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Texas Drag Strip Is Taking It From The Streets

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 11 2011

NHRA Top Fuel driver Spencer Massey knows the dangers of street racing. (Photos courtesy of the NHRA)

Ennis, Texas – En route to obtaining his NHRA Top Fuel license, Spencer Massey has been harboring a startling secret.

“I’ve never been involved in any kind of street race,” said Massey, at 28 one of the National Hot Rod Association’s rising stars for Don Schumacher Racing. “I started up in Jr. Dragster racing. There were times I wanted to street race, but I knew I’d get in trouble if I got pulled over and got a ticket. You can be the best driver on the street, but you’ve always got to worry about everybody else around you.

“We don’t want kids getting hurt or hurting other people on the street. When you come to the drag strip, there’s no people to worry about but the guy in the other lane.”

That said, Massey and protégé Chase Copeland are urging wannabe street racers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to check out the “Thundering Thursday” series at Texas Motorplex. The brainchild of Gabrielle Stevenson, Motorplex general manager, the twice-a-month summer series scheduled to start May 12 is offering owners of all street-legal cars, trucks and motorcycles the opportunity to compete on The Plex’s all-concrete quarter-mile.

“We want to do our part by opening our gates more often and provide a world-class facility for racers of all levels – street-legal cars as well as Bracket racers – throughout the summer,” Stevenson said. “We want people to know that pro careers have started here. We want to create another generation of racers, and Spencer and Chase are great examples because both started out in Jr. Dragster.”

Stevenson said “Thundering Thursday” is targeted at the 16-to-22-year-old age group – the same demographic attracted to current movies like “Fast Five” and its predecessors. But any licensed driver is eligible to run down the same strip where reigning NHRA champions Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will compete in the 26th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals Sept. 22-25.

The rebirth of Muscle Cars from Detroit’s Big Three and the flourishing Tuner Car market have

Spencer Massey applauds Metroplex's new program.

accelerated the instances of illegal street racing.  According to the website StreetSceneRevolution.com, there have been 1,581 illegal street racing “accidents” reported to police departments nationwide since 1999. A record 664 accidents were documented in 2010. Twenty-nine accidents have been reported this year, including five in Texas.

“There’s peer pressure, and the more you get the more you’re apt to do it,” said Copeland, 22, currently driving the Top Alcohol Dragster that Massey wheeled from 2006-08. “It’s worse for high school kids because they see it on TV and in the movies. Once they see it in the movies, they want to do it.

“You come out here, it’s a safe environment and you don’t have to worry about getting tickets because it’s all controlled. It’s about keeping everybody safe.”

Stevenson noted that many such incidents go unreported or are incorrectly reported. “Even one death a year from illegal street racing is too much,” Stevenson said. “The Motorplex is always a safer alternative to racing on the streets. We want this to be a regional event that families can attend without spending a fortune.”

Gates will open at 6 p.m. and racing will not go beyond 11 p.m. Admission for spectators 13-and-older will be $5; it will cost $10 to race. Ellis County residents will be admitted free on May 12 to help launch the series, which will feature a high school championship as well as “grudge” racing. The format will take the series through Sept. 8. Go to www.texasmotorplex.com or call (972) 878-2641 for more details.

“We’re going to match people up and send them down the lanes,” Stevenson said. “If groups want to have one particular lane, they can race their buddy or one high school in one lane and one in another. The high school champion will represent the track at the E.T. Bracket Finals in October. Once it gets going we’ll work on some other in-house series…and maybe get some tech schools involved in a scholarship.”

A resident of Fort Worth, Massey won the Motorplex’s Jr. Dragster title in 1998. He added the NHRA Division 4 Top Alcohol Dragster crown in 2006 before going pro as driver of NHRA legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s Top Fuel car in 2009. Massey won the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as NHRA’s top rookie in ’09, after earning his first two national event victories.

Massey joined DSR during the offseason as the replacement for Cory McClenathan in the Prestone/FRAM Dragster. Massey is fifth in points heading into this weekend’s 31st annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

“I couldn’t ask for a better seat,” said Massey, who was reduced to part-time NHRA spectator and IHRA match-racer in 2010. “All last year I wanted to drive another Top Fuel car. I was the lucky guy to get the seat and be with Prestone/FRAM and DSR with Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown as teammates. Again, I couldn’t be in a better seat. Wish I had a win right now, but the car’s definitely capable.”

Massey also works on Copeland’s TAD entry, owned by Funny Car pioneer Gene “Snowman” Snow of Fort Worth. “I’d like to excel like Spencer has,” said Copeland, a resident of Gainesville. “That’s my goal, to drive a Top Fuel car. Right now I’m running the Top Alcohol car and running for a championship.”

Stevenson hopes to have local pro racers attend on a regular basis to give tips on staging at former Funny Car driver Billy Meyer’s Motorplex, the first stadium-style drag racing facility when it joined the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour in 1986. The Plex hosts a number of racing and car show events between March and November each year in addition to “Thundering Thursday.”

“I would like to be there,” Massey said. “Any off-weekend I have, I’d be more than happy to come out and run guys. Might even run my pickup truck.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 11 2011
One Comment

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  • Tommy says:

    My hats off to Spencer Massey and Gabrielle Stevenson of the Texas Motorplex for starting this program. To give street racers a legal venue for grudge racing their buddies. I think that will be a real plus, that and the low $10 entry fee to race. Good Luck with the new program.