One of my favorite things ever: hot-rods on the quarter mile. A true exhibition of quickness and speed; and a great test for any enthusiastic car nut. The rules couldn’t be more simple: how fast can you go in the standing quarter mile? Beat the poor sap in the lane next to you, and then move on to the next round. Sounds easy, right? In days long since past, that may have been the case. But nowadays it takes a bit more. In some classes it takes MUCH more. Money, time, engineering expertise, fabrication skills, driving talent, quick hands and even quicker reactions. These are part of what makes this discipline so much more than just driving a car in a straight line for a few seconds on a sunny afternoon.
But one thing that will never change in this sport, is how amazing the cars and bikes look as they pull to the line. In some motor sports it’s all about getting dirty. On purpose, even. But here it almost seems as if it’s just as important to look good as it is to go fast, and the cars at this year’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals didn’t disappoint. The cars were incredible, and through every rank they were immaculately clean, well-maintained and well engineered. A high level of skill and craftsmanship was clearly not just reserved for the professional ranks.
I remember the days when my step-dad, Steve, and I would head out to the track with our tube chassis 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. A good portion of our preparation was making the car sparkle. To run slick, in our opinion, it needed to look slick. And was it ever! A purplish blue with white pearl SS stripes down the hood and deck. It was something to see. And it sure got Steve to the top end in a hurry. I was actually pretty happy to see that things hadn’t changed much since Steve and I were racing every weekend, so many years ago. Clean, fast cars streaking down the quarter mile, some at well over 300 mph. Simply awesome.
And let’s not forget the terrible and wonderful noise these machines emit while making their way through the process of roll-in, burnout, stage and blast off. Music to the gearhead ear with each and every pass. The growl of open-tube V8, which turns into a deafening scream before the finish line. Each manufacturer has a distinct tone, and those of us who’ve been around a while, can easily tell the difference between manufacturers. Even beyond that the very experienced ear can differentiate engine size, and maybe even what type of fuel they’re running.
One distinct sound, which is unmistakable even with the casual fan, is the sound of 10,000 horsepower worth of Nitro burning: “AA fuel” Dragsters and Funny Cars. Incredible machines that reach 100 mph in about a second…or so; and well over three hundred in just a thousand feet. It’s said that the vehicle is doing nearly 100 mph by the time the driver gets their foot all the way to the floor. That’s pretty quick. And the noise…back to that glorious noise. You can feel it. Even with ear plugs in – it’s deafening. It’s a terrifying, body moving, soul shaking experience to be in the presence of one of these machines, as it angrily claws its way down the drag strip. I highly recommend the experience to everyone.
Be sure to check out the full gallery at the end of this post.
If you’ve never been to a NHRA National event, I suggest you make your way out to one as soon as possible. This stuff is just too much fun.
Here’s the rest of our photos from the Sonoma Nationals.