RARE CLASSIC VIDEO: 1976 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS
The total excitement generated by the quarter-mile sport comes from all angles, and the 22nd edition of the National Hot Rod Association's United States Nationals had 'em all covered. It was outstanding performances in all categories, crowd-pleasing upsets by the dozens and drag racing's own-style of drama (quite common to Indy) that made the premiere event of 1976 another epic in the traditional manner of the United States' true National Championship event.
When five and a half days of Nationals racing came to an end on Labor Day, drag racing fans from the Midwest, Canada and virtually every corner of this nation calmly filed out of the Raceway Park facility after literally yelling their lungs out from the wild competition that started promptly at 10:30 and finished eight hours later almost nonstop. It was an action-packed day of racing that had built to a climax after more than four days of competition had narrowed the field of 1,000 to just 240 finalists in nine different categories. To make it even simpler, it was just Indy, 1976.
The event was memorable for everyone in attendance, and specifically for the 1976 National Champions that included Richard Tharp (Top Fuel), Gary Burgin (Funny Car), Wally Booth (Pro Stock), Dave Settles (Pro Comp), T.C. Christenson (Fuel Bike), Don Carlton (Comp.), Donald Coonce (Modified), Dave Boertman (Super Stock) and Tom Reider (Stock).
To put the performance levels attained in a nutshell, well Don "the Snake" Prudhomme dipped into the 5s again for a new NHRA National Record of 5.97 backed up by a stout 6.03, the Funny Car bump spot was at an all-time low at 6.26 seconds; 5.80s were commonplace in Top Fuel; it was an all 6-second, 32 car Pro Comp field; all 16 Pro Stock qualifiers were in the eight second zone; and no less than five Funny Cars ran over 235–three of which bettered 236 mph, no less!