LETTER from the EDITOR
When we released our annual State of Drag Issue last year , the sport was in a very difficult position . We were just a couple months removed from a months-long COVID-19 shutdown , and the NHRA Camping World Series was just starting to emerge from its four-month forced hiatus . Things were looking up , but it was still touch and go for a while there .
This time around , drag racing is in a much better spot . Most areas that faced restrictions in 2020 are now completely open , though border closures are still making it difficult , if not impossible , for racers to travel in and out of the U . S . Tracks are seeing streams of racers filling their staging lanes . Fans are returning to pack the grandstands at tracks that weren ’ t allowed to host spectators – or weren ’ t able to open at all – last year . Manufacturers are working through backlogs of orders , as many companies don ’ t have the supplies or workforce to keep up with the pent-up demand for go-fast parts .
Any time we send an issue to print , our shortterm focus turns to cranking out the very next issue . But we often spend some time thinking about what that particular issue will look like a year in the future . When we sent the 2020 State of Drag Issue to print last summer , it was hard to predict what the 2021 State of Drag Issue might look like . Would we need to take a hard look at what needed rebuilding ? Would we need to consider replacements for segments of the sport that were wiped out amid the challenges of the shutdowns ?
Fortunately , drag racing has rebounded in a healthy way . Organizations large and small powered through 2020 , and some are even stronger than they were in the Before Times . So for this State of Drag special issue , we chose to take a look at a variety of topics that highlight the good things happening in the sport .
Nate Van Wagnen Editor-in-Chief
The cover story is an in-depth interview with NHRA Top Fuel star Leah Pruett and her fiancé , three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart . The couple talks about their relationship , which started at the beginning of the pandemic and matured over months in quarantine , and how racing has played a part in it .
Some readers will probably question our decision to put a circle-track guy on the cover of a drag racing magazine , but I believe Stewart has earned his drag racing “ street cred .” He attended every post-shutdown NHRA national event with Pruett last year , and he hasn ’ t missed many this year . He ’ s learned to love the sport . The motorsports superstar has even started making passes in Pruett ’ s Top Fuel car , with his legion of fans tuning in to keep up with his progress online .
As a diehard drag racing guy and follower of motorsports in general , it ’ s really cool to see someone like Stewart get so involved in drag racing , even if it is just to share the experience with his soon-tobe wife . “ Smoke ” claims that he doesn ’ t have plans to actually race in Top Fuel , but considering his background , it ’ s a safe bet to guess he ’ ll change his mind on that in due time .
The issue is also packed with features on things like drag racing video games and Hot Wheel cars that are helping to attract new , young fans to the sport . There ’ s also features on the return of the hugely popular Street Outlaws No Prep Kings series , as well as a roundtable interview with a diverse group of Mountain Motor Pro Stock drivers discussing the state of the class .
It ’ s a unique mix of topics , to be sure , and it ’ s just a brief look at the many positive trends happening in drag racing as we head into the second half of the 2021 season . What has you excited about the future of the sport ? Is there something we missed ? Let us know !
Feel free to email me at nate @ dragillustrated . com and follow me at facebook . com / nitronate1320 and nitronate1320 on Instagram and Twitter .
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12 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 169