Pedregon: “At Wide-Open Throttle, You Experience a Small Earthquake”
FOX Sports Live from the “The Big Go” Labor Day Weekend
CHARLOTTE – How do you explain to someone who has never experienced it in person just what it’s like to witness a single-passenger automobile, equipped with more than 10,000 horsepower, pulling four times the force of gravity and covering 1,000 feet of racetrack at well over 300 mph in less than four seconds?
The speed. The sound. The smell. The involuntary reactions. Total sensory overload.
That is the weekly challenge facing the FOX NHRA broadcast crew of host Dave Rieff, analyst and two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon, analyst and two-time NHRA champion Bruno Massel and reporters Jamie Sellers and Amanda Busick – artfully conveying this overall assault on the senses to the audience at home.
So, as the drag racing community prepares for the sport’s biggest event of the season, the historic Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the FOX NHRA team offers its perspective on just what it is like to experience the sheer muscle of nitromethane-powered Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars.
“When describing NHRA nitro cars, I try to establish the capabilities versus a high-performance street car. Say the new ZR-1 Corvette will do 0 to 100 mph in six seconds. A dragster or Funny Car will cover that in less than one second. The NHRA’s elite nitro-powered cars can travel the length of three football fields in under four seconds. Include the fact that, at wide-open throttle, you experience a small earthquake that not only shakes the ground but also shakes your body and even blurs your vision — almost as if you are the one in the car. The smell of nitro will sting your sinuses and make your eyes water, but unexplainably leaves you wanting more. Then package all of this together, and that is a 1,000-foot NHRA drag race. I was four miles from cars testing at the track today and could hear each one blast down the track every few minutes.”
“I tell them that there is NO WAY I can explain it to where they will understand what they are about to witness. Whether the race is in one day, one month or one year from now, I could talk to that person at length but in NO WAY prepare them for the things they are about to see, hear, smell and feel.
“Additionally, some of my favorite moments have come from actual racers dumbfounded at what they had just witnessed as spectators. Case in point, legendary racer Shirley Muldowney’s stunned look on her face after two Top Fuel cars left the starting line in Las Vegas. She just could not believe how they were right here one second … and gone the next. Former Top Fuel racer Eddie Hill and his wife Ercie had just taken Jac Haudenschild to the starting line in Phoenix in the late 1990’s to get the ‘experience’ of being between the cars at launch. Again, a perplexed look washed over Eddie’s face and when I asked him if he was all right, he explained that in all of his years he had never just stood between the cars at the line. I challenged, explaining that I witnessed him crash a Top Fuel car and reminded him that he raced boats, and then again asked him as to what he was referring. He explained (as only a Texan could) that he could only imagine the experience to be similar to being in the middle of a tornado. ‘It just doesn’t hit you from one direction, it hits you from everywhere.’”
Unfortunately, hard as we might try, we still can’t translate the shock and awe of two 10,000 HP nitro cars leaving the starting line during our FOX broadcasts. The burning of the eyes, the smell of nitro in your nose and the pounding on your chest, It’s something everyone should experience at least once. You have to be careful though, it can become quite addicting.
“To me, standing behind nitro Funny Cars is more impactful than the dragsters. The force comes out lower to the ground and hits you right in the face instead of going over your head. Either way, being around nitro cars for the first time is something you never forget. The power literally goes right through you. You don’t just hear it, you feel it. Every organ in your body is shocked by what you are experiencing. It’s an instant rush of adrenaline while your body tries to make sense of what just happened. You simply cannot process the sight, smell and feeling all at once … so, you have to stand and wait for another launch.”
“From the jaw-dropping, speechless reactions of witnessing Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars rocket down the track at over 300 mph to seeing the lingering smiles from personal, one-on-one interactions with the sport’s biggest stars, I’m not sure there is anything better than watching someone experience a NHRA drag race for the first time. It almost feels as good as remembering your own first time out to a NHRA event. Don Prudhomme said it best, ‘If I can get you to the drag strip and get you to watch one run, then I have made a fan for life.’ There is this universal love of speed that knows no age, gender and race that connects and runs through everyone sitting in those grandstands. Like attending your first concert, you will never forget your first visit to the most explosive, quickest and fastest, accessible sport on the planet.”
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