By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – It is not often that journalists get to experience a new sport, or in this case, a different racing discipline, for the first time. This weekend, I’ve had the opportunity to attend and cover the NHRA Circle K 4-Wide Nationals at the zMax Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After watching and experiencing the launches in person, I have a new appreciation for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Admittedly, I grew up following and watching NASCAR. By the time I became a member of the NASCAR Media Corps, writing first for Motorsports Tribune, and now for Kickin’ the Tires, I had grown to follow F1, IMSA, and IndyCar in addition to NASCAR. I had watched NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series events on TV from time to time but never followed the drag racing discipline closely.
Standing in the midway to experience the Top Fuel and Funny Cars warmup was a different but familiar experience. While the noise, with ear protection, reminded me of the NASCAR Cup Series cars, the sensation was different. The NHRA vehicles were powerful enough that you could feel the vibration in the ground from just one car. That being said, there were a couple of times walking in the midway that a car warming up caught me off guard as well.
Later in the day, I got to multiply that by four. Standing near the line for the launches, the pressure waves from the first launch admittedly left my teeth chattering and picked me up off my feet. Subsequent launches were not nearly as dramatic, at least, they didn’t feel as dramatic.
That being said, I observed subtle differences in the sound and pressure waves from the Top Fuel and Funny Cars. While the pressure waves and sound from the Funny Cars were abrupt, the Top Fuel cars offered a subtle hint. The exhaust increased ever so slightly before the sudden launch, pressure wave, and sound.
Though, one of the more fascinating classes, at least to me, are the Pro Stock Motorcycles. The bravery and the skill that each driver in each class has is beyond what I could have imagined before watching the Circle K 4-Wide Nationals in person. I truly appreciate the world of drag racing more now than I did prior to the race weekend.
Much like the NASCAR world, it takes experiencing an NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event in person to have a true grasp of what goes into each event and the nuances. Admittedly, whether it’s the points format, terminology, or the structure of an NHRA race weekend, I still have a lot to learn. It’s impossible to learn everything about a new sport or discipline in one weekend.
However, I did learn quite a bit about the NHRA over the past weekend. Some I thought I knew, some information I didn’t know, and still, other information reinforced what I did know. There are still questions that I do have about the sport as a whole, questions that I’m sure will be answered in time.
Overall, I look forward to covering more NHRA events in the future and learning more about one of the fastest forms of motorsports in the world.