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How to Watch an NHRA Drag Race

By Contributor

Nothing equals the sound and sight - and the bone-rattling thunder - of an NHRA top fuel dragster launching from the quarter-mile starting line.

The Race

Watch for the NHRA pros in a 24-race tour beginning in February each year with the historic Winternationals at Pomona, California.

Check out races at Phoenix; Gainesville, Florida; Las Vegas; Houston; Richmond, Virginia; Atlanta; Dallas and other major venues across the nation.

Find the complete schedule, as well as late-breaking news, at the NHRA's Web site (nhra.com).

Remember that drag races are multiday events, with action lasting all day long since winners are determined by multiple elimination rounds.

Attend a night session. Top fuelers and funny cars running at night are a surreal visual experience.

Note that only the top 16 enter the final bracket.

Attend Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions to see every car on the track.

Move around the stands. Watch some runs from the starting line. Watch others from near the finish line. The effect is entirely different.

Visit the pit area. Fans have better access than at any other type of motor sport event.

Watch crews rebuild and tune engines. Top fuel and funny car engines are almost always torn down and rebuilt between runs.

Be prepared if a crew fires up an engine. A top fuel engine generates over 5,000 horsepower. Being close by when one is fired up is a visceral experience.

Stick around after the last race. Drivers and crews in the pit area are more relaxed and have more time for fans.

Cars and Drivers

Remember that the king of the drag strip is the top fuel dragster - 500-cubic-inch supercharged rear-engine V-8s fired by an exotic blend of nitromethane and methanol.

Expect a top fueler to cover the quarter mile in less than 5 seconds at over 300 mph.

Watch the funny cars - put a top fuel engine in front of the driver and cover the whole thing with a cool-looking plastic body.

Check out the pro stockers - purpose-built stock-appearing Fords, Pontiacs, Chevys and Dodges powered by 500-cubic-inch V-8s running on pure gasoline.

Remember that there are pro stock motorcycles and pro stock trucks running, too.

Keep an eye on the bracket and amateur racers - hobbyists who hit the strip for fun and trophies in homebuilt quarter milers, some street-legal.

Watch for Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein piloting top fuelers. Doug Kalitta and Scott Kalitta, Gary Scelzi and Cory McClenathan.

Follow pro stock drivers like 1999 champion Warren Johnson, his son Kurt Johnson, Darrell Alderman driving Mopar products, Troy and Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Jim Yates.

Check out funny car drivers Whit Bazemore, Scotty Cannon, Tommy Johnson and the Pedregon brothers - Cruz, Frank and Tony.

Smile when you see the NHRA's number one ambassador, funny car pilot John Force. The nine-time champion - voted national motor sports Driver of the Year in 1996 - never fails to amuse in interviews, whether he's dancing happily in the victory lane or lamenting another blown engine.

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