The Mighty Modifieds

I think I’m in love with the panorama feature of my camera, so, you know, Sherri Hogan took fourth in the Sportsman Modified feature after winning her heat, so she keeps a lock on second in points.

It really is a great track.

The Modifieds were out, with 22 cars of 600 horsepower; it was a great show.

I met a guy there at the nacho stand (DTRP has great nachos), his first time out.  I don’t know what brought him out, but his eyes were bright, a guy my age, eyes bright with the excitement of a little kid meeting Santa Claus, and the Modifieds had not even run their feature yet; they had only raced seven at a time in qualifying heats.

That’s stock car racing!

The Earth Shook

Some Pro-Mods, that is, the truly insane drag racers, came out to Dunn Tire Raceway Park. In truth, they weren’t a true “Pro-Modifieds” class, but the class was open to, essentially, crazy cars competing for a $3000 prize.  After the second qualifying passes were completed, Nachmu the Younger took Tony aside to tell him that “they vibrate.”  They sure do. I was reminded of Psalm 18, which includes the following verses:

Can't see the craziness, can you? This car did the eighth-mile in 4.5 seconds.

Can you see the craziness now?

Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.

God rides on the Wild Side, doesn't he?

These vehicles must be related to the chariots of fire.

I mean, Dunn Tire Raceway Park is known for a notorious quote by John Force, fearless Funny Car driver of many championships, who, in 1997, upon inspecting the drag strip at DTRP, turned to an official and said, “Where’s the other lane?”

The track has done nothing but deteriorate since then.

Believe it or not, the track that John Force feared has been conquered: a record was set by one of these insane dragsters, running down the strip with a competitor in the other “half” in 3.97 seconds at 163.5 mph.  Just so you know whom to avoid if you meet him in a dark alley, the guy’s name is Bob Frigon.

Lookit, any aficionado will tell you that 3.97 seconds is only respectably fast when it comes to pure speed on an eighth-mile track, but this is at Dunn Tire Raceway Park in Lancaster, NY.  It’s not set up for that kind of speed.

Chariots of the Divine

To be sure, at other tracks, one cannot stand literally two feet from the car as it thunders by, so DTRP offers a unique experience, something akin to standing next to God when he makes an appearance.  One feels fear and awe, nothing less.  It’s a divine experience to feel the heat of the exhaust, hear the pounding of engine-compression, and have your heart stop for a moment because the ground is falling out from beneath your feet.

It’s comforting to know that God is angry at my enemies.

Drag Racing at Dunn Tire Raceway Park in Lancaster

One of the Pro Mod competitors finishes a spectacular burnout.

Drag racing is a completely different beast from stock car racing. I would not consider myself a novitiate any longer, but I am still quite new to the experience of drag racing.  The Niagara Frontier has three good places for drag racing, and Nachmu HQ is nearest to the eighth-mile track at glorious Dunn Tire Raceway Park.

DTRP has its history, and, as is true with almost everything in the Buffalo region, its history is an albatross.  As is true with almost everything in the Buffalo region, however, the people make the ruins of a once-great facility into a near-great facility.  Thus the local drag racing scene. Continue reading

Start Your Engines

Saturday Night at the Races

Saturday nights are glorious in the Niagara Frontier: during the winter, there’s Hockey Night in Canada; during the summer, there’s asphalt circle-track stock car racing (dirt track racing is on Friday nights, but I’m at the drag races then). Racing night is a special taste of paradise, in my estimation.

We're still under the great wide open...

Walking through the gates at any decent local race track leaves me with a certain sense of awe.  It is a sublime thing that we have accomplished, capturing a wide open space within a fence, filling it with bleachers and pit-boxes, a tech barn, and all sorts of food and drink.  Smells of elements which do not belong together create an environment in the mind, too, which cannot be recreated anywhere else except at the race track: burnt rubber (old and new), nacho cheese, beer, racing fuel, body sweat, old wood, mown grass (from the parking lot), perfume, and fried food.  It wafts like the nose of a fine scotch, the several creating a greater one, a single malt of Saturday Night at the Races.

All sorts are necessary to have stock car racing.

When I first made my foray through the gates into that realm, I was surprised at the variety of nations and peoples within it.  I realized instantly that it was an advertiser’s dream, but even beyond the immediate business opportunity, I realized that this realm was for everyone; everyone could experience pleasure within these gates. It was almost cliché: fat people, skinny people, old people, young people, rich people, middle-class people, poor white trash, well-to-do, you name it.  I was most surprised to see entire families like mine there, a professional-looking husband and wife with a few kids, taking in the evening.  Indeed, I would say that at least the simple majority of fans were made up of small business owners, or those who worked in small-business, entrepreneur-types.

This is generally the wrong way to win a race.

These are the family and friends of drivers and owners of the cars on the track.  These are people of an understated joie de vivre. These are the people who make their own lives within a framework of ambition and freedom.  When you see a car racing, which, in stock car racing, is strictly regulated for the sake of competition–nevertheless, you are seeing freedom as it is meant to be: absolute within moral limitations.  At those speeds, it is impossible to keep the moral component pure; at that point, a driver is penalized, perhaps later confronted, but most assuredly received back into the realm as a friend and a family member.  Naturally, the most recalcitrant cheaters are sent away to race elsewhere, but their reputation follows them, and I can’t imagine that they are ever happily received.  Thus, stock car racing is a wonderful projection, a spinning model of the lives of free people.  How difficult it is, and how fun, to complete a few circuits around a half-mile track!

I sponsor the 74 car, sitting on the pole.

The rewards for good driving and good mechanics are, essentially, great rejoicing, even among the fiercest competitors: it’s tough to win a race.  A few bucks, maybe, are handed out, very few, if the owner is a skinflint know-nothing, but he can only do so much harm; the racing is the thing.  Even so, everything is re-set for the next race, a kind of Jubilee Re-draw for the Pole Position, and the competitors are rounding from the start to the finish, friends no more, but family altogether always.

Behind Turn Two

The racing at Dunn Tire Raceway Park is good.  It could be better; it could be much worse.  Some nights the racing is thrilling; other nights, merely entertaining.  The party in the pits, however, is always an event, which demonstrates the character of the realm within the gates.  Though the world will end, stock car racing will continue.