It’s strange how the most recent experience you’ve had seems to stay in your mind much longer, so I’m still thinking about the last race I went to, which was the NHRA World Finals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip. When I first started covering drag racing, I wasn’t terribly keen on it, but the nitromethane got into my blood (in no time at all) and suddenly it’s the one type of racing I’m dying to tell others they need to experience.
Why, you might ask? Well, drag racing is elemental. It happens and you immediately know the results. The cars (and motorcycles) are so darn powerful and quick down the quarter-mile (and 1000-foot strip for the Top Fuel and Funny Car entries). The people are easy to get to know – no F1 attitudes here – and every fan has an opportunity to see the crews at work, rebuilding engines in less than 45 minutes between rounds. On qualifying days, anyone can mosey up to the ropes and carry on a conversation with the mechanics.
Despite the intended glamour of the Top Fuel and Funny Car flame-belching classes, I have an affinity for the Pro Stock category above all. The reason for this is the technical innovations in Pro Stock; the others all run the same engines and can actually share parts. In Pro Stock there’s covers over the engines so that nobody can see what each team is doing. And there’s very little camaraderie in the class because of this: you’ve got GM runners hiding their wares from the Ford camp and certainly from the Mopar group, which won the series in 2012 for the first time since 1994!
The new drag racing season won’t come soon enough for me. I can’t wait to discover what the teams are doing, who’s changed squads and who’s got the advantage for the coming year. Two things I know, though, is that no matter who finishes first in the initial race at Pomona, it’s never an indicator of how the season will progress. Most likely the series titleholders won’t be crowned until the final day – often the final pass of the final day – when everyone comes back to Pomona, the ancestral home of American drag racing.