I was not sure what to expect when a buddy of mine invited me to join him for drag racing. Contrary to my assumptions, there were very few men sprinting in high heels, makeup and wigs. No, it turns out that drag racing is a completely different genre of entertainment. If you’re not familiar with this sport, let me cover the basics.
The average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish the sentence, “the average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish this sentence.” The fastest dragsters hurtle down a 1,000-foot track in under four seconds. When I told my wife this, her response was, “That’s barely enough time to make it to the first turn.” During one heat I sneezed, causing me to completely miss the race.
My wife does not understand drag racing at all – in the same way that I usually don’t understand my wife. You see, this sport is all about three things: insanely fast cars, thunderously loud engines that could burst your ear drums, and sexy young women in hot pants and knee-high kinky boots, hanging around the starting line, pretending to serve a purpose.
When we sat down for the first heat, I almost had a heart attack at the explosion of noise. Imagine the heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap, with their speakers cranked up to 11. Now multiple that by 11 gazillion and you have a rough approximation of how loud these engines are.
Typically, two racers are pitted against each other in a sprint. Sadly, I did not witness a single car veer off the track into the wall. The closest any car came to disaster was when one dragster’s engine caught fire, causing him to lose the race. My buddy informed me that replacing the engine would cost upwards of $250,000. Given that the average income for a drag racer is $75,000 – well, you do the math.
Several classes of vehicles were competing: top fuel dragsters (the long skinny ones), funny cars (imagine a Chevy Camaro plastered bonnet to boot with sponsors’ logos), something called pro stock, and even motorcycles. They are judged in four categories: RT (Reaction Time – how quickly they get off the starting line), ET (Elapsed Time – how long it takes to reach the finish line), TS (Top Speed achieved by the time they reach the finish line) and HB (Hot Babes – the number of superhot pre-pubescent chicks hanging around a driver’s car).
I don’t want to sound critical, but whoever came up with these designs never owned a minivan. First, none of them has any trunk space. And don’t let the “funny cars” fool you. They may look like they have a trunk, but it’s all fake. The cabs are incredibly cramped. There’s no way I could take my family camping in one of these. They don’t even come with a GPS, let alone a decent sound system. They really cut corners in their design.
Every driver has a pit crew of about ten helpers and a blonde babe in short pants, tall boots and a tiara. Immediately before and after the burnout (you know what that is, I’m sure), they swarm around the vehicle, looking under the hood, inflating the tires and checking her nails. Two guys are assigned to ensure none of the sponsors’ decals are falling off. They get the big bucks. Surprisingly, none of them offered to wash the windshield or check the oil. Seems like you just can’t get good pit crew help these days.
If you plan to go to a drag racing event, a couple suggestions: First, bring ear plugs – for you and your nine-month old. The couple next to us actually brought their infant to this event, but didn’t think to equip him with ear plugs. It only took seven heats for them to realize that Child Protective Services might not look kindly on them causing their child to go deaf before he turned one.
Secondly, don’t expect to have a heart-to-heart talk during this outing. Suggestions for possible conversation topics include: “What did you say?” and “Could you repeat that?” and “Sorry, you’ll have to scream louder. I can’t hear you.” This is also an excellent venue at which to break up with your girlfriend. There is every chance that when you tell her it’s over and you’ve found someone new, she won’t have any clue what just happened.
Finally, before you head to the track, I suggest accessorizing so you can blend in with the other fans. Start with a muscle shirt promoting beer or a popular motor oil. A baseball cap is a must. But no worries if you leave your “Make America Great Again” cap at home – they have plenty for sale at the track. And if you really want to fit in, consider a tattoo that runs the length of your arm featuring a snake, a vampire bat or perhaps something tasteful like the burning motorcycle from the Nicholas Cage classic, Ghost Rider.
As my buddy and I headed home after a fun day of watching blisteringly fast death traps, I imagined what it might be like to be behind the wheel of one of those top fuel dragsters with a 10,000-horsepower engine, reaching speeds upwards of 320 miles in 3.8 seconds. I suddenly floored the gas on my Hyundai Santa Fe. Within 20 seconds, I was hurtling down the interstate at 88 mph. I felt a rush of adrenaline. That’s when I saw the cop car and slammed on the brakes. That was a close call. So much for my racing dreams. But at least my car has a GPS and a kickass sound system.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
©Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017