The reason why it’s a Classic instead of a Hot read is because Iowahawk penned this back in 2006. I’ll give you the open, and leave you to read the history:
February, as we know, is Black History Month. February is also the official start of the drag racing season, beginning with the annual NHRA Winternationals at Pomona. Coincidence? Maybe. I can’t claim any expert knowledge about Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois or other textbook notables, but I do know a bit about drag racing; and I know that African American gearheads have been trailblazing the quarter mile for some 50 years. They might not be Dr. King, but I think their stories deserve a retelling, too.
Some background: American car racing has three major branches — road racing, oval, and drag/lakes racing — and each has its own distinct socioeconomic history and heritage. Road racing first developed as the leisure pursuit of coastal bluebloods, who had the cash to afford pricey European sports cars and the winding country lanes on which to play with them. Oval track racing — including open wheel, sprints, and stock cars — has always been a more blue collar phenomenon, evolving out of the county fairground horse tracks of the Midwest and South. Nascar shares this heritage, along with an additional link to moonshine runners in the segregated South. For obvious economic and social reasons, neither of these racing forums were conducive to Black participation.
By contrast, drag racing evolved with fewer cultural barriers. Like oval track racing it was a blue collar phenomenon, a natural extension of straight-line street racing by young guys in cheap homebuilt hot rods. Unlike oval racing, it developed largely on the postwar West Coast, a society less encumbered by the legacy of segregation. As a result drag racing was more or less born ‘multicultural’ and egalitarian; the roll call of hod rodding greats — Xydias, Iskenderian, Hirohata, Pedregon, Karamesines — reads like a passenger list from Ellis Island. And African Americans were there from its inception.