Classic muscle cars, horsepower, and burnouts: what’s better? Last weekend, Anna’s parents were in town, and we went to the Cedar Falls Motorsports Park to see some drag racing. We have been talking about going for over a year and finally set a date to go.
I have enjoyed going to the drag strip over the years. Before I was married, I went to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota, for 5+ years. Attending an NHRA Top Fuel event is beyond words. Every time I’ve been around someone who has been to a Top Fuel event and tries to explain it to someone who hasn’t been, they are at a loss for words and end up saying, “you just have to go and experience it for yourself.”
Top Fuel dragsters reach speeds of 330+ mph and can go from 0 to 100 mph in just 0.8 seconds and produce over 10,000 horsepower! The sheer power they make is incredible. I can still remember the first time I saw a Top Fuel dragster go down the strip. The burnouts are incredible, and my shirt ended up getting stained from all the specs of rubber that floated in the cloud of smoke as it passed by the stands. The engines run on nitromethane which burns your eyes if you are ever near the pits when they are rebuilding and testing the engines between runs.
Once the tires have cleaned and heated from the burnout, the dragsters pre-stage and stage by breaking two light beams at the beginning of the starting line which is indicated on the Christmas Tree. Once the lights turn green, it’s off to the races; however, if one lane receives a red light, it is due to either not staging in a timely manner or because the driver left the starting line before the light turned green and is disqualified.
When two Top Fuel dragsters get the green light and head down the track, the stands literally shake. The launch acceleration approaches 8 g-forces. That is equal to a space shuttle launch. As the dragsters run at full acceleration, you can see flames shooting out the exhaust pipes. The dragsters are so fuel thirsty, they use 11+ gallons of nitromethane per second under full throttle.
In the blink of an eye, the race is over and the drivers pull their parachutes, which creates around 3 negative g-forces. This kind of force throws the diver from the back to the front of their seat causing their eyes to bulge. That is why I am fan and not a driver. Those people are crazy and put their life on the line every time they race.
Even though we weren’t seeing Top Fuel dragsters this past weekend, I was excited to share my love of drag racing with my family. So, when you head to the drag races with your family, here’s what I’d suggest.
Bring ear plugs
Unless you have already lost your hearing, it is wise to bring earplugs. I know you don’t want to look dorky, but trust me, you will want them. Plus, it will prevent you from covering your ears with your hands every time.
Bring your own food and beverages
Not every race has food and beverage sales. As the day drags on (#punintended) you will become hungry and thirsty. Packing some cold meat sandwiches in a cooler along with water and a bag of chips is a cheap and easy snack when you are at the track.
Bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and chapstick with SPF
My first year at Brainerd for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, I burnt my lips. And not on coffee or a hotdog. They were burnt from the sun. By the time I returned home to Iowa, they had swollen up like I had lip injections gone wrong. The sun didn’t seem that bad, and it never crossed my mind. Needless to say, when I am outside for an extended period of time, regardless of the season, I use chapstick with SPF in it to help protect my lips. Like your lips, the rest of your skin is exposed to the threat of a sunburn even if it is a cloudy day. Make sure to put some sunscreen on just to be safe. Depending on the time of day that you are at the track, the angle of the sun can cause you to squint your eyes a lot. By bringing a hat and sunglasses, you can prevent the sun from ruining your view of the track.
Don’t bring your little kids to the drag races
Now this might seem a little harsh at first, but unless your kids have grown up in a racing family, odds are they won’t like it when they get to the drag strip. Our kids are 4 years old and 20 months old. This was their first time to the track and their last one for awhile. As we were finding a place to park, our 20 month-old daughter began to cry as the loud cars drove around the pits returning from racing. Most of these cars are open headers (no exhaust coming off the headers) and are extremely loud. While I love it, it scares the kids.
After sitting in the stands for 15 minutes, our daughter had had enough. Anna took her back to the car to calm her down while I sat with Jude and Anna’s parents.
I had a feeling this might happen. When I paid the $60 to get in ($15 x 4 adults) I had a sneaking suspicion that we wouldn’t last long with the kids. By my calculations, I paid about a $1.33 per minute that I was able to be in the stands.
Ironically, while my kids did not enjoy the drag races, there were Junior Drag Racing League competitors racing that day. These dragsters are 5 to 17 years-old and use a five-horsepower, single-cylinder engine. They can go as fast as 85 mph and as quickly as 7.90 seconds in an eighth-mile. That sure beats any go-kart that I was ever on as a kid.
When my kids get a little older, I will try taking them to the drag strip again. I think my son will be better suited to go around age 6 to 8. We haven’t even taken him to a movie in the theater yet, so it is no surprise that he wouldn’t want to sit and watch the races.
Have you taken your kids to the drag strip before? Did they love it or hate it? I’d love your hear your story in the comments below.