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Four-Wide Racing Drives Fans Wild

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2009
All four lanes at zMAX Dragway were put to use in an exhibition race on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Adrian Parker)

All four lanes at zMAX Dragway were put to use in an exhibition race on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Adrian Parker)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Concord, N.C. – They went racing four-wide in Top Fuel and Funny Cars at zMAX Dragway on Sunday afternoon and what more can you say than; Is there an audiologist in the house?

The ground shook, teeth rattled, fans jumped, history was made and John Force got out of his Funny Car so amped up after his run that he was seen running around the starting-line area hugging everybody from NHRA president Tom Compton to Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.

Assaulting all the senses of those at zMAX, and turning Force into a hugging dervish, were the exhibition races on the four-lane strip.

Four Funny Cars went off first. They were followed by four Top Fuel cars.

Mike Neff won the Funny Car portion of the event, which was a first for the NHRA, as he beat Force, Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson.

Winning the Top Fuel portion was Spencer Massey. Behind him were Antron Brown, Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas.

The 25,000 fans who witnessed the event did so with fingers in ears and butts out of their seats.

Afterward, Force headed into the media center and began filling notebooks.

“My adrenaline just went crazy. I’m still dizzy. I have not had this much excitement since high school football and we charged the cheerleaders’ locker room,” Force said.

“It’s a rush. It’s like your out there and like, this is illegal.”

But is it practical for anything other than an exhibition?

Probably not, seemed to be the answer.

Going four-wide creates problems with everything from staging to timing, some of the drivers said.

“We’ll see where this takes us,” Bernstein said, “but we proved today it was pretty bitchin’ “.

Other drivers were lower-keyed about it, but were still sporting big smiles afterward.

“I’m honored to be a part of it,” Worsham said.

The field was comprised of drivers who went out early in Sunday’s real, points-paying event – the Carolinas Nationals.

Berths in the event were offered in order of points. That is, top point-earners were given the first invitations.

Graham Light, NHRA senior vice president of racing operations, said that two teams turned down the invitation to compete – those of Ron Capps and Tony Pedregon.

Light said the Pedregon team opted out because it had problems with the car in the first round of the Carolinas Nationals and worried about the expense of fixing it.

Capps‘ team gave no reason.

Light said there were a couple of reasons for holding the race.

“It was an opportunity to make history and get exposure for our sport,” Light said.

Also, he said it was a way to repay Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company which built the posh, state-of-the-art zMAX strip, for its contribution to the sport.

Those who watched and listened were repaid as well, the way it looked.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2009
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