Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page

Eighth mile racing for EVERYONE?

By David Anderson

s I sit here reflecting back on the awesome experience of Dragstock III in Rockingham, NC, I can’t help but wonder if this whole eighth-mile racing scene would be good for DRAG RACING overall.

I was frequenting some of my favorite websites as I ran across a post on a message board that reads like this: “That’s one of the FEW downsides of the ADRL, to me at least. I’m a quarter mile fan, but who knows, I’ve never seen a live 1/8 mile race in person so maybe I don’t know what I’m missing out on. To me, a LEGAL 5-second pass in the quarter would be more impressive than a 3.70 OR 200 mph in the 1/8th.”

Just six years ago I was a quarter-mile “snob” and thought eighth mile is for babies!  I was crew chief on a race team and we were running in the NMCA Pro Street series.  I remember looking at the schedule and seeing “Huntsville, AL – eighth mile race” on the schedule.  “That’s not a drag race!” I said.  Much to my surprise, it was in fact a drag race, just a shorter one.  Both cars still did their burnouts, staged and left the starting line and raced – just to a shorter distance then “normal.”  I still wasn’t a fan, but was a little more educated.

In 2003 I was approached by another racing friend who was converting from a supercharged to a turbocharged combination for his Outlaw 10.5 car.  He asked if I’d be willing to help him.  As we worked together, tested and attended some eighth-mile events, I began to see that it was every bit as exciting as quarter-mile racing.  Not long after that I began to start covering events at many local eighth-mile tracks in the Carolinas as a photographer and journalist. 

I became so accustomed to watching eighth-mile races that when I went to a quarter-mile race I thought the scoring system was broken because I was used to the numbers flashing up so soon! 

So, you’re reading this and still are a quarter-mile “snob"? Eighth-mile racing isn’t “real racing”?  Ponder this – what’s the last great quarter-mile barrier you or I might see in our lifetime? 

Ever since Eddie Hill broke the 4-second barrier and Kenny Bernstein broke the 300 mph barrier, 4 second, 300+ MPH runs in Top Fuel are the norm.  Ho hum, yawn, zzzz.  They can run 4’s at over 300 cracking the chutes at 1,000 feet or shutting off early.  The same holds true for Funny Car.  Do you even remember who ran the first 4-second pass in Funny Car or who broke 300 miles per hour?  We’ve all “seen” these cars run at 330 mph and my question to you is, can you discern the difference between 300 mph and 330 mph at the finish line with your eye or is it the scoreboard that tells you?

Let’s look at the door car classes. Since Kurt Johnson broke the 6-second barrier and Warren Johnson broke 200 mph in Pro Stock, runs like that are normal.  They’re close to breaking the 6-second barrier in Denver now with corrected altitudes of over 8,800 feet! The IHRA Pro Stock class suffers the same identity crisis as Robert Patrick just ran a World Record pass but no one will remember in a few months.  Does anyone really remember who broke the 6.30 barrier in IHRA Pro Stock?

Then we come to Pro Modified, a class near and dear to my heart.  The last great barrier – no one has gone in the 5’s in legal trim.  Mitch Stott broke the 5-second barrier three years ago at Darlington and since then the Aussies have broken the 5-second barrier too.  Will it be impressive to see a “5.99” on the scoreboard? Perhaps, once.  To me, it’s lost its luster because it’s already been done, just not by someone’s “legal” standards.  Mitch Stott will ALWAYS be the first in the 5’s. 

Drag racers and fans alike seem to be fixated on round numbers.  200 mph, 300 mph, 6 seconds, 5 seconds, 4 seconds.  Do the numbers in between really have that much significance?  How many fans remember who the first Top Fuel driver was to 310, 320 and 330?  The likelihood of a 3-second Top Fuel run or 400 mph seems pretty unlikely in my lifetime. 

So, why eighth mile racing? 

1.  Safety – period.  They’ve limited overdrive, gear ratio nitro-methane percentages and still have cars exceeding 330 mph.  While the sanctioning bodies continue to look for ways to limit performance, the teams (particularly the top teams) always find a way to overcome those.  While we’re at it, has Goodyear made a tire they say is “safe” at those speeds?  Is chunking a thing of the past?  Yet the current tires seem to have little if no issues at 300 mph and under.   Keep the speeds down and you have “safer” conditions in ANY class!  Sir Isaac Newton’s law states that Force = Mass x Acceleration.  Keep the speed (which equates to acceleration in this example) down and the force will be less in any impact.  Which would be safer, an impact at 280mph or 330mph?

2.     Cost. Most cars eat parts after the eighth mile. How often do fuel teams change tires?  Would this cost go down with lower speeds?  Look at the nitrous and blown Pro Modifieds who seem to eat the most parts the last eighth mile – would this save them money?  Lower budget teams might be more competitive too. 

3.     New targets - a few more great barriers to look forward to. The first doorslammer to 200mph, the first Top Fuel car to 300mph, the first Funny Car to 300mph (and under 3 seconds).

Legendary promoter George Howard may have had it right when he brought Top Fuel to the eighth mile in Huntsville, AL, at the Rocket City Nationals last year.  The racers and crews liked it, and the fans packed the stands!  I didn’t hear one fan talk about how they didn’t see a 300-mph run.  Take away half of the real estate and let the crew chiefs chew on that for a while!  

If you have a response to this Guest Editorial or have a guest Editorial of your own, please email response@dragracingonline.com. The responses will appear in our Letters section. Any Guest Editorial chosen for publication will appear in our Columns section.

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