After watching the NHRA on ESPN2 for years, Nita and I decided it was time to drag our butts out to Firebird. With some minor inconveniences, it was a great day at the races. Later on, I'll give you first timers some tips on how to make the day even better.
We arrived just as the top fuel dragster final eliminations began. What a thrill it was to finally hear that tremendous roar of 8,000 horses in person. The pounding in your chest, the overwhelming sense of power, the smell of burning rubber and the 300 mph speeds! One suggestion right up front: BRING EAR PROTECTION! Having been to the drags in my youth, I knew what to expect so we brought head phones for the kids and earplugs for us. There were a couple of times I forgot to put my earplugs back in, and it was actually a little painful.
Not knowing how they would react, we discussed not bringing the kids, but I'm glad we did. Our 5 year old was a little frightened at first but he got used to it right away. Our 15 year old, as with most teenagers these days, is kinda hard to impress, but he was pretty excited..... for a while!
My favorite driver is Ron Capps who drives the NAPA sponsored Funny Car. I'm not really sure why I like this guy so much. It may be his soft spoken enthusiasm and "regular guy" attitude. I remember a few years back there was an NHRA driver who would try to tackle the reporters after a win. I'm pretty sure it was Ron Capps. I tried to confirm my recollection of this, but was unable. I would love to find out for sure because I haven't seen this in years and I'm also pretty sure the suits at ESPN told Ron to quit attacking their reporters. This is the kind of sophomoric, spur of the moment stuff that makes a person real to me.
Many of the other drivers either talk to much (John Force) or always seem grouchy (Whit Bazemore, Warren Johnson) but I realize that this difference in personalities is what makes the rivalries and therefore, the sport of drag racing, interesting. I have read that part of the reason NHRA drag racing has not become as popular as NASCAR is because the rivalries in NASCAR are more intense and numerous. Hard to argue with that when you see all the confrontations that occur in a NASCAR race. Just the same, I prefer to watch the most extreme,powerful, and highest top end speeds that man has created with the internal combustion engine.
The relatively short duration of Sudays' finals kept the whole family interested and had just the right amount of breaks in between rounds. My wife and I are big fans of 60's and 70's muscle cars so it was a real treat to see the Super Stock categories. When we saw her favorite 69 Camero take off from the starting line, doing a wheelie, it was awesome. Unfortunately for me, my favorite car, the 72 Chevelle SS did not qualify for the final round.
Another category of cars called Pro Stock always seemed sort of uninteresting to me on television. I have a new appreciation for this type of drag racer. When the Pro Stock cars took off from the line, I was very surprised with the speed and quickness as they powered down the track. And, if you consider the fact that they must shift through 5 gears to reach top speed, it makes you appreciate them even more.
So... on to the most exciting part of the day, for us. Ron Capps had a great day with wins in the early rounds and we cheered him along in every race. Then it came to the final race of the day for the Funny Cars. In what some people have described as anti-climactic, (I emphatically disagree) Ron Capps faced off with driver Mike Neff in the John Force owned, Ford sponsored Funny Car. The process involved in each race includes a "burnout" where the cars heat up their tires for maximum traction. After Mike Neff's burnout, he was unable to reverse the car due to mechanical failure and thus could not get back to the starting line. CAPPS WINS...RACE OVER...END OF STORY? No way!
Capps had already won but, staged the car anyway, and rocketed out of the hole in a blistering 4.04 second run. Nita and I were jumping up and down and yelling as soon as we realized that Capps had won by default, but when he and crew chief Ed"The Ace"McCulloch decided to "make a statement"... we went ballistic! There is no way Team NAPA would allow the fans to go away with a default win. With that 4.04 run, Ron Capps' "statement" was loud and clear...."We would have beaten you anyway!"
Here are some suggestions for making your "Day at the Races" more enjoyable:
Don't forget the hearing protection
Bring some pillows or cushions to sit on
Firebird allows a sixpack size cooler for cold drinks
Bring plenty of cash for food and souvenirs
Bring a roll of toilet paper cuz they will run out
Bring a camera or recorder and some binoculars if possible