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NHRA Motorsports Museum to Open First Weekend in April

11 March 1998

POMONA, Calif. -- The grand opening of the NHRA Motorsports Museum at Fairplex has been set for April 3- 4, museum officials announced recently.

The 28,500 square-foot museum will feature approximately 50 vintage and historical cars, firesuits, helmets, trophies, photographs, artwork and other memorabilia chronicling the history of drag racing, street rods, dry lake, Bonneville racing as well as other forms of motorsports. In addition, the museum will feature a gift shop and facilities for meetings and press conferences.

A special invitation-only open house is scheduled at the museum for Friday, April 3, where media, community leaders, exhibit contributors, NHRA employees and other special guests will tour the facility. The doors of the facility will open to the public the following day. In conjunction with the museum's grand opening, the Good Guys Series will hold its annual Spring Nationals at the Fairplex during the weekend. The Spring Nationals, a non-racing event, is a showcase for custom street rods and other high performance vehicles.

Attractions scheduled to appear in the museum include Tommy Ivo's four-engine 'Showboat', drag racing's most famous exhibition vehicle; Kenny Bernstein's 1992 Budweiser King Top Fuel dragster, the first car to break the 300 mph barrier in NHRA competition; Warren Johnson's 1997 GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird, the first Pro Stock machine to break the 200 mph barrier; 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits' 1971 Swamp Rat 14, the first successful rear-engine dragster that changed Top Fuel racing forever; and Art Chrisman's #25, the first car to make a pass at the inaugural 1955 NHRA Nationals in Grand Bend, Kan., and the oldest known functioning hot rod.

The facility will be located adjacent to Pomona Raceway, also an attraction at Fairplex, and site of two annual NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series events, the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals presented by Pennzoil and season-ending Winston Finals. NHRA Motorsports Museum Director Steve Gibbs says the location of the museum is perfect.

"We are pleased that we could create a museum for racing fans on the West Coast," Gibbs said. "And we're thankful for all of the cooperation we received from Fairplex officials in this project for making such an inviting structure available to house the museum. We feel like this is the logical place to have the museum, in southern California, where NHRA originated."

The museum will contain a combination of cars donated, restored and others on loan for extended periods of time. Gibbs said the project has been in the planning stages for several years, headed by NHRA Historical Services.

"This project has been long overdue," Gibbs said. "Now NHRA will be better able to preserve the great history of drag racing, and better educate new fans about the sport's past. I know this has been a lifelong dream of Wally Parks', and it means a lot to me to see it come true for him during his lifetime."

Said Parks, NHRA's 85-year-old founder: "I'm really looking forward to the grand opening. We started our formal planning on this project in the early '90s, but hadn't been able to settle on a location. The location we've found at the Fairplex is what we had in mind and it's great that we have the opportunity to put the museum near Pomona Raceway. I think the most important thing is that it's just not going to be a drag racing museum. We are pleased to be able to make a tribute to other forms of racing in our hot rod world, like street rods and dry lake racing. The museum is going to be a very special place."

The museum will be open year-round, Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Extended hours will be posted for the museum during special Fairplex events.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors (60-older), $3 for juniors (6-15) and free for children (5-under). Current NHRA members will be admitted free of charge.

The NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex inside gate one at 1101 W. McKinley.