Cup Drivers Get More Horses

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 14 2021

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace climbed into the cockpit of an NHRA Funny Car this week. (RacinToday photos by Deb Williams)

CONCORD, N.C. – Stepping away from one’s normal racing environment can be exhilarating or as NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace and Daniel Hemric discovered Thursday, it’s like putting a kid in a candy store.

In an event arranged by Toyota, NHRA Funny Car driver J.R. Todd and Top Fuel competitor Shawn Langdon received a dose of NASCAR competition Thursday morning on simulators with Wallace and Hemric. Both men said they were impressed with how well the drag racers adapted to the Dover track on the simulator. The four then headed to zMAX Dragway where Wallace and Hemric experienced the power of a Funny Car and Top Fuel dragster, respectively, sitting in it while each engine was started. 

“That was unbelievable!  I’m speechless!” said an excited Hemric, who first attended a drag race with his grandfather at zMAX Dragway.

Hemric cited the Top Fuel car’s noise, the transition from gasoline to nitro, “the certain tone that you hear and when that happens, the vibrations of the car.”

“It literally is hopping,” Hemric said. “I think Shawn said the car I was sitting in had 11,000 horsepower. Can you comprehend that? Eleven thousand horsepower! And you feel every bit of it, too (sitting there idling). I cannot imagine actually being on the throttle in one of these things. I totally respect these guys.”

Wallace notes that doing something to which one is not accustomed “catches your attention super quick.”  

“The adrenalin gets flowing a lot quicker, (your) heart rate increases,” Wallace said. “When that nitro kicked in I was zoning out.” 

Hemric added, “When you suck that nitro in it’s like you’re gasping for air.”

“Maybe your first start in a series or something you haven’t done in a long time you get like this flutter, nervous, heart rate goes up feeling. I got that when I sat in that thing,” Hemric said about Langdon’s Top Fuel dragster. “I’m like, I’m just sitting here. Why am I nervous?”  

Wallace equated the instructions given him prior to starting Todd’s Funny Car to those provided before he flew with the Thunderbirds in that they quickly disappeared once you were in the middle of the new adventure.

“They tell you so much stuff leading up to it,” Wallace explained. 

Hemric added, “You’re not processing what they’re telling you.”

Wallace notes the heart rate increases because of the numerous activities surrounding the new experience. 

“It was a lot to process, so it was cool,” Wallace said.   

Neither NASCAR driver could quit smiling as they talked about their experience, having difficulty comprehending the G forces the drag racers endure.

“With the exception of Dover and Darlington, and maybe one or two others, we feel a lot of compression and load, G forces, but it’s more in the side; more lateral,” Hemric said. “When these guys take off they’re experiencing two and three Gs. At one point they’re up to five Gs. I can’t even phantom that!

“I think about Dover this weekend and every now and then in a qualifying run you get the sag of the face. I bet these guys are pinned back! It would be hilarious to see a slow mo of that.”

Both men admitted they would like to step into a two-seater drag car to get the feel of the launch and then the fast trip down the dragway, but they wouldn’t trust themselves to drive one of the high-powered machines.  

“Our cars are like hybrids now,” Wallace commented.   

 However, Wallace emerged victorious in the NHRA-NASCAR Four-Wide Supra Challenge. Todd, Langdon, Wallace and Hemric each drove a Toyota Supra in the event with the NASCAR drivers piloting the pace cars used in the Xfinity Series. Wallace posted an elapsed time of 12.082 seconds, 118.65 mph. Second went to Langdon with an E.T. of 12.608 seconds, 117.65 mph. Hemric, who red lighted, came in third and Todd fourth. 

Wallace and Hemric are competing at Dover this weekend, while the NHRA is at zMAX Dragway for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 14 2021
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