The National Hot Rod Association’s Powerade Drag Racing Series invaded Pomona Raceway last weekend to kick off its 2005 season with the 45th annual Winternationals.
Despite the threat of rain throughout most of the weekend, fans turned out in the thousands to cheer on their heroes and witness firsthand the most powerful, quickest-accelerating automobiles in the world.
The top class competing was top fuel dragster. These slender machines loosely resemble four-wheeled missiles and pack almost as much punch. But these missiles carry a human being instead of a warhead and the rocket motor is replaced by a supercharged, nitromethane-burning V8 producing something in the neighborhood of 7,000 horsepower. (No precise figures exist because no dynamometer in the world can withstand that kind of power.)
As a result, a top fuel dragster can complete one-quarter of a mile from a standing start in around 4.5 seconds and can be traveling at over 330 mph as it crosses the finish line.
Funny cars use engines that are almost identical to the ones used in top fuel, but the engines are mounted in front of the driver, and the chassis is covered by a lightweight body designed to resemble normal cars such as Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Monte Carlos.
Funny cars have comparable top speeds but slightly lower elapsed times than top fuel dragsters.
The third and final professional category in action was pro stock.
Pro stock cars have non-supercharged engines that run on gasoline, yet they still make around 1,300 horsepower. Pro stock cars run the quarter mile in under seven seconds and top out at just over 200 mph.
Greg Anderson has won the pro stock championship for the past two years and was recently named the Speed Channel Driver of the Year for, among other things, his record-shattering 15 national event wins last season. It is suffice to say, Anderson was cautiously optimistic about his chances in 2005.
“I like our chances,” Anderson said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I think we’re in good shape.”
But contemporary racing machines and their pilots weren’t the only ones at the track.
“I really came to look at the nostalgia cars,” said spectator Norm Feenan.
However, the racing and fully assembled race cars were not the only attractions of the weekend.
There were scores of vendors in attendance, peddling just about everything a budding drag racer could need, including engine parts, safety gear, tires and tools.
One such vendor, Kelley Hendel of VP Racing Fuels, offered some insights as to why companies involved in motor racing enjoy doing business in California.
“There’s always some form of motorsport going on out here,” Hendel said, referring to the region’s Mediterranean climate.
Anderson was also happy to return to Pomona.
“It’s a special place,” Anderson said. “It’s the start of our season and the end of our season.”
Unfortunately for Anderson, he was defeated in the first round of eliminations. Dave Connolly wound up taking pro stock honors, while Tommy Johnson, Jr. and Scott Kalitta came out on top in funny car and top fuel, respectively.
Tom Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.