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Drag Racing History Insight, from DragCars.com reader Rick David

My Grandfather, WH David invented the fuel test, we think in 1958, and they hired him to go to Detroit and run the test for Nationals. It was the first time the test was seen on the National level. He had been running it in Louisiana for a year or so. My dad was 15 at the time and can remember making the trip to Detroit. After that event, they were hired to go to most Nationals, Springs and Winters for the next year or so and run testing for the events, including engine displacement and cam size checks. He then sold the patent to another company who manufactured the testing equipment.

His biggest mark on drag racing was the invention of the christmas tree. He built them for a few years and then sold the rights to Chrondek. I still have one of the earliest mock-ups in my office, it's about 18" tall and 14" wide. It has those real christmas tree lights from the '50s and '60s on it, hence the name "christmas tree.” I have attached a picture of one he built. His big thing was safety, he wanted the flagman out of the way, so he started using a traffic signal in the late '50s to start the race with the starter standing at the back tires of the car (this was usually my dad). The problem was bracket racing, at the local meets there were not enough entries in many of the categories so the flagman was standing down the strip in front of the first car that had the head start. The christmas tree and timing equipment was his way of getting the flagman off the track.  You can see in the picture I attached the dial on the blue box, it can be turned right or left to delay either lane from going green.

He was the NHRA Regional Technical Advisor in 1959 and one of six committee members that rewrote the rule book for '59. What most consider to be the first complete rule book.

He opened his first drag strip in 1955 at Esterwood, LA. Then Pel State at Opelousas in 1958. At one point he had four NHRA sanctioned tracks running at once in Louisiana, Opelousas (Pel State), Hammond, Lake Charles and Houma. Then in 1970 he opened State Capitol Dragway in Baton Rouge.

Besides the Christmas tree, he held patents for the fuel test, engine displacement and cam size check.

My Grandmother, Jayne David, wrote, edited and printed “Tire Marks” during the '50s and '60s. It had the largest publication rate for a regional printing outside of the few national magazines in the '50s. She is the one at the (4:30 mark in “Ingenuity in Action” [Part 2]1958 video) taking the fuel test in Detroit at the '59 Nationals.

WH David invented the first “christmas tree” as seen here.

Photo: Rick David

Tire Marks

Jayne David, wrote, edited and printed “Tire Marks” during the '50s and '60s. It had the largest publication rate for a regional printing outside of the few national magazines in the '50s. She is the one at the (4:30 mark in “Ingenuity in Action” [Part 2]1958 video) taking the fuel test in Detroit at the '59 Nationals.

We’d like to thank Rick David for providing the readers of DragCars.com with this great bit of drag racing history. The entire drag racing community is greatly indebted to Rick’s Grandparents for their valuable contributions to the great sport of drag racing. They’re the true innovators of the sport.

On the picture of the Pel State announcers truck, that's Dave McClelland over the “A” of Drag.

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Photo: Rick David

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