HRIA - The Roots of Hot Rodding Are Racing

SEMA Member News - November/December 2009

Today’s Stars and Cars Are the Descendants of Those Who Came Before

By Eric Saltrick


Hot rodding is at the very core of every form of racing. Behind every racing and high-performance innovation is a hot rodder trying to make his or her car go faster. The hot rodders of today are simply following in the footsteps of racing legends of the past. 

SEMA recently hosted the annual Installation Banquet & Gala Fundraiser in Pasadena, California. As part of the festivities, a variety of activities provided association members the opportunity to network with one another as well as raise money for two great charities—Childhelp and Victory Junction Camp. The events leading up to the banquet included the Pinewood Drag Races and the Show ’N Shine car show. In addition, HRIA members this year helped coordinate “The Starting Lineup,” an auction of pinewood cars designed by kids from Victory Junction Camp and autographed by professional racers, automotive legends and entertainment celebrities. With more than 70 cars on display, all forms of racing and hot rodding were well represented.

The lineup of small wooden cars were emblazoned with the signatures of some of the greatest drivers of the earlier generation, such as Mario Andretti, Don Prudhomme and Bobby Allison, as well as racing stars of today, including Helio Castroneves, Tony Schumacher and Kasey Kahne. The lineup of autographed cars also included those signed by icons of hot rodding, such as Craig Breedlove, Carroll Shelby and Andy Granatelli. They were on display alongside pinewood entries carrying the autographs of today’s newest hot-rod celebrities, such as Chip Foose, Ryan Friedlinghaus and Stacy David.

Looking over the tables of autographed pinewood cars, one could not help but notice the common thread among all of the racing legends and superstars. Regardless of the form of racing, they are all hot rodders!


Johnny Rutherford, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 (1974, 1976 and 1980), was one of the dozens of racing stars, past and present, who autographed Pinewood Derby cars that were auctioned off at the recent SEMA Installation Banquet & Gala Fundraiser in Pasadena, California.  

At the very core of every form of racing is hot rodding. Behind every racing and high-performance innovation is a hot rodder trying to make his or her car go faster. And for every automotive accessory that hits the market, there are hot rodders working to make their rides look better. The hot rodders of today are simply following in the footsteps of racing legends of the past.

Is there really a big difference between Craig Breedlove speeding across the salt flats at Bonneville and John Force scorching down a quarter-mile dragway? Where would today’s stock car superstars be without the history of hot rodders such as Marvin Panch and Tiger Tom Pistone. If not for Janet Guthrie’s courage to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, would the doors to hot rodding have been opened for Danica Patrick?

The history and future of hot rodding will forever be tied to racing. For today’s hot rodders, it is important that we remember our roots. If you don’t know names such as Muldowney, Garlits, Rutherford, Yunick, Holman-Moody, St. James and Wood, you really need to. These are the individuals who brought hot rodding into the living rooms of the American public during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. As hot rodders, we owe a great deal to their dedication and accomplishments.

HRIA members are active in preserving the history of hot rodding as well as securing its future. We support local racing and hot-rodding events. Through our HRIA Youth Awareness program, we introduce teenagers to the hot-rod industry. We build and race our own cars. The annual HRIA awards reception at the SEMA Show recognizes both the legends of hot rodding and the future innovators of our industry. Hot rodding and the HRIA have a very bright future. But sometimes it’s important to remember our past—including our roots in racing.



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