January 1990 - Issue 13 masthead

Everyone In Panama Is So Busy Keeping Clean, Is There Any Time Left For Drag...

Action Sports Other

I learned an interesting bit of pit crew jargon during my two days of sunburn and delirium. The bit is this: “getting down on the blower.” I thought they were referring to tricky mechanical turning and fine calibrations of the horse-powers that be. But no, “getting down on the blower” means that for five dollars, a complete stranger will take a photograph for you of two bikini-clad and, uh, statuesque females posing near, or on, your favorite race machine. The “blower,” in this instance, is the super-charger, that wicked chrome edifice that looms from these bad vehicles, like next century’s happy imagery in this somewhere. This is California, after all.

Drag Bikes

I never want to meet Dan Quayle, and I never want to drag race motorcycles. The racer is far from in control. The bikes are computerized, push buttoned, and sound like rutting triceratops.

The rider is a mere ballast whose job is to hang on like Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove; 8-Second, 180-mile-an-hour-people who probably eat peyote like candy and sire fearless naked apes with lethal handshakes. 

Top Fuel Dragsters

It takes the equivalent of four shower heads running full blast to supply all the nitro-methane for a dragster to complete on five second stomp down the drag strip.

But wait, you also get…

T-Shirts that read: “Speed Limit: 300 mph.” This is no lie. One of these monsters ran 4.97 seconds at 292 miles an hour.

The National Hot Rod Association has put a stop to this. As of next year, higher gears will ensure that no car is capable of topping 290. This shows amazing restraint for a sport that calls for a ¼ mile of fury and two miles of slowing down.

Nitro Funny Cars

I love those three words. A fiberglass shell that resembles a popular car such as you or I might own (or borrow), a seething nitro power plant, and no sense of humor at all. I thought the dragsters were the loudest things on earth. Wrong, pilgrim.

Funny cars don’t race in the normal sense. What happens is they explode at the starting line and then are gathered up by their parachutes some five seconds later, a ¼ mile away.

A crew of specialists takes the shards back to the pits and assembles a whole new car out of salvage and epoxy. Even the driver is rebuilt from spare body parts that are packed in refrigeration units. Only the head remains intact, protected by the drivers’ helmets.

This casts a downright ghoulish light on the organ-donating cult that many of us cheerfully and innocently join when we get our driver’s license. That little “D” on your license means that a kidney will go to a needy transplantee, but a good limb may well end up sewn to Don “The Snake” Prudhommes latest simulacrum. Ha, ha…— Dave Neal

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