When I turned 13, my mother gave me a subscription to HOT ROD magazine for a birthday present. Wally Parks' monthly editorials were about the NHRA Safety Safari, a traveling caravan that would set up temporary dragstrips on abandoned World War II training airstrips across the country. It became my dream to work for this fellow and be a part of his campaign to perpetuate this sport of drag racing. My dream became reality in 1975 when Dave Densmore and I, initially under the auspices of Dave McClelland, headed up the press and publicity department for Wally. Together we helped get our sport of drag racing into the pages of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and THE LA TIMES and on the networks and media saturation in every market where a national event was held through 1986. Mine was a position I cherished and enjoyed every working day.
You didn't work for Wally Parks; you worked with Wally Parks. Because of his publishing background, his main interest was always the publicity side and his focus was on NATIONAL DRAGSTER and national publicity. It was through these two tools that Wally established credibility for the sport of drag racing; credibility from which we all profit today. I am convinced were it not for his integrity and uprightness, we would all still be racing on the back roads; Wally brought drag racing from the back woods to Wall Street, from HOT ROD magazine to the NEW YORK TIMES.
In the seventies and eighties, I often compared Wally to Ronald Reagan, never ruling by intimidation but orchestrating talented people with harmony toward a common goal to grow our sport with passion. He never raised his voice and never scolded those of us who, quite frankly, deserved a good correction from time to time. Wally was always the perfect gentleman.
Wally's formation of organized drag racing spawned the performance and after-market industry of today, creating more millionaires in America than Bill Gates. If it wasn't for Wally, there would never have been the success of a Hurst Shifter, an Edelbrock, a Moroso Performance, the Napp Family in Englishtown, nor a Steve Earwood or a Rockingham Dragway. Think of the after-market manufacturers, the mail-order houses, the professional race teams, the dragstrips, the publications, the satellite industries, and the web sites that would have never existed if not for the vision of Wally Parks.
If you are reading this, then you obviously have an interest in drag racing and, more than likely, the sport has relevance in your life. If the sport has brought you profit or joy, then remember and revere Wally Parks because he made both happen. He is the architect of drag racing and, coincidentally, of my life's work. I will miss him terribly.