A little after 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, at Brainerd International Raceway, Tony Schumacher eased off the clutch of his U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster, held the car in the beams with the handbrake, then stabbed the throttle. Just under four-seconds later—3.847 seconds, to be exact—Schumacher had made himself a little more drag racing history with his team’s new controversial cockpit canopy in place for the first time in an official NHRA pass.
Considering his seven world titles, this tidbit of drag racing trivia is marginally meaningful in the grand scheme of things, but the first pass down the 1,000-foot strip for the canopy, clearly, seemed like a pretty big deal to Tony. Read more
Staged in relative obscurity at marginal eighth-milers across the Carolinas, through Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, with the occasional trip down to Florida, Outlaw 10.5 (O/L 10.5) racing in the 1990s often resembled little more than a series of loosely organized grudge matches where side bets often exceeded advertised purses. Outlaw racing attracted individuals in the purest sense, racers who for money or travel reasons preferred not to join the major sanctioning bodies—or who simply didn’t like to be told what they could or couldn’t do to their cars.
But without an overseer, rules remained loose, safety was often an afterthought (if thought of at all), record runs remained open to debate, and there was no accurate way to establish who actually deserved to be called a champion. Plus, as the cars got faster, it cost more to field them, the teams grew more professional, and an entire cottage industry sprang up to serve the burgeoning O/L 10.5 scene. Read more
Drag racers are their own worst enemies when it comes to performance versus performing. Almost without exception they’re willing to sacrifice showmanship in their pursuit of speed and unfortunately the major sanctioning bodies typically encourage and reward the decision. Sure, lip service is given to the idea that “drag racing is show business and we’re competing with Little League Baseball and NFL football and concerts and movies for the consumer’s attention,” but in the interest of reducing downtime and running on schedule, anything that might create a disturbance is discouraged.
Currently, that contradiction is nowhere more prominently on display than in the ADRL, where much of the buzz and excitement of the early years has been lost to the pursuit of perfection, on the track by teams and prep crews, and in the tower by series officials. Read more