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Outdoors Outpost
Off to the Races
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 • Posted September 26, 2013

Usually, when my friend, Randy Young, asks me if I want to do something, I know what he’s talking about. He speakes English, after all, and it’s better English than I use myself, so I don’t have any problem understanding what he’s saying. But last week Randy invited me to go with him on Friday to watch some event, and I had no idea what he was talking about.

Not that I admitted that. I told Randy I’d see if I could get loose on Friday, and get back to him. I knew I could get loose on Friday, because my hectic schedule is designed so I can be free on Fridays. That’s when I take my naps, unless someone invites me to go hunting or fishing, in which case I nap on Saturday. It’s not as wild as it sounds, though, this schedule.

What Randy actually told me, which I know because I acted like we had a poor phone connection and got him to repeat it so I could write it down, was that he had an extra ticket to the NHRA Fall Nationals. I allowed as to how I’d always wanted to go to the Fall Nationals, and I’d sure do my best to work it so I could go with him. And then I hung up and Googled until I figured out what Fall Nationals are.

I should’ve known it was a car race. Not just any car race, of course, but the National Hot Rod Association Fall National car race. This is a unique event that is quite different from other car races in that, during the Fall Nationals, try to follow me here, during the Fall Nationals, professional drivers race cars. So there you go.

OK, I actually knew it must be a car race, because I figured NHRA had something to do with car racing, but I wasn’t clear on what the letters stood for. Plus, this is Randy we’re talking about, so it had to be an event that involved lots of noise and things going fast enough that you probably won’t be able to see them when they go by. Even with all that, though, the NHRA Fall Nationals, held at Ennis, Texas, are a little over the top.

Randy sent me an email with some really cool information about this type of car racing, which is called Top Fuel Dragster racing. The cars in these races are not normal cars, but are powered by 500-inch Hemi engines. Each one of these engines, according to Randy’s trivia, produces more horsepower than the first eight rows of cars at the Daytona 500 put together. I don’t know how many cars that is, but I’m sure each car in the Daytona 500 produces more horse power than all the cars I’ve owned in my life put together. Which, OK, is not saying a lot, but still.

Randy sent a lot more trivia, but you wouldn’t understand it if I included it here. It’s pretty much gearhead mumbo jumbo. The only stuff I absorbed was that each one of these cars burns a gallon and a half of nitro fuel per second, the same amount as a 747, but has four times the energy volume. Which is kind of a lot, I think. The beverage service, however, is much better on a 747.

Randy also pointed out that these cars used to race a quarter mile, but they had to shorten the race because they were going too fast. Yes. Too fast. Now they race 1000 feet, and still reach about 335 miles per hour, in less than 5 seconds. Yes.

So, basically, if you got in a really really fast car, like a Lamborghini Countach, and got up to about 200 mph and blew by one of these cars, and the driver took off when you passed him, and you kept speeding up, he would still beat you to the finish line a quarter mile from where he started. And he would beat you badly. This is why these cars have parachutes on the back – they drive off the edge of the earth before they can stop. Being shot from a cannon is quite leisurely by comparison.

So I drove to Abilene early on Friday, got in with Randy and Ben Beasley, and we drove to Ennis and met Randy’s son, Brady, for lunch. Then we went to the racetrack and walked around for a few hours watching it rain, and visiting vendor booths, and registering to win Mustangs and Harleys and other stuff. Top Fuel Dragsters can’t race on a wet track. So the trip was pretty much a waterhaul, as my dad would say, as far as watching car racing. The good news is that it wasn’t crowded.

The race may have been a bust, but I did win a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Well, actually, it’s down to me and about 250,000 other folks who put their names in the pot, but I’m thinking I’ve got a pretty good chance. That’s the most important thing in Top Fuel Drag Racing – you gotta think positive . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who hopes to actually witness a Top Fuel Drag Race one day. Wearing earplugs. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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