in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of May 27, 1999
Day two of the Drag Race School and today is the first time in the race car and down the track for the students. In fact, for many of them it will be their first time in a race car... ever. The area around the trailer is abuzz with nervous expectation this morning as everyone is looking forward to putting yesterday's theory into practice today. I'm sure there are a few very nervous people at this point, but Ken is doing everything he can to keep everybody relaxed and confident. He stresses that it's not easy to do everything perfectly right away, but he wants everyone to try their best and learn from their mistakes.
The morning session consists of a stand run/test; the students have to get in the car (up on jackstands), start it, check the guages, switch on the appropriate controls, shift it from park to low, let the wheels turn, stop it, shift into reverse, let the wheels turn in reverse, shift to neutral, bring it to 3000 rpm, hold it there for five seconds, then shut it down. Then pass the blindfold test - finding any of the switches, levers, pedals with their eyes covered. Everyone passes this stage, not all with flying colours, but they all understood what was expected by the time they'd finished.
Before lunch, the first student gets suited up and makes their first 300' run. To be fair, it's always tough to do something for the first time in front of an audience, and as expected, there were a few glitches before this student passed that phase of the course. A short break for lunch, time for the butterflies in the stomachs to get bigger, then it was on to the next student. Each one of them went through the same learning curve as the first. Getting the burnout done straight and long enough. Staging the car. Launching the car - at full throttle, without lifting momentarily. Running 330' at full throttle. Sounds easy enough, but unless you've ever done it, you'll never know difficult it can seem from inside the car.
While this was continuing, I had to keep thinking back to my first laps in a Pro Comp (Top Alcohol) car way back in 1983. They were definitely nothing to write home about. So I could really emphatize with the students and was able to offer some encouragement as they proceeded through their growing pains. We were even able to wrap up the instruction early enough in the afternoon for an extra pupil to make her first attempts in the car, just before sunset. Ken's wife, Tracey, who had never driven the dragster, finally got her chance. Not playing favourites, Ken put her through the same tests as everyone else before letting her make a 330' run. After several stabs at it, she was able to keep the throttle open long enough to experience the rush of driving the race car.
As of 9:00 pm she was still on the phone, ringing everyone about her experience today, arranging for her license, trying to decide which colour firesuit to order and asking Ken when he was going to finish the other two dragsters for the school. Her life will never be the same, will it, Ken? (Not to mention yours....). Time to pack things up for the night, get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow's third and final day at the Drag Race School. Latest word is that tomorrow I'll get a chance to drive the car at the end of the day. Better go get the firesuit bag down out of the mezzanine and pack it in the trailer. Tune in again tomorrow for the next installment and see if I actually made it down the track.