NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Dreams become reality as Julie Nataas claims first TAD world championship

Talented 26-year-old phenom Julie Nataas blazed a trail to her first world championship in Top Alcohol Dragster on the strength of national and regional wins in her Oslo Tapet & Gulvelegg-backed dragster. 
24 Dec 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
2023 NHRA world champion
Julie Nataas

Julie Nataas has always had some big shoes to fill and some big dreams to fulfill. Her father, Thomas, followed his own father, Albin, into the drag racing world and became a two-time FIA European Top Fuel champion. She started early in Jr. Dragsters and then Super Comp in their native Norway but decided that if she was going to make an impact on the drag racing world it would be on the sport’s biggest stage, the NHRA, in the United States. 

She moved to California in 2015 and within two years landed a ride in an A/Fuel Dragster with Randy Meyer Racing. After a get-acquainted season in 2017, she finished in the Top 10 the next five years and followed in the footsteps and raced a bit in the shadow of her teammates, Meyer’s daughters, Megan and Rachel, who won a combined three straight world championships from 2019-2021. 

After Meyer’s daughters retired from the sport, 2022 was Nataas’ breakout season with two wins, including the prestigious Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, where she also won the JEGS Allstars race, but the best was still to come this year as the talented 26-year-old phenom blazed a trail to her first world championship on the strength of national and regional wins in her Oslo Tapet & Gulvelegg-backed dragster. 

That Nataas and Meyer would be a handful in 2023 was evident early. The team notched back-to-back wins at Gainesville Raceway at the Baby Gators regional event and then the NHRA Gatornationals, beating talented newcomer Cody Krohn in both finals to take the points lead. 

Julie Nataas got her championship hunt off to a strong start with dual wins at Gainesville Raceway, at the Baby Gators regional and the NHRA Gatornationals, besting Cody Krohn in both finals.

“That was probably one of the highlights of the season,” she said. “We had tested before the season and figured out a combination that worked for us and were able to win with that. I felt like I was not in the right place yet, comparing my reaction times to last year, so Randy pretty much carried us.” 

Reaction times would play a hand in the outcome of her next final-round appearance, at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, where she finished third behind Mike Coughlin, who won on a triple holeshot, and motorsports legend turned drag racer Tony Stewart, who would turn out to be her toughest championship rival behind the wheel of one of the cars tuned by Rich McPhillips Sr.  

Nataas came in a disappointing third in one of the great races of the year when Mike Coughlin, far lane, ran 5.30 to beat Tony Stewart’s 5.25, her 5.26, and Krohn’s 5.38 on a triple holeshot at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte.

“We all knew that the McPhillips cars can pretty much win anything with any driver, and then you also start seeing that Tony is a great leaver, and Cody [Krohn] also is a great driver in the Samsels’ car. We all knew it was going to be a close race for the championship.” 

Stewart took the points lead from Nataas with a win at the North Central regional event in Indianapolis, at which point, with a brief break in their schedule, Nataas and Randy and Mary Meyer took time for a reset to brace themselves for the battle ahead. 

“When we lost the Indy regional, we knew we really needed three wins as soon as possible or we might lose this championship,” she said. “We went to Norway, and I showed them around, and we ate a lot of seafood and just relaxed, and then we came back straight to Dallas from Norway and won that race and then won in Norwalk, and we felt like we were back in the game again.” 

After a brief vacation to her native Norway to reset, Nataas and the Meyer team won a pair of regional events, in Dallas and Norwalk (pictured) to get back into the points lead.

The twin regional wins at Texas Motorplex and Summit Motorsports Park boosted the team back into the points lead, and even though she wasn’t able to repeat her 2022 U.S. Nationals victory, she beat Stewart in round two, 5.20 to 5.25, in their only head-to-head meeting of the season. Nataas reached the Indy final again, only to red-light to Madison Payne. 

“I just stepped on the gas pedal way too soon,” she explained. “I wasn’t even trying to hit a good light; my brain told me not to go, but my foot just went. That was my only red-light, and I admit, I cried coming out of the car.” 

One of the biggest plot twists of the season came at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, where Stewart, hot off a win at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals the previous weekend, was disqualified from the race and received zero points after officials discovered an infraction involving the team’s magnetos. Nataas and team took full advantage and won the event. 

“I was surprised by it and kind of sad,” Nataas volunteered. “I was like, ‘Wait, what is happening? Why is the guy that I’m fighting for a championship getting disqualified?’ Of course, that hurt him a lot, and people tell me that I probably would have lost the championship if it wasn’t for Tony losing that whole race, but I have to disagree. I think that we would have still won, just maybe not in Dallas.” 

As the Stewart team’s consistency began to fade down the title-run stretch, Nataas and Meyer only got stronger and ended the championship chase with a tour de force at the Texas NHRA FallNationals, where she won the JEGS Allstars for the third straight year and clinched the championship in the semifinals after Stewart’s surprising second-round loss, then went on to also win the race. 

Nataas clinched the championship on a monster weekend at the Texas NHRA FallNationals, where she also won the event, the 100th for Randy Meyer Racing, and the companion JEGS Allstars.

“We knew we were leading the points and might be able to clinch it in Vegas, but then Tony went out early. I was up against Shawn Cowie in the semifinals, and I was sitting in my race car, and Christine Foster Chambliss did a big wheelstand, so we had a huge delay. I heard [announcer] Alan Reinhart saying something along the lines of, ‘Coming up, we can decide on the championship.’  

“I tried not to listen to what he was saying, but because I had so much time to think about it, I was like, ‘Hold on. Tony is out. The guy behind Tony who can now win the championship is Cowie, but I think he has to win.’ It became obvious to me that was the situation, and it made me really nervous, but I was still able to perform because we won it on a holeshot [5.14 to 5.12]. I didn’t realize it was really true until I saw Amanda [Busick], the TV crew, and everyone, and I started shaking. I was still like, ‘Are you guys kidding? Is this for me?’ I had to sit down for a second and just think, ‘Oh my gosh, this actually happened.’ 

“It felt so surreal, that something that you’ve worked on and wanted for so long is finally happening. My dad was there – he flew over from Norway when he realized we could win it – and he’s my biggest supporter. Thank God he allowed me to move [to America].” 

Although she plans to return to Top Alcohol Dragster next season, Nataas has made it clear that her goal in the near future is Top Fuel or Funny Car, and that she has a lot to offer. 

“I have reach in the European and American markets. Everyone in Europe is now following along now because I’m in media, which is great. I think I’ve proven myself as a driver, too, one who is capable of rising to the challenge and getting the job done, finding ways to block out everything else that’s going on in my life when I’m inside of that cockpit.” 

Nataas offered thanks to OTG, Lucas Oil, NGK, Right Trailers, Gunk, Waterman, ARP, Aeromotive Fuel Systems, Tan it with Janet, Fatheadz, Randy Meyer Racing, SR Driven Media, and Innovative Creation Experts for their support.

2023 TRACK RECORD, 711 points

Gainesville Raceway (Regional)


Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals


Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals


Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals


Texas Motorplex (Regional)


Summit Motorsports Park


Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals


Betway NHRA Caolina Nationals


Texas NHRA FallNationals


This article originally appeared in the Year in Review issue of National Dragster.