American muscle is prevalent at the drift races. Here, Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s Mustang leads Daijiro Yoshihara's GTO into a turn at last year's event in Sonoma.
Today is Good Friday and an official NHRA employee holiday, and, yes, I'm in the office, but only briefly to post today's Insider column. I'm going to take advantage of the time and actually take a rare day off to treat my son to a neat birthday present.
His birthday was actually Monday (April 6, same as "the Snake"!), and I've been planning this for some time. Today and tomorrow, we're driving to Long Beach to witness the opening race of the Formula Drift Professional Drifting Championship Series. My son, Chris, who just turned 20, loves fast cars like his pop but has become a bit more enamored of drifting than dragging, so I thought I'd indulge him. With the help of NHRA Mopar rep Darren Jacobs and NHRA Ford rep Brent Maurer, I've been able to set Chris up to meet Sam Hubinette and Vaughn Gittin Jr., two of the sport's stars in their respective Dodge and Ford machines.
If you've never seen drifting, it's quite spectacular and, much like drag racing, employs a head-to-head one-versus-one elimination format. Two cars broadside around a series of bends, one leading the other, inches apart, and scores are calculated by judges for style, line, and the closeness of the two competitors. They run twice, with each car leading once, and the winner is the driver with the most points. It's kind of weird but also kind of cool, and the drivers' mastery of their cars is amazing. (It's supposed to rain today, but I'm pretty sure they will still run in the wet stuff; that's one advantage over drag racing.)
I've never been to one of their events, but I'll be among familiar people I met when I covered NHRA's sport compact series a few years ago. Drivers like Shaun Carlson (who also ran NHRA Pro Stock), Gary Gardella, and Ed and Ron Bergenholtz are involved in this series, so I'm looking forward to seeing them again.
Anyway, just so you don’t think I've lost my allegiance to our fabulous sport, here's a fun little list that's been circulating via e-mail. The author is unknown but clearly was brilliant. You may have seen it, and, if so, I apologize for the repeat, but it should be fun for the many of you who have not seen it, and I think I'll have to agree on most of these items. I originally had planned a different piece that is just a few items short of completion but thought this appropriate for the day. Enjoy.
You Know You’re a Drag Racing Addict if …
You have two dogs at home named "Snake" and "Mongoose."
You want to have kids just so you can run a Jr. Dragster.
You know more about a driver's career than his wife does.
Your weed whacker was blueprinted by Keith Black.
You put a 60-foot launchpad in your backyard instead of a pool.
After your garage door opens, you "stage" and wait on the Tree before pulling out.
After one pass around the yard on your lawn mower, you read the plug and "fatten 'er up."
During the winter, you roll the windows down just to smell the tire smoke from skidding tires.
You can't remember your spouse's birthday, but you know the e.t. and speed records in every Professional class.
You think the purpose of wings is to prevent flight.
You catch yourself saying, "I wish stoplights would flash yellow before they turn green so I could get a better reaction time."
You know Hookers are headers.
You memorize the Summit and Jegs catalogs so you can build your dream car in your mind when you're bored.
"Going to the lanes" means getting ready to race, not going to roll some stupid heavy ball down a wood floor to knock down pins.
Your home page is set at NHRA.com.
When introducing your family, you refer to them as your "crewmembers."
You see burnout marks in the pavement and try to determine how serious a car it was by the length and width of the stripes. Then you say, "I coulda done better."
You refer to a cold day as "fast air."
While you're squirting dish soap in the sink, you're thinking about priming the injector.
When you joined AARP, you got mad because they didn't send you a pin, a patch, a rule book, or 48 issues of anything.
You talk in your sleep, and your wife wakes you up in the middle of the night and wants to know who Shirley and Connie are.
You describe someone who's upset as being "on the chip" or "on the tire."
You use the emergency-brake handle as the "hand brake" while inching up at a stoplight, pretending you're staging.
You send a monthly letter to the city council asking it to move the traffic lights to street level because looking up is messing up your reaction time.
Your wife and kids report you "missing" 24 times a year.
You are more enthusiastic about getting your National DRAGSTER in the mail than a check.
You don't know Richard Nixon was from Yorba Linda, Calif., but you do know John Force is.
You'll spend $300 for a single slick, but you won't spend more than $150 for all four new tires on your commuter.
You run your commuter tires at 6psi.
You have a shift light in your minivan.
You call the freeway off-ramp the "shutdown area."
While you're shopping for underwear, you find yourself looking for an SFI tag.
You know that all the things they claimed to do to that car in Grease can't really be done at the same time.
You have a CD mix of car songs, including "409," "Little Deuce Coupe," and "Shutdown."
You honk and give a thumbs-up to any other car on the road sporting an NHRA Member sticker.
You drive 350 miles to your sister's just because there is a dragstrip 20 miles from her house.
You take your helmet along when you go to buy new eyeglasses or check out cars.
When something falls off your car, you wonder how much weight you just saved.
You bought a race car before buying a house.
You're looking for a tow vehicle and still haven't bought furniture.
You have enough spare parts to build another car.
More than one racer-supply store recognizes your voice and greets you by name when you call.
You save broken car parts as "mementos."
You've found that your lawn mower runs pretty good on 108 octane gas (but doesn't particularly care for alcohol).
Instead of pictures in your wallet, you have time slips.
After you tell your wife where you'd like to go on vacation, she answers, "Why, is there a race there?"
You are the type of person who goes postal when you have to sit in a traffic jam for more than five minutes, yet you can spend five hours in the staging lanes.
When someone asks your weight, you tell them the weight of your car with and without a driver.
You use racing fuel as an aftershave.
During the off-season, you sit in the race car making engine sounds and pretending to shift gears.
You take an old tire off of one of the many cars in your yard, then proceed to take a torch to it and inhale the tire smoke.
You go to the dragstrip on your first date; true love would be if she suggested it. That's when you find an old beer-tap ring and propose.
Your wife says she's expecting and you think that it means she expects you to win the next round.
You can find your way to any dragstrip but get lost going to your in-laws.
You know that POWERade is a drink and not a new kitchen appliance.
You know that "breakout" refers to a car running quicker than its dial-in time and not a prison escape.
You refer to a "diaper" as an absorbent blanket used to contain oil and parts in case of a blown engine, not something you put on a baby even though they both contain similar stuff.
E.T. to you means elapsed time, not extraterrestrial.
You know that weight transfer refers to the front end lifting, causing weight to be transferred to the rear wheels, not a new-wave diet.
You use 10w40 engine oil for bath oil.
Pretty clever, eh? Yeah, I thought so, too. How many of those are you? I'm guessing that more than a few of you would say more than half!
Okay, as Dobie Gray would say, I'm gonna drift away. See you next week.