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New exhibit at NHRA museum traces drag racing evolution

Aug 15, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT

(Photo courtesy NHRA Motorsports Museum.) (Photo courtesy NHRA Motorsports Museum.)

After nearly 18 months of redesign and expansion, the National Hot Rod Association Motorsports Museum recently opened one of its most ambitious and interactive displays ever.

The Pomona, Calif.-based museum (on the site of the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds), now in its 16th year of existence, recently debuted “Gallery of Speed,” which tells the story of drag racing from its early days to the present time.

“It’s not just an exhibit but a new learning experience that offers a unique look into the fascinating world of hot rodding and motorsports,” museum executive director Larry Fisher told Louis Brewster of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “We will tell the stories of the great American hot rod, and those who built and raced them, in a new light.

“We will not only celebrate the cars but the people, the engineering, the science and the sheer audacity of those who pushed the limits in pursuit of speed.”

The exhibit presents a number of different elements, including the first car to hit 235 mph (Art Chrisman’s land-speed racer from 1952).

There’s also a mural of the adjacent Auto Club Raceway, which hosts the NHRA season opening Winternationals and season ending World Finals.

“This is awesome, I’m impressed,” Funny Car driver Ron Capps told Brewster. “I’ll have to let people know how cool this is.”

The museum was begun by NHRA founder Wally Parks in 1998, with the overall theme of “Dedicated to Safety.” Parks passed away nine years later at the age of 94, but the museum has become a living legacy to him, the evolution of the drag racing culture in Southern California and how large NHRA drag racing has become as a professional sport.

“It’s an exhibit Wally Parks would be proud of,” said longtime museum curator Greg Sharp. “We wanted to develop a new approach to learning about the history of hot rodding, motorsports and the individuals who influenced American car culture.”

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