It’s no secret that I love drag racing; after all, I grew up with the sport. My father was a sportsman racer (the category for non-professional drag racers), so my parents took us kids to the track from the time we were babies. I grew up watching my dad work on his race car, both at home and at the track, and cheered him on as he sped down the track. I also loved climbing in the stands to watch the “big boys” — the professional drag racers — as they competed to see who would turn on the win light first.
Now that I’m a parent, I have introduced my children to drag racing. The main reason for doing so is because I wanted them to see and learn about the sport their grandfather loved, but I also wanted them to have the opportunity to love it as much as I do. So far, at ages 6 and 10, they do. But I think all families should consider taking their kids to experience drag racing. It’s such a family-oriented sport, and it provides a much more personal experience than NASCAR racing does. In fact, here are my top five reasons to attend a drag race.
1. Take the Family.
As previously mentioned, drag racing is a family-oriented sport. I grew up in the sport, watching my dad race, just like many other drag racing fans. But you’ll also see lots of families within the racers as well. For instance, NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Funny Car driver John Force competes against his own daughter Courtney, a fellow Funny Car driver. His daughter Brittany also races, although as a NHRA Top Fuel driver. But this is just one example. Walk the pits at the race track, and you’ll see many families working together on cars, cheering one another on, lining up together at the starting line.
2. Get Up Close and Personal.
NASCAR likes to tout its experiences that allow fans to get close to the action, like watching crews work on cars in the garages. But these experiences are expensive and limited in number. On the contrary, at most drag races, every race ticket is a pit pass, meaning every fan can walk right up to the cars and watch as the crews work. For the professional categories, the work area is cordoned off, but you are still within 5 feet of the car. And, many times, you’ll see the driver right there as well, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
3. The Kids Won’t Get Bored.
Many people ask me what the difference is between NASCAR and NHRA drag racing. The simple answer is, NASCAR drivers compete on round tracks for an extended distance, say 500 miles. These races generally take three to four hours to complete. Drag racing consists of four rounds of competition, with each round featuring two drivers racing head to head down a quarter mile track (the actual distance can vary based on category and track, but this is the general rule. At smaller local and regional tracks, competitors may race down an eighth-mile track.) As a result, kids are much more engaged with drag racing because the action continually changes between car classes.
In addition, there can be periodic breaks in the action, allowing children to relax a bit before refocusing as the action resumes. During these breaks, families can wander the pits – the “garage” area of the track where crews work on cars – and watch the crews in action. You even may score a photo opp or autograph with your favorite driver when he or she comes out to greet fans. There also are many activities set up, such as trying your skills at a racing simulator game, grabbing a souvenir picture at a photo booth in a sponsor tent, and shopping at the many merchandise trailers.
4. It Won’t Break the Budget.
Unlike many other sporting events, tickets to drag racing events are much more affordable. At local or regional races, tickets start at approximately $10, with many venues offering free kids tickets based on age (generally 10 or 12 and younger). At national events, tickets cost approximately $50, and, for many events, kids get in free with an adult ticket. In addition, for many venues, general parking is free. You’ll find drag racing tracks throughout the country; just search “dragway” and your city or state. You also can follow the NHRA Drag Racing Series at tracks around the country. Check the website for current schedule and locations.
If you love speed, you’ll find plenty of it at the drag races. In the NHRA nitro fuel classes, the cars are pumping out more than 11,000 horsepower (compared to 200 to 400 hp for a regular car), churning out speeds of more than 300 mph in less than 4 seconds! You won’t find that kind of action anywhere else in the world of racing. As the cars fly by, you feel the earth shaking in every inch of your body, the engines roaring in your ears (even with the recommended ear protection), and the scent of burning nitro and rubber in the air. There’s nothing else like it, and for millions of drag racing fans like me, you can never get enough of it.
Have you or your family ever attended a drag race? If so, tell us what you thought about it in the comments below.