We all know that creating a list like this with the drag racing world will cause some type of uproar. There are going to be people that feel they should have been including and fans that feel others should be excluded. Well here is our list of the 50 most influential people or companies in drag racing as determined by the E3xtreme Staff including Ellen, Damon, Danny, Justin, and Mikel.
Now before we starting looking at the list, there are some things to know about the list. There is no rhythm or reason to the numbering. It is not a countdown, it's just a list. The list was complied by those at E3xtreme. These are people that spend most waking moments involved in the industry. The list is comprised of the people and/or companies in drag racing that are the most influential.
Merriam Webster defines Influential as: exerting or possessing influence. This means that the ones on this list are a critical and influencing part of the industry. Whether it be from innovation, branding, safety, design, promoting, or just about anything else in between. You will see names like John Force, Donald Long, Lyle Barnett, and so many others. So sit back and enjoy some great reading, because over the next couple of week we will present you with E3xtreme's 50 Most Influential People in Drag Racing.
The list is in no specific order...
1. Wes Buck - Founder Drag Illustrated Magazine
Wes has been on the forefront of drag racing for more than the last decade. In a world where everything has gone digital and we spend countless hours staring at a screen, Wes has stuck to his guns in the print industry. Clearly the standout in the print market, Wes has also dabbled in race promotion with his own World Series of Pro Mod race as well. His influence, as well as his magazines influence can be seen across the world. Photographers, Drivers, Owners, Fans, Promoters, and just about everyone in between want to be in Drag Illustrated. The coveted DI Cover is one of the biggest things in all of drag racing. Along with Wes' vision for the new crop of superstars in our industry. His 30 Under 30 is the sole reason a lot of people attend the PRI in Indianapolis each December, along with his absolutely amazing DI Party that has become a who's who of drag racing. Always coming up with new material and new ways to stay relevant in the digital age, Drag Illustrated remains on top with no limits in sight.
2. John Force - NHRA World Champion & Founder of John Force Racing
While there will always be those that epitomize of sport and the love of drag racing, there are few that have done it better or longer than John Force. With the ability to stay at the top of the heap for more than three decades. Whether it was in the 90's when he won the Championship every year except 1992, or whether it be watching his daughter win a Championship in 2017, John continues the team domination. The viability of the sport has relied on John at times as well. He is the one a lot of people look to and judge the health of the sport at that level. When he parted ways with Ford and Castrol, there were plenty of people concerned about the health of the NHRA. In true John fashion, he shook it up again, and continues to do so. With his daughters winning and becoming household names as well, it solidifies John's place as an influencer in the industry.
3. Lyle Barnett - Small Tire Superstar and Safety Advocate
Everyone in the world of small tire drag racing has read about what happen to Lyle. An accident in his radial car that would have but the kibosh on damn near anyone else's drag racing career. Instead of putting an end to that career, Lyle fought and continues to fight on the forefront of safety. He has used his accident as a platform to educate people and hopefully safe lives. Not only is Lyle still recovering from his injuries, but in the process, he got back into a car and has become a world record setting driving. This time though, he is wrapped in all the best, and safest gear imaginable. His accident, recovery, and ability to speak on the importance of safety equipment has literally changed the game when drivers address safety now. No longer do many drivers say "it won't happen to me". Lyle plans on continuing to educate people on the proper ways to protect yourself. Taking a bad situation and making it a teaching lesson for all.
4. Keith Haney - Pro Mod/Radial Driver, Promoter, & Track Owner
If you want to talk about a guy that does it his way and making it work, it's Keith Haney. Keith is a long time Pro Mod driver, and most recently in the last couple of years got his feet wet in the radial world. Keith also decided to start his own organization in 2017 called the Mid-West Pro Mod Association, which grew by leaps and bounds. And if that we're enough, he is also the Co-Owner of Tulsa Raceway Park. All of those are outside of his normal 9-5 day job and outside of being a dad. Keith has become a fixture on the drag racing scene in all capacities. Just recently at PRI, he, along with E3xtreme Co-Founder Ellen Eschenbacher and Redemption Promoter Shannon Morgan, raised almost $5000 for charity by taking selfies. Keith really has his hands in everything.
5. John Sears - Founder X275
The man that everyone loves to hate. He is the only person that I have seen in many years that can be loved by so many and hated buy so many. There was plenty of drag radial racing around before John decided to put a rules set together and create a class called X275. For the better part of the last decade, John has been trying to keep the parody in the class while trying to keep racers happy too. John's day job has nothing to do with drag racing, yet being the founder and rules maker for arguable the most widely raced heads up class in America keeps him busier than a day job ever could. Whether it's figuring out blowers, turbos, nitrous, or suspension. He has become a jack of many trades, all the while keeping the health of the class at a premium. John really has become the man people love to hate, and he takes it all in stride.
6. Tommy Kundrick & Brandon Legath - Mickey Thompson Tires
These two have more than likely influenced almost anyone reading this article. If you are a small tire racer, or even a pro mod racer, there is a good chance that you have talked to these two guys. They are really the faces of Mickey Thompson Tires within the drag racing world. Also on the forefront of new technology and never resting on the past. You could talk to either of them about street tires, drag tires, tires for your truck, etc. and they are going to have an answer and a recommendation for you. To say that these two guys aren't a huge influence when it comes to bolting on the right tire would be an absolutely asinine statement. For you radial drivers, you should be thanking these two for giving you a better option than the old school BFG. The only thing I wish is that they could bring back those super lite drag wheels.
7. Erica Enders - NHRA World Champion
Drag racing for the most part is a sport that is male dominated, yet that has never stopped Erica from pursuing her dreams and achieving goals within drag racing. She has come all the way up from the Jr. Dragster ranks to becoming a 2X NHRA Pro Stock World Champion. It certainly hasn't been an easy road either. Erica has become a champion of sorts to so many young girls and women within the drag racing world. She has shown them that just because the boys outnumber the girls, doesn't mean the girls can't kick the boys ass. Don't just think that Erica is a Pro Stock driver either. She has experience in a pro mod, which we hear she will be showing off in 2018 as well. From on the track, to on social media, Erica is a true standout and role model.
8. Robin Lawrence - Director EFI Business Development at Holley
There are those that may have no idea who Robin is. Most of us know Robin as "Uncle Robin". I personally have followed and known Robin since the early days of NMRA where he was a standout NMRA Real Street competitor. After moving on from that and finally putting down anchor at Holley, he has become the fact of their EFI system. This is the same system that is mandated on all NHRA Pro Stock cars now. Robin is usually traveling to more events than he'd like to count, making sure to get the word out about Holley EFI and offering any support needed. Over the years, Robin has progressed from a damn smart and talented racer, to a damn smart and talented business man as well. We do still get to see him out there chopping down the tree as well. His influence in drag racing stretches decades and ten of thousands of people.
9. Antron Brown - NHRA World Champion
If you wonder why we put Antron on this list you don't pay enough attention to what is going on in racing and outside of racing. Antron has been an ambassador for the drag racing community for years. He has shown that there is no typical "mold" for an NHRA driver. Antron is one of the fan favorites at every race as well. He is great to the fans, the media, and everyone around him. Antron also isn't afraid to poke fun at himself, which makes him even more of a relatable person. Whether he is going 330 mph in his dragster, or making fun of his kids on social media, while teaching them to drive, Antron has changed the face of drag racing. And if you don't know, he is also a TV show host now too. Look for him to continue to do it his way and always with a huge smile on his face.
10. Tyler Crossnoe - Racer, Photographer, Track Specialist, & Promoter
"The Kid" as most of us have called him. Tyler isn't new to the scene of drag racing and certainly isn't old yet either. We call him the kid because he was just that when he started on his journey. Tyler has grown up in drag racing, whether it was behind the camera as a photographer or to now being known as one of the elite track prep specialist in the world. He certainly isn't one to ever take a break either. When he isn't helping tracks set records, he is behind the wheel of his super clean Ultra Street car, or he is planning for his next Outlaw Street Carr Reunion race. Years ago, Tyler set the standard for which all the young guns have to live up to now. He broke age barriers in our sport as well. Successfully putting on races and getting event sponsorship at such a young age. Tyler will be someone that we will still be talking about in 20 years if he continues this path.