Contributed by Ed Sindoni
Writing this article, I thought that I would take a different approach. Instead of describing the racing per se (go to www.nhra.com for this), I’d like to compare the NHRA brand of racing to NASCAR.
THE ENTRANCE – When you enter Gainesville Raceway, you walk right across pit road, on your way to the mid-way, pits, and/or your seat. Want to take a picture of the race cars lining up for their runs, it’s not a problem. Some drivers even exit their vehicles checking to make any last minute adjustments. At a NASCAR facility, you see pit road across the track after you are at the grandstands. The cars themselves are usually farther away in the garage area.
PIT ACCESS – In NASCAR, pit passes are usually available for non-race times for an additional fee, but this doesn’t allow you Garage access to the race cars. That requires a Garage Pass which usually isn’t available to the general public. At Gainesville, spectators are allowed to walk to the pit area of the midway, and behold, there are the cars, crew, haulers, and often drivers all within an arm’s reach.
Believe me, there is nothing like the crew starting up one of these; your ear protection needs ear protection, the exhaust penetrates your eyes, nose, and even closed mouth resulting in tears, coughing, and such a bad taste. You seem to forget this quickly, as you run to the next pit area where smoke is filling the surroundings. Remember your biology from high school, you know that little anvil and hammer in your auditory canal? They have never, ever vibrated like they do now.
RACING – NASCAR events go on for hours having to race some 300-600 miles, but an 1/8th of a mile drag race is over normally with seven seconds. The top classes of drag cars reach in excess of 300 mph.
In conclusion, I have attended NASCAR races for over 25 years at many different tracks, and have been to the Gatornationals for the past three years. There certainly is room for both in the racing world, but a closer spectator/racer bond is possible at the NHRA events. I shook Leah Pritchett’s hand, spoke with Robert Hight, and had a photo taken with Alexis DeJoria, all for the price of admission. For those of you who seek out the legends of the sport, “Big Daddy”, Don Garlits, was there with a vintage Swamp Rat. Don also signs autographs, allows photo ops, and has a trailer filled with history you can meander through.
For more fantastic event pictures, click HERE.