Last week Car Guy drove out and we went down to Las Vegas for the drag races. Now, I am also a car enthusiast and have been to races before. The difference here is I had never seen the Nitro cars run. I've watched on TV. I've seen Top Alcohol and alcohol sand drags in person. They compare to Nitro like a 60 watt lightbulb to the Sun. Nitro Rocks!
Before I get into the day let me make a couple of suggestions. First, if you've never been Go. No description can do the reality justice. Most races are three day affairs. Friday and Saturday qualifying with eliminations on Sunday. Go on Friday. The crowds are much smaller and you still get that Nitro fix. Bring ear protection. Trust me on this. Get as close as you can to the Nitro cars when they make a run. At least once. Go early enough to watch the Sportsman and Alcohol cars qualify so you'll have a good frame of reference for the big boys.
The view of Las Vegas Motor Speedway from our seats, which we used for about 10 minutes.
Sportsman cars during a wheels up launch. They seem awfully fast until the Nitro cars run. It's no contest.
There's a funny sign in the stands prohibiting smoking. You read it while the tire smoke from burnouts wafts by. Smells like freedom to me.
The Safety Safari is in charge of the track, including surface preparation. One of their tools is this machine. The tires on the back rotate in the opposite direction of travel and as they make passes down the track leaves a coating of sticky rubber.
John Force after a long, smoky burnout. They do this to put heat into the wrinkle wall slicks and lay down yet another layer of rubber at the starting line. I later bought a used piston signed by Force. My only souvenir.
In front of the grandstands is an area set aside specifically for picture taking. It's about 40 feet from the closest lane and where we spent the bulk of our day. It was awesome.
You can see how close we were.
A Funny Car without the body. They're surprisingly small, no bigger than my 1980 Corvette. This picture shows another reason I love drag racing, access to the pits. The Fuel car pits are located in Nitro Alley and you can stand just a few feet away from the crews and cars and talk to the drivers and anyone else you can snag.
This is the Top Fuel Dragster of Tony Shoemacher. 300 inch wheelbase and running 8000horsepower.
The teams have 75 minutes between runs to do maintenance. Normally they'll completely tear down the engine and check/replace components as needed. After they're done they start up the engine in the pits to make sure it runs and do a heat cycle to seat parts. The engine starts and idles at about 2500 RPMs. At the end of the cycle they'll blip the throttle, going from idle to full throttle in a fraction of a second. You can stand behind the car as it runs and get the full force of the thunderous engine, eyes stinging and watering from the Nitro Methane exhaust. It's a little slice of car nut Heaven. Everyone jumps when the throttle is blipped!
This is Brandon Bernstein's Top Fuel Dragster passing by at full song. You can see the header flames even in the bright sunshine. I can't begin to describe the sensation of a Nitro pass. I now understand how sound can be used as a weapon. The sound of a Nitro car at full throttle is physical. It goes beyond mere sound. It vibrates the very air in your chest. The sound will hurt your ears if you don't at least have your fingers in them as it passes. The exhaust rushing from the headers actually assaults your body.
Then the car is past, still accelerating toward the finish line. A good pass will be under 4 seconds at over 300 miles an hour. If you look closely you can see this pass was 3.96 seconds at 305 MPH. That's in just 1000 feet.
There's even a class for the kids called Junior dragster. I wonder if the grandkids can be convinced.....
All in all it was a great time. If you get a chance I highly recommend going and seeing these magnificent cars in person. Nitro Methane is the Eighth Wonder of the World. It doesn't burn it explodes. After you witness a thundering pass you'll wonder why the engines don't explode every time (as opposed to occasionally). After you see just how fast 300 miles per hour are you'll have a new appreciation for the sheer courage of the men and women who strap on these machines and hurl themselves down the track in a barely controlled explosion of sound and fury. There is just nothing like it and the very best of Drag Racing is right here in the good old USA.
God bless America!