor of distinction, as he was named the Dean
Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Motor Press Guild in Los Angeles.

Parks remained on NHRA's board of directors and dedicated much of his time to his
personal involvement with the cultivation and expansion of The Wally Parks NHRA
Motorsports Museum at Fairplex in Pomona, home of the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA
Winternationals and Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Although
much of the museum's historical focus is on the evolution of NHRA and drag racing,
it also features many other forms of motorsports that relate closely to the
formative years of NHRA, including dry lakes, Bonneville, oval track racing, and
allied performance industries.

These are elements that appealed most to Wally Parks, a guy who had been there, done
that, and enjoyed and appreciated it for decades.

**Editor's Note: High-res image of Parks available here -

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Southern Cali Explorer
November 14, 2004
Reaction score
City, State
Newport Beach California & Bay Area California
Year, Model & Trim Level
2001 Sport (sold)
R.I.P. Wally Marks


Explorer Addict
November 7, 2003
Reaction score
City, State
Nuevo, CA (where?)
Year, Model & Trim Level
07 Titan SE
slowly we are losing all the real racing legends......


Pumpkin Pilot
Staff member
Elite Explorer
February 8, 1999
Reaction score
City, State
Wayoutin, Aridzona
Year, Model & Trim Level
'93 XL Pumpkin Edition
I think it's pretty amazing that Wally lived to 94 after spending a lifetime at the drags, inhaling nitromethane, racing fuel and burning rubber.

Come to think of it... That sounds like a healthy diet to me!:burnout:

RIP Wally


Explorer Addict
January 8, 2006
Reaction score
City, State
Humboldt Ks
Year, Model & Trim Level
1997 Mountaineer 5.0
RIP Wally Parks tis a sad day :(