Re­turn With us now to Those Thrilling Days of Yes­ter­year—for Bet­ter or Worse

Drag Racer - - Over Center -

PAR­DON MY RE­TREAT TO MEM­O­RIES OF THE LONE RANGER, BUT IT’S FIT­TING. The photo here of Ste­vie “Fast” Jack­son at the Lights Out 8 Drag Ra­dial brawl harkens back to the heady days of ’60’s match-race mad­ness.

All that’s miss­ing is a cloud of Gold Dust rosin.

Un­less you’ve been in a coma, you’re aware of how small-tire, no-prep (for a lack of a bet­ter term) “out­law” rac­ing has ex­ploded in the South­east and quickly spread across the coun­try. Jim

Hughes at Tuc­son Drag­way is de­ploy­ing a unique ap­proach for “no-prep” rac­ing: He’s us­ing the track’s shut­down area for the 1/8-mile com­pe­ti­tion. Hughes and crew are do­ing their part to en­tice wouldbe street rac­ers to bring the ac­tion to a safe en­vi­ron­ment.

The level of ex­cite­ment gen­er­ated, es­pe­cially by small­tire rac­ing, is rem­i­nis­cent of that fren­zied pe­riod in drag rac­ing when rac­ers wheel­ing rides that had no home in sanc­tioned com­pe­ti­tion took to out­law tracks, es­pe­cially in the South­east. If you didn’t wit­ness these races, you’ve prob­a­bly seen pho­tos of fans lit­er­ally lin­ing the track and crowd­ing the start­ing line.

This phe­nom­e­non has been a bless­ing to track op­er­a­tors by pro­vid­ing a show to lure pay­ing cus­tomers to their fa­cil­i­ties. It’s been quite a stretch since they’ve had such an op­por­tu­nity, and frankly, it’s heart­en­ing to see the height­ened level of en­thu­si­asm.

Un­for­tu­nately, there’s a down­side to this move­ment. The “out­law” as­pect has been overly hyped. Some rac­ers thumb their noses at sanc­tioned rac­ing and, in the ex­treme, spurn or­ga­nized events com­pletely; in­stead, turn­ing to the street. You’re all aware of the “badass” street-rac­ing syn­drome. This sit­u­a­tion has been ex­ac­er­bated by the “re­al­ity” TV shows that glam­or­ize it.

Drag rac­ing has fought for le­git­i­macy since its in­cep­tion. Only within the last dozen years have lo­cal TV sta­tions and news­pa­pers quit la­bel­ing “street rac­ing” in­ci­dents as “drag rac­ing.”

For decades, spon­sor­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties were crip­pled by mis­per­cep­tions of the sport.

I’m hardly the first to draw at­ten­tion to this sit­u­a­tion, but all those who love drag rac­ing must be mind­ful of the dan­ger. Any of you out there who have sug­ges­tions, please drop me an email at Pward@ en­gaged­me­di­ainc.com.

 THEN

 NOW

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