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Mustangs & Fords Duke It Out in the Desert at First Ever Hot Rod Drag Weekend
The brave stallions that tested the waters at the first ever Hot Rod Magazine Drag Weekend.
When was the last time you willingly loaded up all your gear in your faithful Mustang and hit the road for a 500-mile journey across the desert for the sole purpose of racing at several locations? We’re talking spare parts, tools, sticky tires, and whatever else you need to make your pony light up the strip without falling victim to the grueling road sections or trackside gremlins. If you’ve ever tried to fit more than a drag radial in the trunk of your Mustang, you know it is next to impossible to cram all the necessary gear in the limited space. Fortunately for the folks who made it out to the first ever Hot Rod Magazine Drag Weekend competition, small utility trailers were allowed.
What is Drag Weekend? It’s a whole new take on one of Hot Rod’s all-time greatest competition. Three full days of heads-up drag racing along with some unpredictable road sections that will push your car to the limit. The inaugural event kicked off in Tucson, Arizona, and wound its way to Fontana, California. If the elevation changes don’t throw a monkey wrench in your race plan, the quick-changing desert weather might give you one more thing to think about.
Of course we couldn’t help but tag along to check out what the competitors would drag out of their stables and bring to track. Unfortunately our Fox-body notchback couldn’t make it due to a less than ideal brake system, but we did spend quite a bit of time addressing all the odds and ends that need to be gone through when you’re getting your car ready to pass tech inspection. Factor all that in with long driving sections and unknown traffic conditions and you’re starting to get an idea of just how difficult it is to set up a car. Competing is one thing, but being competitive is a whole other animal, and that’s just what the boys in blue faced when they showed up to Drag Weekend.
The event kicked off at Southwestern International Raceway in Tucson, where the cool desert air paired with an elevation of just over 3,000 feet would give the racers decent weather to make fast passes. The action started bright and early to the sounds of engines thumping and crews thrashing to make last-minute adjustments before the drivers meeting.
Luckily we were able to check out several fast Mustangs with real Blue Oval muscle under the hood before the rains came. With thunderstorms lingering all around us, the track officials opened up the staging lanes and started sending the Drag Weekend competitors up to the staging lanes.
It didn’t take long for the heavy clouds to make their way toward the track, unloading a significant amount of rain, which forced the officials to call off the remainder of the day’s runs. Fortunately, most of the competitors had already posted very respectable times before the large party of hot rods hit the road towards the next track about 140 miles northwest to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona. Of course you can’t just take the interstate because that would make it entirely too easy. Instead, Drag Weekend makes use of side roads that wind through some of the scenic sides of the Arizona desert. While not a difficult stretch of road, it was enough to bring out some road gremlins on more than a few cars. While some made it before sunset, others weren’t quite as lucky having to deal with drag radials and rain or, worse yet, mechanical issues.
The following morning started with the remnants of scattered overnight showers, but the forecast for the day called for blue skies and cool air that would no doubt make for a great day of racing. In the pits it was a mad dash to get the cars prepped in their race trim and cleared through tech. Needless to say, more than a few aluminum jacks were slung under the rear of cars with slicks and stickies waiting to get slapped on.
When you’re running your Stang at the local test-and-tune, it’s easy to get a little overzealous with the loud pedal, because ultimately you either towed it there or roadside assistance is only a phone call away. When you’re competing against some of the fastest cars in the country on multiple tracks separated by hundreds of miles, you race hard enough to make it to the end, rather than hard enough to break it on the strip. Not surprisingly, many of the competitors were pretty conservative with their strategy, opting for a “one and done” mentality. Most of them put up a solid run, packed their car, and hit the road for the last leg of the event.
This last section would prove to be the nail in the coffin for more than a few as they attempted to make their way to Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California, roughly 347 miles away. When we made it to Fontana on the last day of Drag Weekend, we found out that the only Mustang left in competition was a lone 1968 Fastback. As fate would have it, all the late-model Mustangs either suffered mechanical carnage on the strip or were defeated by the grueling desert roads.
We’d like to think that the inaugural Hot Rod Magazine Drag Weekend was simply a test of man and machine against the odds. We’re pretty hopeful that more diehard Mustang guys and Blue Oval junkies alike will join us in spring 2016 for the rematch of Drag Weekend. Will you and your modified Mustang make it out to the next one and show everyone how we roll? If so, get cracking on that project and be sure to sign up for the next one. We’ll hopefully come out in full force with some serious Ford-powered muscle!