The U.S. Nationals is the biggest and oldest event on the NHRA circuit. Winning this race can make a racer's career. The 1982 Nationals boasted drama, performance and the start of something new.
In the drama department there was Shirley Muldowney and Connie Kalitta. The once close friends and teammates had now become the most heated rivals in drag racing. They now faced each other in the final round of the biggest race. Muldowney would win the race in what would be one of her most memorable wins in her illustrious career.
The performance marks reached at this race were unheard of. In a sport where hundredths and even thousandths of a second can decide a race, people were shocked at Gary Beck’s run.
He became the first dragster to reach the 5.4 second zone. His 5.48 was almost a tenth quicker than the previous best time ever. During the event only two other drivers were even able to make it into the 5.5 second zone.
Not to be outdone, Don Prudhomme and his funny car destroyed the record books as he blew away the previous funny car record by almost two tenths of a second when he ran a 5.63.
His time was so impressive that it would have qualified him fifth in the Top Fuel field. Early in the race Tom Anderson had just become the quickest funny car when he ran a 5.79.
Just after that run, Prudhomme ran a 5.73 followed by an eye-popping 5.63 the next day.
Other milestone performances included Ken Veney breaking the funny car speed record when he went 254mph. Pro Stock achieved the first all seven second field in their class history as well.
Despite great performance marks neither Veney, Anderson, Prudhomme or Beck would go onto win the event.
The race also saw the birth of the first event within an event as the Big Bid Shootout made its debut.
This was a special race for funny cars in which each driver had to earn one of the coveted eight spots by qualifying throughout the season. Frank Hawley won the inaugural event.
The success of this special race ushered in similar races for Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.