No-prep drag racing is going mainstream.
Mostly seen at smaller, regional drag strips across the South, no-prep has been big news (and big money) in recent years. Some, like ace small-tire promoter Donald “Duck” Long, are not fans, citing numerous oil downs among other issues. But there are those, such as Seth Angel, who counts himself among the converted and is showcasing the new style of going-straight-really-fast racing at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston this weekend.
Angel, the facility’s general manager, is putting his toe in the water in a big way, hosting the Dirty South No-Prep Series Friday and Saturday. The organization, run by veteran racers Mike Murillo and Scott Taylor, is putting up $30,000 in total prize money this weekend for both big- and small-tire racers.
Dirty South isn’t the first no-prep race at Royal Purple Raceway, the home of the NHRA Spring Nationals. Last month, the track was the site of a $150,000 event featuring stars of Street Outlaws: New Orleans, as well as the likes of James “Birdman” Finney, Murillo, and a host of the biggest names in drag racing. Unlike September’s race, though, there is little chance of weather spoiling this weekend’s party.
“At first, I’ll be honest with you, we kind of said, is this really the right place?” Angel said during a recent phone interview. “For the last 30 years we’ve been around, we drag rubber on the racetrack. We spray VHT for traction and that’s what we do. That’s been our standard preparation.”
Not so for no-prep.
“So if you had told me,” he continued, “that we were going to scrape every bit of rubber we could possibly scrape off, to the eighth-mile, by the way, and oh, we’re not going to spray any VHT at all and you would have cars that could travel the eighth-mile on a no-prep track and go low fours at 160-170 miles per hour, I wouldn’t have believed it. But after watching Lone Star Resurrection and what these guys did, it was truly amazing.”
Unfortunately, part of the allure of racing on the razor’s edge is the threat of a serious crash and, in some cases, more than one. The majority of tracks do not have the safety crew and infrastructure to contain the wrecks seen regularly at these races. But with Royal Purple Raceway being the home of a sanctioned NHRA Nationals event, Angel said driver and fan safety is as guaranteed as it can possibly within the world of motorsports.
“No doubt,” Angel said. “Our setup is built for as safe of racing as you can get. We’ve got continuous concrete guard walls from start to finish and throughout the shutdown. We’ve got first-class EMS on-site and trained fire and rescue staff on-site for all of these events, not only for no-prep, but for anything that we do here.
“Safety is something we don’t take lightly and we don’t spare any expense when it comes to safety of our racers and our fans. It has to be that way, and we’ll always operate that way.”
Having said that…
“But, certainly this is a unique situation for these outlaw street racers that normally aren’t used to this environment and from the racers that we’ve talked to they absolutely love it,” Angel said. “I think at the end of the day what they do out on the streets, I don’t think that will ever go away. It’s just part of the DNA of these racers and that’s just a different environment and I think we’ve just provided them an alternative and we’re glad to have them.”
Arguably, the marquee event for the drag strip at Royal Purple Raceway is the annual NHRA Mello Yello Series race held there every spring. While the Glendora, California-based sanction hasn’t spoken out on the no-prep phenomenon, they were very vocal regarding the show Street Outlaws and the possibility of racers from that program participating in NHRA events. The sanction even went so far as to say anyone racing on the television show will have their NHRA license yanked immediately.
Given their recent partnership with Justin “Big Chief” Shearer and Shearer’s much-heralded attempt to make the Pro Mod field at the US Nationals, NHRA seems to have softened on their approach to the Street Outlaw-style of racing. Angel said that, as of press time, no one from Glendora has contacted him regarding the event.
“Quite honestly, I’ve had no conversations with NHRA specifically regarding no-prep,” he said. “Look, it’s no secret that we are sanctioned by the NHRA. We follow their rules and their guidelines and that’s the way we always are. We feel strongly about the sanction and obviously have a great relationship with the guys in Glendora, but for us at Royal Purple Raceway, we’re a business and we’re here to promote races and put on a good show. No-prep is a hot thing right now, so we’re excited to be in the middle of it.”
No-prep has seen its biggest successes in the South, specifically Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma. Texans such as Pro Mod racer Steve Wiley and promoter Shannon Morgan have helped put the practice in mainstream drag racing headlines. Everything is bigger in Texas and apparently, that means outlaw drag racing as well.
“Look, it’s no secret that Texas is a big state and there’s a lot of racers that cut their teeth on Texas dragstrips,” he said. “You’ve just got a lot of old-school Texas drag racers that (were) maybe once were a part of the ADRL crowd or maybe raced NHRA on the sportsman level and said, ‘You know what, let’s go put together a no-prep car.’
“You have the likes of Frankie Taylor, for instance, he’s in the no-prep crowd. Todd Moyer, James Kay and of course, we had Kye Kelly in ‘the Shocker’. We had Doc from Street Outlaws. All these guys were here, and everyone wants to be a part of that scene and that crowd. They’ve got a huge following and you know, when you can rub shoulders with those guys and compete against them, why not?”