Clark Rader Sr. (back right) watches as the ribbon is
cut to open NTR in 1964.
The Rader Years
Using the premise "Build it and they will come," Clark
Rader Sr., a man who made his fame through vaudeville
acts, along with sons Clark Jr. and Ben, broke ground
for National Trail Raceway in the fall of 1963.
Located in Kirkersville, it was a 320-acre facility,
the fifth largest of its kind in the United States at
the time. Upon completion of the complex in 1964, the
Raders began the work towards making National Trail
Raceway the best racing facility in the Midwest.
Clark Rader Jr.
In 1972, after using three different tracks in the
seven years, National Trail Raceway played host for
the first time to the NHRA Springnationals. NHRA
Founder and Board Chairman Wally Parks stated “we had
the feeling that we were 10 years overdue because of
the tremendous fan base that was indicated by NHRA
membership and National DRAGSTER circulation numbers
from the area.“ Their suspicions proved correct when
the race drew more than 40,000 spectators and 600
cars. On both Saturday and Sunday, the gates had to be
closed while cars were still sitting on Route 40
waiting to get in to the event as the grounds were
already full. National Trail Raceway was an instant
success - unfortunately, one that the Clark Rader Sr.
was unable to share with his sons due to his death
just months before the event went off. That was a
heartbreak to Clark Jr. because his father had worked
so hard to bring the event to the facility.
The Springnationals continued to prosper and grow
through the watch of the Rader family. National Trail
Raceway was the first track that Shirley Muldowney won
a national event at (1976) and held the first all
female professional final round in NHRA history (Muldowney
def. Lucille Lee in 1982) NTR was the site of the
emotional win of Frank Hawley at the wheel of Darrel
Gwynn’s Top Fuel dragster in their first event after
Gwynn’s terrible accident in England during the 1990
season. NTR also was the host of the NHRA Sportsman
Allstars event on Saturday during the national event.
All of the big names in NHRA like Garlits, Beck,
Kalitta, Amato, Prudhomme, Bernstein, Beetle, Force,
Glidden, Jenkins, Nicholson, Shepherd, and Johnson
graced the winner circle under the Rader watch. While
suprisies like Chip Woodall, Bob Pickett, Richie Zul,
and Craig Eppley also won. For the fans of Central
Ohio, their was plenty of excietment for everyone.
After such a successful beginning, Clark and Ben built
additional stands, more restrooms, and a larger pit
area and added more asphalt to the strip. Their crowds
had grown from 40,000 in 1972 to over 120,000 in 1995.
Through all the years, Clark and Ben worked the track
personally and kept it up and running through the 1995
season. In 1996, NHRA purchased the track from the
Rader family and started a new era in the track’s
The NHRA Years
With the purchase of NTR by NHRA, the track began to
have several improvements including the new VIP and
operations tower, a completely repaved track surface,
pit improvements and expansion, and other amenities.
The Springnationals was renamed the
Tony Schumacher rockets to 4.486 336.15 win in 2005
final round Pontiac Excitement Nationals and then to
the Pontiac Performance Nationals. One of the biggest
highlights to come at NTR happened in 2005 when first
the national event was changed from mid June to mid
May. Then at the event, Tony Schumacher set the NHRA
National Speed record at 336.15 mph. The action
continues throughout each and every summer here at
National Trail Raceway. Home to many of the greatest
touring series in the nation including NMRA, Import
FaceOff, Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the Super Chevy
Show, and the Mopar Nationals, National Trail Raceway
will continue to advance and strive to become the
greatest racing facility in the Midwest.
In the early part of 2001, the National Trail Raceway
community lost a great patriot arc when Clark Rader
Jr. past away. Even though he had sold the track,
Clark was still visible at the track during racing
events throughout the rest of his life. Though Clark
has left us, we can rest assured he will be watching
over his National Trail Raceway, as always.
Thank you, Clark, for all of your hard work and
contributions to the sport of drag racing.
About National Trail Raceway
Track Surface: Concrete/Asphalt
Concrete Launch pad: 660 Feet
Track Direction: North to South
Elevation: 900 Feet
Top Fuel: 2006 / Tony Schumacher
ET: 4.476 @ 336.15 mph
Wally Parks Tribute
Wally Parks, the driving force behind the formation of
NHRA, died on September 28th 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.
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
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
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
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
These are elements that appealed most to Wally Parks,
a guy who had been there, done that, and enjoyed and
appreciated it for decades.
To look back at the great Wally Parks and everything
that he meant to NHRA and drag racing as a form of
racing, please visit the NHRA Wally page.