Jim Baker's Then and Now

Al Corda is still winning after all these years

Al Corda lives drag racing and has since the mid-sixties. This makes the Wisconsin native an icon in drag racing and a renaissance man to boot! I watched him in 1971 as he won his first national title, Stock Eliminator at the ’71 U.S. Nationals.


Skip forward to 2016-17 at Tucson Dragway, and we were astonished to see the name AL CORDA on the side of a beautiful red ’15 Chevrolet Camaro in the Stock/Super Stock competition. Sure enough it is the same person, many years later and still going strong. (He won the Tucson Dragway event!)

We saw the car several times during the winter months of ’16. He was back at Tucson in late 2017 and still winning. This year, 2018, when we talked to Al during the LODRS race at Wild Horse Pass, I inquired “How do you do all this”?


He responded quickly that he purchased a retirement home in Sun City West, a part of the Phoenix metro area, and bases his racing operation there during the cold winter months.


Graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1971 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering still allowed him time to place second at the ’71 Ontario Motor Speedway, NHRA World Finals. Pretty good start for a young aspiring national event runner, who then proceeded to night school earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration!


With his education complete he purchased Rock Falls Raceway in Eau Claire, WI.

In 2015, Al sold the Raceway to a close friend, who was involved in the operation for many years. He can now concentrate on his active racing schedule at a time many are sitting in their rocking chairs watching FS1. Al said he schedules 15 national events per year and tries to run at least five LODRS point races too. He remains active in the Rock Falls operation to a much lesser degree.


Al’s first long time winner was a Plymouth station wagon with Street Hemi power, which placed him in B/SA. Light years later, in 2018 Al is once again fielding a B/SA, however it is now a Chevrolet Camaro.

2003 NHRA Winternationals,  9.97 E.T. Record  (photo by Phil Elliot). Two years prior, in 2001, Al kicked of the season winning Stock Eliminator at the NHRA Arizona Nationals! The Pontiac with an LS1 GM motor was highly successful, but as Al said, “They quit making them.” Not to be denied his winning combination, Al brought out the current 2015 Chevrolet Camaro.

The debut of the ’15 Camaro occurred at Tri State Raceway in Earlville. Iowa, and of course it was an NHRA points race. The new Camaro is not only a ‘looker’, it is also a ‘winner’. Most recently Corda was the #8 qualifier at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Chicago land, making it to the third round of competition, where he broke out by .004.

The 2018 season got off to a great start when Al won at Wild Horse Pass during a Club race which featured Stock/Super Stock competition. In the final, a wild ‘Hell Cat’ Challenger turned on the red bulb after learning of Corda’s prior reaction times, all .00s.


While Al’s current ride is a Camaro, no longer an ‘old’ Pontiac, much of the same GM technology remains. The new bright red car races in B/SA and is competitive as were all  of Corda’s 19 previous entries for NHRA competition.

The current GM power plant with aluminum heads, fuel injection, 8 coils, pushing a highly modified Metric 200 transmission to a modest 120bolt GM rear axle which features an aluminum spool and rifle drilled axles. Goodyear tires on Bogart wheels paste the power to the track.

Al is a supporter of NMCA and the rise of NHRA Nostalgia racing.  So he pulled his old Dodge Dart out of storage and ‘freshened’ it up for battle as shown in this May 4, 2016, pic.  To Al, freshened means increasing the 440 cubic inch wedge Mopar to 500 inches, Indy Aluminum cyl. heads and a few other ‘tid bits’ like a new set of Mickey Thompson 10.5” wide tires. And while this may seem ‘out of line’ for the recent GM racer, historians will note that Corda began his career at age 20 in several MOPAR cars.


To quote NHRA’s Bob Frey: “Al Corda is a unique individual. Even in the world of drag racing, where there are a lot of unique individuals, Al stands out. First of all, how many guys who won the 1971 U.S. Nationals are still racing? And, how many of them are still competitive? Then, how many racers can also say that they own and operate a drag strip for a living? I’m not sure, but I think the list is rather short. And, of course, how many guys who were real, honest to goodness, died-in-the-wool Mopar fans can now say that they are happy, deliriously happy, racing a Pontiac? That may be the shortest list of ‘em all. Yep, Al Corda is one of a kind.”

Corda’s record after the ’71 win, includes ’84 runner-up at the NHRA Northstar Nationals; R/U at the ’86 NHRA Winternationals; winner at the ’86 NHRA Gator Nationals; winner of the ’86 NHRA Fall Nationals; winner of the NHRA World Finals; all of which culminated in the 1986 NHRA Stock World Championship. The humble Wisconsin man won another World title in 1997. In ’91 he won at Topeka; ’92 his second Gatornationals victory; and in ’93 he captured another U.S. Nationals title, 22 years after winning his first at Indy. The list of success goes on and on. In fact, Al impressed the publishers of Car Craft Magazine who placed him on the ‘All Star Drag Team’ in 1987 and 1998!


This writer does not come across many racers with the outstanding credentials which seem to ‘come natural’ with Al Corda. Now in his early 70s, and still winning regularly, only he knows when it all will end.


Until Next Time, Be On Time! 



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