Evan J. Smith
May 27, 2015

While all racing can be complex, drag racing offers simplicity, which is part of the mass appeal of the straight-line sport. Young or old, fast or slow, there’s a place in drag racing for just about anyone. Growing up, I became a fan while attending events at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey, better known as just “Englishtown.” I was exposed to drag racing in my early teen years, and have been hooked ever since. I can still recall many of the cars that first caught my eye.

I was a typical wide-eyed gearhead kid, watching the wheels-up launches and listening to the howl of the engines at the top end. At 17, I finally got my license, and with that came the chance to blast down the 1,320—this was long before NHRA Junior Dragsters appeared. The simple thrill of making a run was quickly superseded by the desire for quicker e.t.’s. By my third trip to E-town, I was improving—I also busted my ring and pinion. My lesson; drive smooth, and save money for parts. This addiction wasn’t going away. The broken parts, didn’t discourage me, instead, I wanted to learn why the rear failed so I could make it better. I learned being smooth with the car was not only the quicker way down track, it also saved parts.

I also needed money, so I landed a job at Raceway Park, which seemed logical, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made. The Napp family, who owns RP, was (and still is) welcoming to those looking to get involved in racing. Working at RP gave me extra track time, and I used the time to hone my skills and whittle away e.t. Those days, I couldn’t afford many go-fast parts, nor could I chance breaking the car, since I used my Mustang to commute from school. During this time I got a hands-on education in motorsports, and made amazing contacts.

Having no money to repair broken parts meant sticky tires and major engine mods were out of the question. Still, I wanted to run hard. My combination was nothing more than 3.55s, and the “10-minute tune up” that included advanced timing, short-belt, removed front sway bar, ice on the intake, and a K&N filter with the silencer removed. I’d often make 5-7 runs every Friday night, then get to work in the burnout box or the staging lanes. Ultimately, I ran 13.50s at 101.8 mph on the stock tires. Pushing the near-stock combo to the limit was always fun and it inspired me to carry on my mission in NHRA Stock Eliminator.

A day at the track is still a thrill for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving an 8-second Cobra Jet, or hauling my Canon camera around the pits—I love the environment, the people and the cars. There are few places I’d rather be.

In fact, I’m penning this from Maple Grove Raceway, where our sister brand Hot Rod is going through the experience of driving a Cobra Jet Mustang for the first time in NHRA competition. I’m playing the role of driver coach and photographer.

Today’s connectivity with social media and the Internet extends our reach in a virtual world, as we interact with people all over. But it doesn’t replace the thrill of seeing live racing, smelling the rubber-filled air and hearing the cackle of the engines. And while time trials are fun, nothing quite compares to placing yourself in that short moment of time where in a matter of seconds you’ll win or lose. It heightens the senses and raises the adrenaline level. Of course I love the thrill of a good launch, whether I’m in the driver’s seat, or I’m capturing it on today’s digital format. Both are challenging.

With that I urge you to plan a day or a weekend at a track near you. Shine up your Ford and get out there. You will learn more than you can imagine, make new friends and participate in the car hobby by supporting your track or a sanctioning body you enjoy. Best of all you may inspire someone to get involved in motorsports or just introduce them to the hobby.

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