It’s yet another Tesla irony that the newfangled, tech-forward Model S is wowing the world using the most primitive trick in auto history: the simple drag race. Surely it’s not the only metric by which Tesla wins kudos, but it’s plenty fun to watch the Model S open a good old-fashioned can of whoop-ass as if it were a purple ‘Cuda in 1971 — albeit without the noise or blue smoke.
Turns out, drag racing began in Tesla’s home state. The first commercial drag strip opened in Santa Ana, California circa 1950, using a runway at John Wayne International Airport. In 1959, an airport expansion put an end to the fun. But soon after, the Lion’s Drag Strip at the Orange County Fairgrounds carried on the sport.
Going back even further, to the early days of the mass-produced automobile, people used California’s Mohave Desert for top speed runs. This quickly turned into competitive racing and gave birth to the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) — and the need for a more organized structure and more focused venue. Ergo, the airport mentioned above.
The origin of the term “drag race” is disputed, but it probably refers to the main “drag” in town, where spontaneous straight-line street racing tends to happen.