Jan 28, 2004
The Mac Tools U.S.
Nationals celebrates 50 years on Labor Day in 2004
(courtesy NHRA marketing)
Throughout the 53 years of NHRA racing, the number of national events
sanctioned by the largest motorsports organization in the world has
varied. But one thing has never changed. The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
at Indianapolis Raceway Park crowns its event champions with the most
coveted trophies in drag racing.
There was a time when the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals was simply referred
to as The Nationals. It was the only national event on the schedule.
It was the first race that brought a nation of racers together in
one spot, competing for the ultimate in bragging rights.
Now, 50 years later, the race still holds the same sentiments.
There are 23 national events on the schedule as the quickest form
of motorsport racing blazes into 20 major U.S. cities each season.
The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will be held Sept. 1-6, at Indianapolis
Raceway Park. It is the 18th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA
POWERade Drag Racing Series. ESPN and its family of networks will
air more than 10 hours of U.S. Nationals race coverage throughout
Labor Day weekend.
If a driver has a wish list, winning the U.S. Nationals is always
at the top.
"If you could pick only one race that you were ever going to
win in your entire life, it would be Indy," said Larry Dixon,
two-time NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion and two-time U.S. Nationals
winner. "When I started driving, Indy was one of the races that
I wanted to do well at. I think it's the only race that I ever won
that brought tears to my eyes. That race means so much to my family
and me and to be able to do well there, with all the history, is very
"That race means more to me than any other race we go to."
Dixon may be the son of a racer and may even call Indianapolis home.
Dixon isn't, however, the only driver to hold the U.S. Nationals in
such high esteem.
The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals has meant different things for different
people. The common beliefs are what bring everyone together in Indianapolis
No other race in the history of the NHRA has brought racers together
for so many consecutive seasons. No other race has produced such key
moments - not just key moments in Indianapolis, but key moments in
NHRA history. No other NHRA national event lasts longer and requires
more energy and focus from a race team. No other race attracts 1,000
competitors every year. Those attributes belong to one race - the
Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
The season may begin and end at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway. The national
records may fall at tracks such as Old Bridge Township Raceway Park
(Englishtown, N.J.) and Maple Grove Raceway (Reading, Pa.). But the
season is defined by winning or losing in Indianapolis.
Greg Anderson earned the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship in 2003.
He also has two U.S. Nationals victories to his credit. He said winning
at Indy just once wasn't enough.
"Your toughest critics are bound to consider your first Indy
win a fluke until you come back and validate the original win with
a second victory," Anderson said. "Indy means that much
to people that they put more emphasis on your performance there. No
one can say that we didn't earn the second win. I won the championship,
but I wanted to have Indy on the list of wins in the same season.
If you win the championship but don't win Indy, it still feels like
you left something on the table." Racers are already looking
ahead to the anniversary celebration and Indianapolis Raceway Park
is preparing for the biggest, most prestigious race in NHRA history
too. The facility has undergone a three-part upgrade that modernized
the facility over the last few years. Some of the improvements include
adding new corporate suites, resurfacing the track and increasing
the length of the concrete launch pad at the starting line.
The U.S. Nationals will continue to be one of the most important stops
on the NHRA circuit. This year, however, means just a little more.
Drivers who have not graced the stage in winner's circle in Indy before
will be trying a little more in 2004. Winning the 50th annual event
will surely be something to tell future generations about.