This story originally ran in April 2018
Drag racing has always been a sport of movement. From the very beginnings of standing quarter-mile competition, people have devised different ways to traverse the drag strip. The trend continues today, and one of the hottest segments in the sport is grudge racing. Unlike class racing where records are prized and everyone’s performance is out in the open to see, grudge racing is a different scene.
Times are not shown on the scoreboards, engine combinations are often kept secret or even made to be misleading, and the one thing that speaks louder than all else is cash. Grudge racing is not as much about the trophy as it is about the hustle, and with shows like the Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws continuing to grab millions of viewers a week, more and more people are finding the grudge scene and exploring it.
Grudge racing is not street racing. Grudge racing is not no-prep racing. Grudge racing is the most pure form of drag racing that exists today and harks back to the early days of the sport. The only things that matter are a green light and a win light. That’s it. It’s gritty, it’s fun, and it is very different than the world of national event style competition.
That being said, the NHRA is paying attention and for the second time in the western states, grudge racers took to the stage at an NHRA national event. This time it was the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. Cars from the big and small tire categories of the West Coast Hot Rod Association took to the track in a four-wide format for bragging rights, some self-raised cash, and a cool one-off Wally style trophy to signify their accomplishments in the exhibition.
Why the heck would NHRA do this? The logic seems simple to us. These are racers that fans would otherwise never get to see. These are racers who compete at the track where the national event is being held. These are racers that could help support the track by drawing more fans back to see different events outside of the nationals. These are also racers who have their own following. It’s a huge win for an organization that has been accused of tone-deafness before, and it is a huge win for the racers who get to have some fun and show off in front of a crowd that they otherwise would not be able to compete in front of.
By all accounts, the event was a smashing success with the racers getting a once in a lifetime shot to run grudge style four-wide and the fans seeing cars and craziness that they had never seen before. The NHRA will reportedly continue this exhibition series throughout the season, and there’s some more no-time action planned in Charlotte as well as some of the stars of the No-Prep world scheduled to compete in Houston. The program seems to be gaining steam as time goes on.
The commitment shown by Danny and Rachelle Topol of the West Coast Hot Rod Association was awesome. Racers traveled from California, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho to compete.
In the small tire category, Ryan “Toaster” Jones took the victory in his single turbo 400ci LSx-powered Nova besting three other competitors in the final.
In the big tire category, Giuseppe Gentile, driving a twin turbocharged Big Block Ford-powered Mustang, grabbed the top honors. Gentile was piloting the car that is owned by Bob Remillard.
Here’s more of the story in photos and captions: