There’s always so much to celebrate in this great sport of ours, but Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to figure out what we’re thankful for in drag racing.
My list is a long one, but hopefully it stirs something memorable you experienced in 2019. With that, let’s give thanks to drag racing.
I’m thankful for Stevie “Fast” Jackson, who continues to push the envelope of what’s possible in a calendar year. An absolute dominant year in NHRA Pro Mod meant his first world title, the quickest run in class history, a number of wins, Radial vs. the World success and tuning Marcus Birt to a shot-heard-round-the-world nitrous pass equals one of the most memorable years from one of the sport’s biggest stars in recent memory.
I’m thankful for John Force winning his 150th race, top-end tirades, the bleep button that didn’t work, low fences and in-the-crowd celebrations. Seriously, if Force’s win and celebration in Seattle wasn’t one of your moments of the year, find something else to watch. Force remains extremely important to the health of the sport – for better or worse – so let’s not take his greatness for granted.
I’m thankful for the stick-to-itiveness of Doug Kalitta. It was another year, another “almost” for the Top Fuel veteran, this time losing out on his first world title by three points to Steve Torrence. Yet, Kalitta never appears too down and remains relentless on his quest for a title. Let’s hope it eventually happens.
I’m thankful that our sport’s females are better than your sport’s females – at least in motorsports. Nobody does equality like drag racing, and females crushed it at every turn in 2019. We had world titles from Erica Enders, who also gave females their 150th career NHRA win, Megan Meyer, Mendy Fry, Haley James, Tricia Musi and others I’m surely forgetting, plus outstanding performances from Karen Stoffer, Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett, Lizzy Musi – who won three straight No Prep Kings races – Jianna Salinas, Melanie Salemi, Julie Nataas, and, again, countless others. Plus, we get Alexis DeJoria back in 2020. I’m already thankful for that.
I’m thankful for top-end fireworks, fisticuffs and feistiness. Look, I’m not condoning Steve Torrence taking a swipe at Cameron Ferre, but I’m good with some extra theatrics. Do we need punches thrown? Probably not. But a little – or a lot – of extra emotion is just fine with me
On that note, I’m thankful for one of the wildest NHRA World Finals in recent memory. All four titles in play on Sunday, Torrence-Ferre fireworks, the Enders vs. Anderson showdown – which was extra juicy and exciting – Salinas improbably winning the race to hand Hines the title after he went red against Salinas to open the day, the Torrence-Force showdown and a whole lot more. Inject that kind of drama into my veins.
I’m thankful for Pro Stock. It might be en vogue for the mouthbreathers to continually declare Pro Stock is dying, but that’s why these dopes are only loud online. Pro Stock is alive and well, averaging close to 20 cars per race – which is great by any professional standard these days. It’s Camaro-heavy, no doubt, but this class has found a way to survive and, dare I say, thrive.
I’m also thankful for Mountain Motor Pro Stock. These standout drivers – often left in the shadows for some strange reason – got the spotlight and ran with it. It looks like 2020 is going to be even bigger for them, too.
I’m thankful for teary-eyed top-end moments and emotional celebrations. I’m looking at you Jerry Savoie, Jianna Salinas, Stevie “Fast” and many more.
I’m thankful for Top Alcohol Dragster, a class loaded with young guns. It embodies the talented youth in the sport and lets us all know the future is pretty dang bright.
I’m thankful for Austin Prock and Jordan Vandergriff, and let’s hope they make something of this friendly rivalry.
I’m thankful for Donald Long’s undying passion for Radial vs. the World. Whether it’s Lights Out, Sweet 16 or defending the class at every turn, he’s helped take this class to new levels. We’re suddenly in the 3.50s with no signs of slowing down and a cast of characters that make the class even more enjoyable.
Speaking of that, I’m thankful for pushing the envelope. Marcus Birt is hell on drag radials, and the same goes for Kevin Rivenbark, Tim Slavens, Mark Micke and about 20 other maniacs who put on a show for us in RvW.
I’m thankful for firsts, like Alex Laughlin winning Lights Out, Drew Skillman winning a world title, Todd Tutterow winning the Gatornationals in arguably the race of the year against Jackson, and anyone else who claimed a victory for the first time.
I’m also thankful for perhaps the biggest first – Scott Oksas winning the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod. The jolly big man is $100,000 richer thanks to the performance of a lifetime and there may have not been a cooler moment.
I’m thankful for milestones letting us know that nothing is out of reach in this sport. Brittany Force set both ends of the world record at some point this year in Top Fuel, Ron Capps went nearly 340 mph in a Funny Car, Jackson obliterated the Pro Mod record, RvW records were shattered seemingly daily and, well, more is surely coming next year.
I’m thankful for guys like Bo Butner and Laughlin who drove in approximately 27 different classes this season.
I’m still thankful for four-wide drag racing and just as thankful it’s not going anywhere.
I’m still thankful for burnout contests, burndowns, head games and well-done trash talk (nonsensical Facebook videos don’t count) that makes the sport even more enjoyable.
I’m still thankful for throwback paint schemes, Halloween costumes and wraps in Vegas and anything that stretches outside the norm.
I’m also thankful that this sport is so great I probably forget a dozen things I would be thankful for otherwise.
And lastly, I’m thankful for sold-out crowds, different series thriving all across the country and a sport that is thriving. Let’s hope 2020 continues to raise the bar.
Before you do that, treasure all that is incredible in this sport. Find what you’re thankful for and