Fewer Blue Angels, and more of these in the skies!
Who needs the Blue Angels? Not me. I'll take a demo derby, Figure-8, or NHRA race, over an air show, any day of the week. This past Wednesday I was invited, along with Gov. Christine Gregoire, to Pacific Raceways for a special media treat: an opportunity to ride in a real, pro dragster:
Pacific Raceways’ historic quarter-mile has hosted many legends of drag racing in its 52 years of operation. But Wednesday marked the first day that a sitting state governor has roared down the 1320-feet of concrete and asphalt.
And roared she did! Gov. Christine Gregoire carded an 8.489 at 152.90 miles per hour in the passenger seat of a Frank Hawley Drag Racing School dragster.
In case that bolded chunk of text didn't fully sink in—Gregoire's car went from zero-to-152 miles per hour, in just a little over 8 seconds. NHRA pro driver "Fast" Jack Beckman drove Gregoire, and later, myself, in this monster:
This thing can fly
After Gregoire's ride, while I was waiting for my turn, I watched a woman climb out of the dragster. She had naturally red hair, and I heard someone say that she was a Mayor of Someplace. Her face was splotchy and flushed. She repeated, over and over, "That was great, that was so grrrrr-reat." She looked and sounded like she'd just had an orgasm. Her enthusiam comforted my nerves, but it also worried me. Was I ready to have an orgasm in front of all these people? Could I have an orgasm in these giant, flame retardant pants?
I am ready!
Stuffing me into the car
As we pulled onto the track, the driver, "Fast Jack," looked at me and smiled through his helmet. After a "yes" nod from me, we pulled over to the quarter-mile track. Jack started doing the loudest, craziest burnout—rubber burned and hot smoke went everywhere. (I was later told, that before a run, racers do a burnout in order to clean and heat the tires. A burnout also leaves a layer of fresh rubber on the track, which improves traction.) I thought ole smiling Jack was just showing off. Then we pulled forward, and after a thumbs up, Jack launched us into outer space down the track. We carded at 150 mph in under 8 seconds.
You can't imagine how this feels on your crotch, and in your ears
"How was it?" asked my date, artist Ellen Forney. "Well," I said "No orgasm, but there was the strangest noise inside my helmet when we took off. All I could hear was this soft, little grunting noise, like "uht, uht, uht." I couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from, then I realized it was me. I couldn't breathe for almost 3 seconds—all I could muster was "uht, uht, uht."
This funny car is no laughing matter
The nice folks at Pacific Raceways (hi, Alicia!) were also offering track runs in a funny car. It was also very loud, and very fast. But something about the dragster—being closer to the ground and the open air—seemed worth waiting for. Ellen chose to wait for a turn with Fast Jack.
Ellen Forney: NOT AFRAID
Ellen's run clocked in at 150 mph too. Why did Fast Jack take the Governor on a run of 152? Maybe, for her, he WAS showing off a little bit.
After the rides, I met this nice man, Jason Fiorito. He told me about how his grandfather build the track, 50 years ago, in the then-countryside of rural Kent Washington. He told me it was a family business again, and he would fight to keep it open. He told me of how new home owners complain about the noise.
Ellen and I talk about how nice the track is, since it was the scrappier Seattle International Raceway. We vow to return.
As we drive away, we can hear and see excitement on the grounds for the big event this weekend—NHRA Northwest Nationals. I wonder if Fast Jack travels with his family, state-to-state, to race. I envy the campers, cars, and the seemingly nomadic way of life. FAST TIMES, 4-ever, man...
all photos Kelly O
Running away, with the NHRA
...and I'll never ever forget that "uht, uht, uht" sound. Thank Pac Raceways!