Well, I did it! Yep, had to go get me another horsepower fix this past July. How did I do that you say? I took the “Experience” by enrolling myself and a couple of my buddies in the “Doug Foley School of Drag Racing”.
Why did this school catch my attention? First you actually get to drive the dragsters and second these dragsters will do the ¼ mile or the “old” 1320 in 10 seconds at close to 130 MPH. Now I am saying dragsters? Because that’s what they are – full rail dragsters, weighing only about 1500 pounds and 15 feet in total length. These babies are powered by small block Chevys putting out 500 horsepower of adrenalin pumping full throttle wide open speed. These things give a no less than a 2G launch at the drop of the throttle and I can honestly say I did in fact achieve that “BIG-O-GIANT RUSH” I was looking for.
When we arrived it had just finished raining so they were finishing drying the track for the next class to start. We all gathered around the dragsters to “oooo” and “ahhhh” about how cool they looked and bragging about how each of us was going to be the fastest. Doug Foley took the time and told us all about his history in the great sport of drag racing (Doug campaigns a Top Fuel Dragster on the NHRA circuit when he isn’t hosting his Drag Racing Schools) and how he got this deal started. Doug has 5 of these dragsters to maintain and make ready for these classes. He also has two other dragsters with double side by side seats and offers a ride along experience for those who don’t wish to actually drive.
After the introduction and overview of what to expect it was off to the classroom for safety orientation. Now this was great. Our safety instructor is also a competitive dragster driver and has been sense the mid 60s. He very clearly explained what to do and what not to do. Told us all about how to do a burn out and what staging the car was all about. He explained that these dragsters were designed so that just about anybody, including me, would have no problem driving out the big end for the full experience of what real drag racers feel each time they click off a lap. After the question and answer exchange we were put in a van and driven to the starting line. Here we were shown the burnout area, the staging area, and the starting line. We were then driven down the track and through the traps so we could see where the return exits were. He was very specific about not too fast on the return rode. (Reason for that later)
We all got out of the van and went to the trailer to get suited up. First it was upper fire suits all around. Then finding a helmet the fit just right, then we were divided up according to height. Big guys in the back and little guys in the front! I fell somewhere in the middle of the pack and got the number two dragster starting position.
We were then told climb into the dragsters and wait for an attendant to strap us into the seat using the 5 way safety harness. I saw my buddy get into his car first, now I mentioned this is a big guy, 6’3” or 6’4” I don’t know but when I looked into the drivers cockpit of him in his dragster all I saw was a helmet full of face and a drivers compartment full of knee caps. I mean it was tight to say the least.
The attendant then went over the many levers, buttons, switches, gauges, etc. Then he told me not to worry about any of those things and just remember the gas is the pedal on the right and the brake is the pedal on the left. I think that is when my heart started beating a little bit faster and the adrenalin was really starting to flow. Our first past was to only be to the 330 foot mark. We were to do burn out, stage the car, and mash the gas when the light turned green and remember to let off at some cones that marked the 330 foot mark. Ok, I was ready! I did what I thought was a really great burnout and followed Doug’s hand instructions in getting me close to the first set of staging lights. I crept up on and was fully staged. The first yellow light was lit, the second one came on and the third lit up and I just hammered the gas pedal. I hit it so hard I thought my foot was going to go through he floor boards. I hit a .059 light and blasted right past the first cones and let off, coasting down the track with smile bigger than any smile I’d had before. I slowly applied the brakes and saw the turn off for the return road and felt really good about my first ever pass in a dragster.
Now getting back to that piece of advice we got in the safety class about driving slow on the return road. These dragsters have like zero suspension except for the air in those massive drag slicks. Here I was feeling good about my run and all of a sudden my head is banging away inside the roll gage and the car was hopping all over the place and I was only idling. I slowed the car down to prevent a reoccurrence of the 6.5 earthquake part of the experience.
The second run was pretty much the same as the first but we did get to go a full 1/8 mile prior to shut off. Now on that second round I red-lighted with -.001 reaction time. Almost a perfect light but still a red light all the same. I was slow on the return road and felt good about the whole thing.
I was ready for the full tilt, full speed, full 1320 a ¼ mile run that was coming up next. I did my burn out. Staged the car and was ready to run that full lap. I took a deep breath to settle down when I fogged my visor just as the yellow light were starting to cycle. I was doing all I could to try and clear my visor before the yellow lights went to green. Well it took longer than I thought to get my visor un-fogged, and I was a little panicked which cause me to have a very slow reaction time of .167.
I stood on the gas and got the 330 feet feeling good, to the 1/8 mile and still feeling good when all of sudden my eyes started to blur, the noise was deafening and the now very light front end of my dragster was causing the front tires to vibrate. I must admit, that vibration got my attention I remember Doug saying just drive the car straight and you will be just fine. But at the peculiar moment un time I was not believing, I was breathing heavy, my heart was pounding in my chest, I wanted to scream and then I saw Elvis at the 1000 ft mark, looking down at me and shaking his head, so I lifted my foot off the gas and everything came back into focus, my heart slowed down, I could see again and it became eerily quite. I knew right away that I lifted too soon and did not drive it out the back door as I told everyone I would. But you know what, I still had fun, I went over 100 MPH and I kept it straight down the track.
Next time I will drive it out the backdoor and achieve the big run that eluded me in my first attempt. One thing for sure is I now have a lot more appreciation and respect for the drivers who do this every weekend. I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to run over 300 MPH in a little over four seconds with almost 8000 horsepower screaming down the track. I can’t wait till my next opportunity to feed my need for speed.
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