There was plenty working against all of us in 2020 and that includes drag racing organizations.
Drawing big numbers in the midst of a public health crisis seemed challenging at best and near-impossible at worst. Yet, the strength of drag racers shined through time and time again.
We saw record participation at bracket races across the country, furthering the belief that participants were willing to do whatever it would take to race. But that was never more apparent than the annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, which is obviously the biggest race of the year.
If ever there seemed a year where the race wouldn’t quite seem so grand, 2020 seemed to be it. NHRA didn’t race for nearly five months due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and when the series returned in mid-July, it was extremely cautious in its return. Fan attendance was limited and there was a gradual build-up as NHRA raced three times at the famed Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Going back a fourth time, during the traditional Labor Day Weekend slot this time, it seemed like we were destined for a repeat of the first three Indy races. Those were all great and everyone deserved credit for a commendable effort just to get the sport moving again, but the U.S. Nationals is special.
Well, in the face of seemingly tremendous odds, the 2020 U.S. Nationals turned out to be extremely special and deserves to be mentioned for a long time. Nearly 900 cars across 17 classes filled up the spacious land at Lucas Oil Raceway, a crowning moment for NHRA and the sport if there ever was one in 2020.
The near-900 entries actually topped the number of participants in the 2019 U.S. Nationals when life was actually normal. That’s a phenomenal accomplishment and tremendous nod to the spirit and perseverance of each participant, team, sponsor and the NHRA.
We enjoyed full fields everywhere, with Pro Stock drawing an impressive 23 cars during the weekend. For a class on life support just a few short years ago, the class has enjoyed a healthy resurgence and seems in a terrific place heading to 2021 and beyond.
Another major draw was the inclusion of the JEGS Allstars event, which was added to the U.S. Nationals after race cancellations over the summer had the specialty event searching for a home. Let’s hope “The Big Go” is the permanent spot for the all-star event, as it adds another dose of prestige to the biggest race weekend of the year.
We also saw the Pro Bike Battle for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class take place, eliminations on Sunday – an ideal move for all parties – and great racing throughout the weekend.
It also felt like a major drag race, as fans came out in full force – at least as many as were legally allowed due to COVID restrictions. That aspect was big, as there was a certain “big race” feeling in the air. It felt like the U.S. Nationals and with 900 cars taking part, that was a welcome feeling in 2020.
This feature is a part of Drag Illustrated’s “Best of 2020” series, where we’ll take a look back at some of the biggest runs, best moments and most memorable happenings from the 2020 season.