by Patrick Rall
Over the last 31 years, the Mopar Nationals have given die hard Mopar enthusiasts a place to meet and experience all things Mopar – from the monstrous car show to the huge swap meet area to the incredible drag racing program. I personally have attended the Mopar Nationals every year since 1993 when it was moved from National Trails in Ohio to Indianapolis Raceway Park. The “Nats” would stay in Indy until 1997 when it made its triumphant return to Columbus and legendary Brice Road. While the events at the official venue (now National Trails Raceway) hold the bulk of the attractions, as a teenager attending the Mopar Nationals in Columbus it was more than just the track festivities that made the trip so entertaining.
Back then, you could walk from hotel to hotel on this small stretch of
Brice Road and every single spot was filled with a vintage Mopar
vehicle…as though you had stepped into a time machine that took you to a
town in the mid 70s populated only by Mopar owners. Once it got to be
later in the day, these cars would spill out onto Brice for some
Those who weren’t cruising would line the sides
of Brice to see this awesome rolling car show. This also included a
fair amount of big smokey burnouts – which the local fuzz clearly didn’t
care for. Unfortunately, in an effort to prevent people from doing
burnouts on public roads (and private parking lots), the Columbus and
neighboring Reynoldsburg police cracked down on everything imaginable –
making the evening events far less entertaining and making the cost of
staying along Brice Road less enticing. In storm-trooper like force,
local police closed entire stretches of the road, making it impossible
to get in and out of your hotel whether you were trying to cruise, do
burnouts, or just head out to get dinner.
This year, the hotel lots were basically empty with only a handful of
cars in our hotel parking lot, where in past years, you would have to
show up on Thursday to get a spot in a lot along Brice Road. As
nightfall came this year, there was almost no one out along the roads as
almost no one was cruising. I suppose that we should congratulate the
Columbus and Reynoldsburg police for killing the event and in doing so,
sending all of the money spent by Mopar lovers to other areas while
businesses along Brice Road continue to go under.
Even worse, the emptiness of Brice Road and the hotels along that
stretch of highway extended to the Mopar Nationals venue itself. In
years past, cars were carefully parked in tight rows, as the thousands of
vehicles in attendance simply wouldn’t fit if they were organized into
neat little lines. However, this year, there were so few cars in both the
judged show field and the unjudged “fun field” that those who did come
to the event were free to park pretty much however they wanted, with no
The Car Corral, which in past years was chock full of gorgeous
Mopars for sale, was roughly half empty and those vehicles available
were a sorry bunch compared to what was available in recent years.
Finally, the racer pits, which at one time had all sorts of rules about
trailer and motor home parking to make room for everyone was also packed
full of non-race vehicles, as the group has thinned so much that there
is no concern about running out of room.
The 2012 Mopar Nationals are scheduled for August 10-12, with the venue
once again being National Trails Raceway. I ask that every Mopar lover
reading this to mark that date on his or her calendar. WE are the ones
who have to struggle through the police state environment to come out
and support the largest event in the US dedicated to the cars and trucks
that we all love so much. If not for the continued support of Mopar
diehards, future Mopar lovers may not have a Mopar Nationals to attend
with the current direction of the event.
So, what do you think? Has the Mopar Nationals gone downhill? What can be done to bring it back up to speed? Voice your opinion here!