SURVIVED ROY HILL’S
DRAG RACING SCHOOL
GOT THE T-SHIRT TO PROVE IT)
the victor go the spoils! Here, standing next to the
self-proclaimed “Drill Sergeant of Drag Racing”
himself, I proudly model the T-shirt awarded to all
graduates of Roy Hill’s Drag Racing School.
Words by Ian Tocher
Photos by Ian Tocher and Jan Roper
’m a racecar driver now. Well, not really. In fact,
I’m a long, long way from it, but I have at least driven
a real racecar, thanks to a recent one-day stint at Roy Hill’s
Drag Racing School.
The plan was for me to have fun, of course, but more importantly
to gain a little insight into what the men and women I so
often photograph and write about have to go through with each
pass down the strip. As a non-participant I’ve always
been able to listen, observe, and learn about the sport, but
never to truly empathize with what actually goes on in the
cockpit. My all-too-brief time behind the wheel of one of
Hill’s Super Comp dragsters gave me at least a hint
of what it’s all about.
The day starts early for racers. That’s my first lesson
after spending the night at Hill’s large, tastefully
decorated home near High Point, NC, deep in the heart of stock
car country. My host and soon-to-be driving instructor rousted
me from sweet slumber about 6 a.m. for departure to the track.
Hill, 60, shares living quarters with longtime companion
Jan (“I don’t believe in marriage,” the
twice-divorced Hill says), Izzy, a 21-year-old cat that doesn’t
look a day over 12, and a 90-something-pound Rottweiler named
Sage that couldn’t be gentler if she tried. His office
features photos and mementos from 40-plus years in professional
drag racing that’s included success in both NHRA and
IHRA Pro Stock as a driver and team owner, the 1995 IHRA Pro
Stock championship as team owner with Mike Bell doing the
driving, and current ownership of the supercharged Mustang
in which Bell set a new IHRA Pro Mod E.T. record of 6.046
seconds this fall at Rockingham, NC.
Our first stop is Hill’s race shop just a few curvy
miles from his house, where the Pro Mod car lies in a state
of disassembly after a long, hard season, but two dragsters
and a couple of Pro Stock Thunderbird school cars are already
loaded and ready for the short trip to the eighth-mile Piedmont
Before heading to the track, Hill
treated us to breakfast at a colorful local dining establishment.
Actually, the food was quite good.
We also meet a couple of my classmates there, Nick White,
who along with friend Tim Murphy, has towed his 429-equipped
1970 Mustang all the way down from Indianapolis to go through
a three-day set-up and driving session with Hill, and Tom
Hemmingson, who signed up to drive the automatic Pro Stocker.
Tim Dooley, who plans to go IHRA Pro Stock racing next year,
will meet us at the track.
The class size is small this day because Hill is just getting
back into teaching after being forced to take the last few
months off due to a serious health scare. He’s feeling
fine now, though, and several times throughout the day mentions
that returning to instructing is the best medicine for him.
“I’m very fortunate,” he says. “This
school will keep me in drag racing for the rest of my life.
I love it. It’s what’s keeping me alive.”
Our school day starts about 9 a.m. with a “classroom”
session in the Piedmont tower, where Hill begins by going
over safety issues, then grills the group on the physical
attributes of a typical dragstrip. Surprisingly—or not,
if you ask Hill—no one, including yours truly, gets
it right. “You’ve got to learn every inch of that
track,” he stresses. “You can’t win if you
don’t know what you’re working with.”