Earning a NHRA Competition License

By Jeff Arend

Since I am a racing instructor for Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, “How can I earn my NHRA Competition License?” is a question I get asked all the time. So, I decided to write a story about it and hopefully answer everybody’s questions.

Jeff Arend

There are only 3 ways that I know of.

1) Borrow a buddy’s car and between the advice from him and all your friends, attempt to drive it well enough to earn your license. A few problems may arise, like not having a friend nice enough to lend you his 30-50k racecar or you not being the same size as he is, necessitating buying all your own gear. Plus, you will have to have a couple of NHRA licensed drivers and the track manager sign off on your license.

2) Buy your own race car and support equipment and hope that you can drive it. First, it’s going to cost you from a minimum of $40k all the way up to whatever you want to spend to buy a complete operation. Then, of course, you still need to buy all your gear and have licensed drivers at the track willing to watch you run and hopefully sign your license. That’s also assuming the car is balanced and set up right and goes straight. Then, of course, you need somebody to do all the maintenance on it!

3) Or, you can sign up for Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School. Whether you want to drive a dragster or a door car, all the way up to a Top Dragster or Funny Car, we have you covered. Most of the classes are 2-day classes and you get to drive cars that are maintained properly, safely and go straight. We supply all the safety gear, helmets, etc, so really all you must do is get yourself there.

John Force Racing Corporate Outing

Every one of your runs is videotaped and critiqued by NHRA Funny Car World Champion Frank Hawley himself. You will make your runs at sanctioned NHRA tracks with proper track prep and medical staff. We take care of all the paperwork and upon successful completion of the class, all you need to do to get licensed is send all your paperwork to NHRA along with their fee and voila! NHRA is usually looking for 6 runs of varying length culminating with at least two full ¼ mile runs that meet the minimum et and speed for the license that you are going for.

If you take our class and make a mistake or two, we can usually make up the runs you need at a cost of $200 per run so you don’t have to take the whole class or come back at a different time.

A Super Comp (dragster) or Super Gas (door car) will give you an NHRA Competition License that is good from a 9.99 ET in the ¼ mile all the way down to a 7.50 elapsed time in either the door car OR a dragster.

Some of our customers aren’t sure what they want to buy yet so we also offer a 3-run crossgrade so that you can come to one class and leave with both licenses assuming you do well. If you want to go quicker than that we also have a Top Dragster or Nostalgia Style Funny Car class available, but to drive either one of those, you will have needed to successfully complete one of our “Super Classes” or have a valid NHRA license in a slower class and some drag racing experience and pass an NHRA Physical.

What kind of customer goes to our school? Do I need any experience or an NHRA medical?

First of all, we have had men and women as young as 16, all the way up to their mid-70’s take our classes. For some people, it’s just a bucket list thing and others are looking for a license. Some have already bought cars and some others are looking to buy but want to see if they like it first. Especially if their kids are thinking of moving up, from let’s say a Junior Dragster.

Speaking of kids moving up, here is another thing that happens often. Let’s say Dad/Mom has been racing for 15-20+ years and now Jr. wants to give it a try. Most of them either don’t have the patience (or don’t want their kids driving their car!) or would like their kids to start off fresh with no bad habits. So, Jr. enrolls and Dad (or Mom) sit in on the class with them. No matter their experience, almost all of them say that they learned more in the 2 days than they had in all their years racing!

Frank does a couple of lectures that are about an hour and a half each and trust me when I tell you that they are very informative and a lot of what he talks about relates to everyday life. Things like focusing better, blocking out distractions and how the mind and body work are just a few of the topics that get covered. Many current Professional drivers still contact Frank from time to time for a little refresher course.

As for the medical as of Jan 1, 2016, NHRA no longer requires a medical for licenses slower than a 7.49 ET.

How quick and fast do your cars run?

Our Super Gas Firebirds will run mid-9’s at around 145mph depending on the weather. Our Super Comp dragsters will run mid-8’s at around 160mph. The Nostalgia Funny Car will go mid-6’s at well over 200mph and the Top Dragsters go low to mid-6’s at close to 220mph.

Rich Samuels Photo

What does it cost?

Most of our 2-day Super Gas/Comp classes range in price from $1495.00 to $1995.00 for 6 runs depending on location. Our Top Dragster or Funny Car class is $5995.00 for 5 runs and is only held at our Gainesville, Florida location.

How do you get a Top Fuel or Nitro Funny Car license?

While we don’t offer those classes at the Drag School, we do have connections to get you your license in either one of these cars. A current NHRA Alcohol Dragster or Funny Car license would be preferred but you would need to have at least a current Advanced ET license or have come through our school and driven either the Top Dragster or Nostalgia Funny Car. My contact info is at the end of the article if you are interested.

Do you have any classes that are less expensive?

We came up with we call our Dragster Adventure (1/2 day) for $399, and the Dragster Challenge (full day) for $599 for people that want to try driving a dragster but aren’t interested in getting an NHRA Competition License. Both classes start the same way; with some instructions and fitting of safety gear. Then it’s time to get buckled in one of our dragsters. We set up the cars to run in the mid-10’s at around 130 mph, that way you do not need to have a racing license.

Rich Samuels Photo

Once you are buckled in, you get to do a burnout, stage the car and make a ½ track (660’) run. Assuming all goes well, you stay in the car and make 2 full ¼ mile runs! After everybody in the morning class has done this we take a small break.

For those signed up for the Challenge portion (or those who decide they like it and want to do more for an extra $200), we set up a real side by side race for the afternoon culminating in a winner and trophy. Just like in real racing, if you lose the first round, you are now a cheerleader for the rest of the drivers. Keep winning and you keep going for no extra charge. Maybe it will be you who ends up with the trophy and bragging rights!

These classes have become so much fun for everybody that we now also offer a private corporate day if you have a business and want to reward your employees or customers. Believe me when I say that unlike the typical golf tournament, nobody is going to forget this day!

Hopefully, I have answered all your questions about what it takes to obtain an NHRA Competition License and any questions you may have about the school. Feel free to contact me at jarend@frankhawley.com or call me on my cell at 909-973-8279 and I would be glad to answer any other questions that you may have or help you get signed up for a class.

Jeff Arend, Frank Hawley, Jack Beckman at the Classroom