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Drag racing is a form of specialized automobile racing that is most popular in the United States, although it is also practiced on a limited basis in England, Canada, and Australia. In a drag race, two entries start side by side, aiming to finish the straight-line course—called the drag strip and usually 1/4-mi (0.4-km) long—in as fast a time as possible. Such cars, known as drag racers, take many forms. Some have engines behind the driver and parachute-assisted braking. Speeds are maintained only for a short burst, but are calculated in miles per hour and also in seconds.

Drag racing owes its origin to hot rods, cars specially modified for improved acceleration and speed, which were first built in southern California in the late 1930s. Drag racing was formalized in 1937 with the creation of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), an organization of automobile enthusiasts who raced their cars in the California desert. World War II (1939-1945) interrupted development of the sport, but after 1945 it blossomed, helped by the U.S. Air Force, which saw drag racing as a way to identify young men who could serve in the mechanical and flight crews of the bombers that made up the Strategic Air Command. The first paved strips for drag racing, in fact, were runways at air bases and airports. The first formal drag strip was opened in Goleta, California, in 1948. The sport spread rapidly, and today there are hundreds of drag-strip facilities on which more than 5000 events are run annually. American drag racing is overseen by numerous organizations, the most important of which is the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), located in Glendora, California


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