Drag Racing — Ground Pounding Thunder

Remember those hot days in the summer when you were a kid and there was nothing to do? Ya, I know we dream about it all the time don’t we?  Oh, boredom was painful. No internet in those days.

Okay anyway, in my own youth, at 11 and 12 years old, I traveled down to Cayuga Speedway and Grand Bend Speedway in Southern Ontario with my brother David, who raced his car, a Chevy Beaumont ,  396 cubic inch engine, (He’d go out to Shanty Bay Road leading north out of Barrie. The car pulled a few Gs and I was pinned to my seat and sure we were going to die. The cops were always waiting to try and catch him. He knew instinctively how to avoid them but would get caught on occasion of course).

He used to audiotape his screeching burnouts on Shanty Bay Road, and then replay the audio in downtown Barrie to irritate the cops. It was loud and the cops couldn’t figure out what was happening.

They could hear the screeching tire sounds reverberating off the buildings in downtown Barrie, but couldn’t find the culprit. They would race around the downtown area and end up scratching their heads at where the culprit was. He hooked up loud speakers to his new tape machine which was very new technology for that time. He only had a grade 8 education, but he was a master at using technology to fool the cops. Lots of laughs back then.

Source:   Robert on Pinterest


He and his friend Jim McKnight would put some racing slicks on a trailer behind us and off we’d go.  If something happened and the engine blew up, well we’d have to find another way home.  While those two were busy getting the car prepared to race, I would wander off to check out the funny cars and top fuel dragsters.

Cayuga Dragway

Cayuga Dragway

The drags are a full sensory experience because you not only smell the burnt rubber and nitro fuel, and see the flames, you feel the vibration in your skeletal muscles. It’s pretty intense. If you haven’t been to the drags, it’s something you should experience. It’s a thrill.

2 cars are pitted against each other. There’s lots of suspense as they stage at the start line, and then there’s 5 seconds of terrifying, ground pounding thunder until the lights show the victor.

Back several decades ago, the top racers were Big Daddy Don Garlits, Tom Prudhomme and Shirley Muldowney. Yes, women were racing at the top, and Don Garlits was the King of drag racing.  I’d watch them prepping their cars until I got bored, and then I’d head down to the start of the racetrack.

5 years ago I was driving to Florida, passing through Ocala, with my sister and sister in-law. We had to pull off the highway and I managed to get lost. We were on this backroad, and the girls said okay you’re lost, pull in that next driveway and turn around. So I did. It was a big driveway with cars and garages and a big sign said “Big Daddy Don Garlits” Racing. That was weird. I wanted to go in and see if he was there, but women don’t like racing cars or racing drivers for that matter.

Always Get The Best View

fireburnoutBack to the past. I’d get a perfect view of the cars doing burnouts by going right down behind the starting line of the track. They do what are called burnouts in order to heat the tires up,to get them sticky so they wouldn’t spin at takeoff.

Sometimes they would throw bleach on the tires and the exhaust header’s heat would set that bleach on fire, and it would be a firey burnout like this picture at right. They do that to get the tires real sticky.  No fear, just part of what they did. They don’t do that anymore because it ruins the asphalt.

Often there would be rocket cars and jet cars, wheelstanders and drag bikes, and even jet powered go karts. Yes, buses, trucks and all sorts of crazy stuff.

Security wasn’t tight then so I would stand back about 150 feet and watch the afterburners glowing on the jet cars as they exploded down the track.  I was daring, but the rockets were a little scary though and I knew enough to stand a few feet off to the side just in case the things blew up. I was such a smart kid.

My late brother Richard was a talented artist and he would paint these cars. He put the flame graphics and striping and other graphics on hot rods from Canada and the US. He should have done that full time and become a big success in the hot rod painting business. But fate would not have it. The lesson is that we need to pursue our passions because we never when our time is up.

He was killed by a negligent trucker 10 years ago. And he loved drag racing and indy racing too. My nephew put some of his ashes at the track in Indianapolis. He was my inspiration for drawing. His first wife Mary Jane won her “powder puff” races. They were so condescending back in the old “Motown” days. The Detroit scene had a big influence on us then. We lived in Sarnia, right across the river from Michigan. They still have the car show in Port Huron. If you’re a hot rod and antique car buff, you should head over to Port Huron to see it.

Both the jets and nitro powered car pack 8000 HP and do 400+ mph in less than 4 seconds now. 4Gs of gravity. Wow!

Top Nitro Fuel Dragsters

2 Jet Cars

Top Fuel Dragsters are quicker than jet cars but the Jets put on quite a show. They’re all loud but the top fuel engine cars are the real drag racing lover’s preference.


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