It’s been debated over the years when drag racing started – roughly starting in the early 1950’s and technically that would be right as far as 1/4 mile sanctioned racing goes (key word being sanctioned) – using airports and/or runways that were no longer needed for the war effort (WW2).
Actually drag racing’s roots started in the 1930’s using dry lakes (salt lakes); typically found in the deserts of the West. Muroc dry lake, in California, was one of the first of this kind with SCTA being established (in 1947) to govern these two-at-a-time races.
Then around 1950, Santa Ana drag strip was the first to have competitive sanctioned 1/4 mile races. The NHRA was founded in 1951 and the rest is history. Oh and yes, some say Goleta was first but we’ll stick with the consensus.
By the way, in a plug for the clan, one of the earliest racers at Santa Ana were Hank Bender and Ron Hier, who went on to be a successful Jr Fuel and Top Fuel team from the 1950’s into the early 1960’s.
Life was simpler then.