Cody's Car Talk: Drag Racing

COURTESY PHOTO

Jerico Brown, of Lyndonville, gets a chance to sit in a drag racer at the New England Dragway.

BY CODY FACTEAU

This past weekend, July 23, my step-dad and I attended the NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional Championship Series Finals at the New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. Since this was a Saturday, it also featured the Town Fair Tire Night of Fire which included Funny Cars, Jet Dragsters, Wheelstanders and Top Fuel Dragsters, finishing with fireworks. If I had to use one word to describe drag racing, it would be ... EPIC.

What is drag racing anyway? Here are the basics. A drag race is an acceleration contest, on a track, or drag strip, that begins from a standing start between two vehicles over a measured distance, usually ¼ mile. A drag racing event is a series of such two-vehicle, tournament-style eliminations. The losing racer in each contest is eliminated, and the winning racers progress until one remains. These contests are started by means of an electronic device commonly called a Christmas Tree because of its multicolored starting lights. The winner is the first vehicle to cross the finish line. Period. What I thought was interesting is that the winner is the driver with the lowest total reaction time + elapsed time. The elapsed time is the measure of performance. We saw a car with faster performance lose the race because his reaction time was longer than his opponents.

How did drag racing start? Born on the back roads of America in the post World War II years, drag racing's roots were planted on dry lake beds like Muroc in California's Mojave Desert, where hot rodders had congregated since the early 1930s and speeds first topped 100 mph. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks in California to "create order from chaos" by instituting safety rules and performance standards that helped legitimize the sport. Now in its fifth decade, NHRA is the world's largest motorsports sanctioning body with 80,000 members, 140 member tracks, more than 35,000 licensed competitors, and more than 5,000 member-track events.

Where do you go for great drag racing around here? For over 45 years the place to go has been the New England Dragway, the only world-class ¼ mile drag racing facility in New England. Drag racing made its New England debut at the old Newington Airport in 1953. Since it opened in 1966, the New England Dragway in Epping continues to be owned by many of the racers who built it. It is open four days a week from the beginning of April through the end of October featuring everything from grudge racing to world class events like its annual IHRA North American Nationals. The owners follow the credo, "Built by racers for racers."

What to know before you go? Here are the top 5 things to know about going to a drag race. (This comes from my own personal experience this past weekend.)

1. Have a parent check the weather and dress accordingly; hats, sunscreen, etc. I saw lots of people totally sun burnt and just miserable hot. Hard to have fun if you are roasting, you know. Take ear plugs too, because it is a race track and it's going to be loud!

2. Take money! (Or a parent that has some.) Lots of cool stuff to buy like hats, t-shirts, 1/18 scale model cars ... anybody want to guess what I picked up?

3. Know the rules or policies of the track. At New England Speedway you can take a small cooler, no glass of course, or alcohol. If you are gonna be there all day, drinks and snacks make it more fun. And, you will be sitting on bleachers, so plan for that. We got some nifty cushiony bleacher seats with backs from The Village Sport Shop in Lyndonville and they worked great.

4. Got friends going too? Great! Know their phone numbers, just in case. A friend and co-worker of my step-dad, Troy Shatney from Lyndonville was there with his family and they had a great time. The pic you see with this story is of Jerico Brown taking advantage of the opportunity to sit in one of the drag racers. This is a family event, so kids get to go too and have loads of fun!

5. And this is the most important rule of all ... plan to have fun, because you will! Like I said before, it's totally EPIC!

Cody Facteau is a 15-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV show is Top Gear (BBC), hobbies are Legos and PlayStation. Career goals? What else, cars!

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