Classic Drag

Photography: David Harry Stewart

The rules have remained unchanged for 60 years: Straight track, two lanes, two cars, green light and then it’s feet to the floor to see who’s the quickest over a quarter of a mile. Drag racing is pure speed, roaring drama and lucky escapes. David Harry Steward captured it all on camera.   

Drag racing has its origins outside the law. American soldiers returning from the World War II were running low on adrenalin at a time when cars were getting cheaper. Two plus two made illegal drag races held on old airfields and racetracks. Races today are organised and run professionally.

Drag racing has no age limit 

You’re never too young for those magical 12 seconds over a quarter of a mile in a 40-year-old car 

Muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s gave rise to the idea of fitting the largest, most powerful, noisiest engines in affordable mid-range cars. Those cars had names like Barracuda, Fury, Superbird and Charger and looked good, too. They were dangerously good, and they still are, especially when drag racing.

A good excuse to dust off the old girl, along with like-minded people, and a day out for all the family, too. In some parts of the US, drag racing has a fairground feel. Two governing bodies, the National Hot Rod Association and the International Hot Rod Association, have many different categories of competition, increasing chances of a driver winning silverware. Bikers are also welcome.

Drag racing is old school 

It’s either you or the other guy. You usually know your fate within a few metres 

Drivers are strapped into bucket seats and hunched up in cages of steel tubing. They wear helmets, neck-braces and fireproof overalls. When something goes wrong in drag racing and the elemental force of these cars is unleashed in a way it shouldn’t be, lethal danger can arise very quickly. These cars are made for acceleration, and not much else.

Ambitious beginners will have cars with 400bhp. After that, the only way is up. More than 600bhp? Not a problem. 

Right foot on the accelerator, left foot on the brake. Put the car into drive. Warm up the tyres. Roll up to the starting line. Don’t give an inch. Wait for the lights on the Christmas tree. Foot off the brake, hang onto the steering wheel and feel the sweet madness of acceleration build until your car conks out.

Small, light and stylish

Classics like this 1972 Chevy Nova are preordained for eternal life on the drag strip 

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08/2014 The Red Bulletin

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