Drag Illustrated’s Eighth 30 Under 30 Honorees Revealed


A highlight of this week’s Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show taking place Thursday through Saturday at Indianapolis’ Convention Center is Drag Illustrated’s introduction of its 30 Under 30 list each year. The 2023 edition intends, as all the seven previous lists have, to shine spotlights on the most talented and promising young people in drag racing.

The magazine’s December issue highlights the 30 Under 30 list and was digitally released on Monday night before the show. “This issue is one of the most important projects on our schedule,” Nate Van Wagnen, editor -in-chief of Drag Illustrated declared. “The 30 Under 30 list started as a way to recognize the rising stars of the sport, while reminding the world that drag racing’s future is in good hands.

“Now in its eighth year, the 30 Under 30 list has become a movement,” Van Wagnen noted. “Thousands of people submitted nominations this year. Parents, siblings, teammates, friends, mentors and other supporters helped us learn more about the young men and women who are contributing to the success of the sport in innumerable ways.”

Highlighting the list is Donnie Hagar, who made bracket racing history when he became the first footbrake racer to win the Mickey Thompson Million Dollar Race at World Wide Technology Raceway in September. Hagar went on to win the WDRA No-Box season championship. These achievements convinced Drag Illustrated to put Hagar on the cover of their most important issue of the year.

Drag Illustrated’s 30 Under 30 cover art features Donnie Hagar

“We had a few standout honorees i mind for the cover, but Donnie Hagar really jumped out as an ideal representative of the 30 Under 30 list,” Van Wagnen explained. The Michigan-based racer “is a firefighter and paramedic who works 24-hour shifts, so he can go racing on the weekends. He showed up to one of the highest paying races of the season in a pickup truck with over 300,000 miles on it, towing an open trailer with his race car on it,” Van Wagnen recalled. “He represents the thousands of weekend warrior racers who make up the backbone of the sport across the country and around the world.”

During Friday activities at the PRI show, the 30 Under 30 honorees will be feted at 1PM in a ballroom upstairs from the show floor. The event has grown from originally being part of PRI’s media center, to having a press conference room to showcase the drivers, to being part of the content creators stage to having their own large pair of upstairs rooms.

Every 30 Under 30 honoree receives a custom jacket acknowledging their achievements, together with gift certificates and other appropriate prizes from several program sponsors. Lincoln Electric will draw a winner to receive a prize package that includes a TIG welder, welding kit and welding class. Other sponsors of the 30 Under 30 list include Moser Engineering, Red Line Synthetic Oil, Powerbuilt Tools, Stroud Safety, VP Racing, JCM Racing, Artisan Coffee, Cornwell Tools, Race Winning Brands, PEAK Performance, NGK Spark Plugs and Elite Motorsports.

Wes Buck, Drag Illustrated founder and editorial director noted, “The companies and individuals who signed on as sponsors of the 2023 30 Under 30 program share our belief that these honorees are the future of the sport. These brands see value in recognizing them and supporting them as they continue to take the next seps in their ring careers. We’re honored to work with all of the 30 Under 30 supporters to give these honorees the ‘rockstar treatment’ they deserve.”

This year’s 30 Under 30 press conference also includes a special presentation fro JCM Racing’s Joe C. Maynard, who will reveal the eight Jr. Dragster drivers joining the team’s driver development program. This program provides its members with resources they might never ordinarily receive, like access to the JCM Racing team’s NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series drivers, PR and social media specialists, together with marketing experts.

By Anne Proffit

2023 Drag Illustrated 30 Under 30 List

  • Donnie Hagar, Million Dollar Race winner
  • Gaige Herrera, NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion
  • Alan Drinkwater, PDRA Extreme Pro Stock world champion
  • Evan Salemi, Pro Mod crew member
  • Kallee Mills, Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings driver
  • Blake Denton, PDRA Super Street world champion
  • Casey Freeman, NHRA Pro Stock crew member
  • Ronny Rhodes, drag radial racer/chassis builder
  • Taylor Vetter, NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster driver
  • Chris Vang, NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock driver
  • Chase Van Sant, NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider
  • Matt Plotkin, race official, promoter
  • Garrett Mitchell, small-tire racer, track owner, automotive influencer
  • Chloe Hudson, welder/fabricator
  • Ryan Gleghorn, racer, announcer, promoter
  • Johnny Miller, Pro Mod car chief
  • Mike Costic, manufacturer representative
  • Cole Pesz, engine builder
  • Kayleigh Hill-Beakley, Super Comp racer
  • Marcus Butner, PDRA Pro Nitrous driver
  • Kieffer Simpson, Ultra Street racer
  • Emilee Medeisis, drag-and-drive racer
  • Bradley Dillon, import racer
  • Madison Payne, NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster driver
  • Darrel Jackson Jr., photographer
  • Alec Bledsoe, tuner and driver
  • Jndia Erbacher, FIA Top Fuel driver
  • Mac Brosnan, import racer
  • Mike Pryka, manufacturer representative, photographer
  • Sal DiDomenico, Pro Mod tuner
About Anne Proffit 1224 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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