Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page

Dragstock III: ADRL Ready For Prime Time

By Glen Grissom

n case you missed it, I suggest you go over and read elsewhere on DRO our you-are-there coverage of Dragstock III held at Rockingham Dragway the middle of Sept. That is, after you read my column of course! The coverage is in-depth and there are lots of cool photos, but I have some vivid impressions about the event to share because it was the first time I’d attended a Pro Mod-type race, and it opened my eyes to a whole new level of appreciation for drag racing in this day and age.

I have seen the Pro Mods every so often flicking through the TV channels and even remember when the first cars were getting built and we were selling MSD ignitions (where I used to work) to the racers in the late ‘80s. The big-bodied cars looked almost cartoonish at first glance, but from the very start they could wow a crowd. When I worked for TNN I covered a couple of their races. It was outrageous drag racing sound and fury on a scale few had seen before, but still a sideshow to the main racing.
But they have come of age and thrust the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) into the big time. Dragstock III was my first ADRL-sanctioned race and they pulled off an impressive show given some of the challenges they faced – like so many people filling up the Rockingham strip facility that they closed the gates hours before Eliminations began because there was no more room for parking or people. It was one of the biggest crowds at the drag strip ever – probably over 20,000.

These enthusiasts also faced concession stand lines of at least 150 feet, yet patrons stood calmly in the afternoon heat and into the night waiting for worn-out workers to fill their orders. I have never seen such a massive, well-mannered family-type crowd at a racing event, let alone a drag racing one, and they should be acknowledged for their patience and fortitude. They certainly got their money’s worth of racing.

I had been reporting and attending NASCAR events at North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham, The Rock) just across the street from the drag strip since the early ‘90s, and it was a bittersweet return to the area. I had forgotten how convoluted it was to get to the venerable tough circle track if you followed the road signs. I had forgotten the shortcuts I used to use.

You end up twisting through downtown Rockingham and residential areas and generally think you’re on a road to nowhere and ready to backtrack thinking you missed a turn somewhere, and then the stock car track appears on your right. I had seen some great roundy-round racing at The Rock and now it was standing hauntingly empty, its stacked aluminum grandstands flickering in the sun  – a casualty of TV ratings and too many new stock car tracks that could hold more people. The lost revenue has hurt the town, but the drag racing events are making up for some of that.

The Rockingham drag strip had never really registered with me for all those years; it really didn’t get much of chance as long as Cup racing was the prime event. But owner Steve Earwood has brought the track back and has a top notch crew. It was odd, I was attending my first Pro Extreme and Pro Nitrous classes event, and looking up at the silenced (since 2004) grandstands of the famous old stock car track. Who could have predicted that?

I was also a little skeptical about the racing DRO Editor Jeff Burk told me was going to be “all time” when he said I was going to Dragstock III. Yes, the cars looked like sci-fi-on-acid: all bulges and blower hats and blasting -- and they riveted you. But racing on an eighth mile? Was that really racing? That length was for test & tune nights, or grudge matches, I thought. Real racing was done a quarter mile at a time. Well, did I get my mind expanded this weekend!

I was lucky enough to see Fuel Altereds once when I was a kid growing up in Southern Cali and that is really what the modern Pro Mod in its various classes evokes. Throw in that the bodies range from out-sized ’56 Chevys, or ’58 Vettes, or Studes, or whatever wacky combo someone can come up with, and you have a real wild show. Fuel Altereds were unpredictability with four wheels (sometimes racing on only three of them) and the Pro Mods are all that and more. They almost make a Funny Car ride look positively like a stroll. These guys launch with all the trajectory and control of a slimy pumpkin seed squeezed between your thumb and forefinger. I fully expected one of the unchained monsters to pirouette in the staging lanes and drive toward us in the tower (not really, but it’s enough for you to think that it could happen).

Call me sold American! -- an eighth mile race is plenty long enough to jack the crowd’s collective adrenaline out of range and is easier on parts – although you could tell that tuners were leaning on their stuff here. You had to if you wanted to keep up. Flowmaster announced their formation/sponsorship of the Flowmaster 200 MPH Club to recognize with cash the first 10 drivers to reach that speed in the eighth, and they nearly had to get out their checkbook before the event was done.

Jason Scruggs laid out a monster 3.813-second pass at 198.44 mph in the opening round of Pro Extreme eliminations, and he set new ADRL elapsed time and speed records after he backed it up with a 3.823/198.06 blast pair in the next round. The Flowmaster guys were doing a turn-away business at their display trailer and I thought they might try to shake me down for some spare bills to make the $5,000 they might be owing Jason for being the first to reach their milestone. Bet they wish now they had started the 205 MPH Club instead. Congrats for their support of this racing.

New converts can be insufferable in their zeal, but I want to urge you go out and see this racing sanctioned by the ADRL. They and the Rockingham track staff put on one of the best racing events I’ve seen. It had its slow moments, like every drag race, and I still think a Jet car should be used to roast scurrying Shiners in their go-karts. But the ADRL should also be commended for stepping up and making head and neck restraints mandatory in their Pro classes in 2007. They know they have a great product and should do all they can to protect their participants. When these guys come to town, go see them. ‘Nuff said.



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