July 31, 2006

A Day in the Pits – Some Observations. (Updated)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:25 pm

Willies funny car up.jpg

My Friend Willie’s Funny Car

I would like to say that I had a great time at the drag races yesterday, the blistering heat notwithstanding, and if my buddy Willie will be competing next year, I’ll be there again. That said, here are some random observations about a day at the drag strip.

Tattoos are decidedly in at the drag strip. I saw a rather astounding display of body art on both men and women. I saw dozens of men and one woman whose arms were completely covered with tattoos. Several men were also liberally tattooed between their neck and belt-line. So were a few women, at least the part of their torsos that were uncovered.

Two people were particularly memorable.

The Runner Up: This guy’s arms and most of the tops of his hands were covered in tattoos. Although he was wearing a tee shirt, what appeared to be the uppermost portion of large tattoos appeared on his neck, leaving one to safely assume that the main portion of the creatures’ that were peeking above his tee shirt covered his entire torso. He was wearing big, wide leather wristbands with double buckles on each (the purpose of which, particularly in the heat, escaped me) and he had four rings pierced through his lower lip. Gross.

The Winner: The clincher was the guy who was shirtless and wearing shorts so that the world could see that he was covered in tattoos, but here’s the thing. He had tattoos covering his face! WTF?

I was trying not to stare, but it was difficult. Besides, I suspect that getting people’s attention is, at least in part, what motivates folks like this.

Debris Clearing, Oil-Sucking, and Jet-Drying
The unfortunate reality is that these high-horsepower monsters running full out for a quarter mile often blow up something or other on the car, resulting in “stuff” coming off the motor and oil spewing onto the track. This results in a rather frustrating amount of downtime while the debris is cleared and the oil is sopped up by a couple special oil-sucking machines. After the oil sucking is complete, the track is dried with a trailer-mounted jet engine that blows some serious air on the track.

The announcers have the daunting task of talking through these seemingly interminable debris-clearing, oil-sucking, jet-drying delays, much like baseball announcers who are forced to babble during rain delays.

The Track Announcers
There is quite an elaborate and effective public address system at the drag strip. Most of the announcing duties are taken care of by one person (with a sidekick as I recall). It is quite remarkable that these guys introduce each one of hundreds of runs all day and manage to keep it straight. And, they also know A LOT about cars and drag racing, which is a good thing, given that the regulars at the track are also extremely knowledgeable.

The announcers’ vast, albeit esoteric, knowledge stands them in good stead during the debris-clearing, oil-sucking, jet-drying delays. Unfortunately for me, much of it went over my head, as when the announcer would tell a rather longish story to his sidekick, with a punch line that would be something like, “the differential in a 63 Impala!!” Huh? The audience got it.

Seems to me that at least some of the debris-clearing, oil-sucking, jet-drying pauses could be filled with Sinatra music. It is Jersey, after all, and it would give the announcers (and those of us who aren’t hip to differentials) a farookin’ break.

Drinking and Drunks
Alcohol is reasonably well controlled. Before being permitted to enter the pits, each driver is asked whether there are any glass bottles or alcoholic beverages in the car. We had none of the above and said so, and, perhaps because we were decidedly “grownups”, no one searched the car. I suspect it might have been different if we had been a carload of twenty-somethings. It seems to me that it would be easy to get alcoholic beverages into the track, if you were willing to be turned away or have them confiscated if you were busted.

Beer is sold in a restricted area and those who prove their age (my proof is my face) are given a paper bracelet to wear. Beer can be bought ($4.00 a pop) in that area, and must be consumed there. Worked for us.

I only saw two, drunks and they were both women. One of them came right out of central casting for the part of a loud-mouthed, obnoxious bar hog (with several tattoos, I might add). The other one looked as though she probably arrived looking quite normal but somehow managed to get herself absolutely stumbling-ass shitfaced (I’m figuring she got plastered on “smuggled” booze, as I do not recall seeing her in the Beer Area).. Rather, we saw her in a refreshment area (soft drinks only). She was doing her damnedest not to look drunk (You know how that goes), but was doing a bad job of it (You know how that goes too).

She asked one of my buddies if the guy in the hotdog stand “took credit cards”. Like I said, she was shitfaced.

Noise, Fumes
Noise? Absolutely. Ear protection (or knowing when to stick your fingers in your ears) is an absolute must, particularly if you are in the area of the starting line. Fumes? Fumes –a-plenty –exhaust, burned nitro, and burned rubber. To the regulars, it is perfume.

In summary, if you are one who does not wish to rub elbows with the heavily tattooed, or finds esoteric discussions of compression ratios intolerable, and can’t stand LOUD noise, and smelly fumes, I suggest you consider polo. Then again, there was no horseshit at the drag strip.

UPDATE: As I mentioned, we left before Willie’s last run in order to prevent heat exhaustion. However, Willie called to let me know that he won his class (Alcohol-Fuel Injected). He also won for having the lowest E.T. (elapsed time) in his class. He also received the “Jungle Jim” Award for outstanding showmanship. Way to go, Willie!


  1. Dumb question of the day: Dragsters have no obvious engine cooling system. Is it not needed due to the short runs? Is this why they blow up so often?

    Comment by Don — August 1, 2006 @ 11:15 am

  2. Jim,
    Was this at Englishtown? If so, times have changed. The last time I went out to the Summernationals (maybe 1971), cleanup was performed by a pair of standard street sweepers. They staged them at the Christmas tree, ran the lights and timed their runs.
    The announcers commented on the “race” all the way to the end (elapsed time about 5 minutes) and the crowd ate it up.

    Comment by Mark Reardon — August 1, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

  3. Were the two drunk girls giving you the Yukon Jack stare?

    Comment by Catfish — August 1, 2006 @ 6:57 pm

  4. You didn’t elaborate on the two tatooed women of note. Was that for Mrs. Rest stop’s sake?

    Comment by michele — August 1, 2006 @ 7:41 pm

  5. LOL – sounds like a hoot. I’m glad you had a good time. If I ever went I’d have to bring ear protection – I don’t do LOUD noises well.

    Comment by Teresa — August 1, 2006 @ 9:32 pm

  6. Don,

    I don’t think it has much to do with the heat, but rather it is because the engines, transmissions, and even the chassis are being pushed to their absolute limit. I’m told that this is particularly true of engines burning alcohol or nitro.

    Comment by Jim — August 1, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

  7. Mark,

    Yep. It was Raceway Park in Englshtown. There is a link to the track in the previous post.

    Comment by Jim — August 1, 2006 @ 11:54 pm

  8. I’ll bet the drunk girl in the soft drink section smuggled in some nips.

    Comment by Libby — August 2, 2006 @ 12:22 am

  9. I love me some drag racing…..

    Comment by Carmen — August 4, 2006 @ 2:00 pm

  10. woooow nice hydrolics lol cool car lyk ….. can ihave it ??

    Comment by Liam — March 31, 2007 @ 6:29 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress