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Chris McGaha: 'When [the fire] came through the floorboards, I got outta there'

Pro Stock racer Chris McGaha got out of his Chevy Camaro quickly when a loose fuel line led to a big fire in the second round of qualifying.
06 Apr 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Race coverage
Chris McGaha

Humans discovered fire long before the burgeoning species discovered the wonder of horsepower. At the time, we had no idea what a terrible mixture those two things would eventually create for Chris McGaha during the second round of Pro Stock qualifying at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. 

“I saw it,” said McGaha. “I know only one thing causes fire in a race car, so I shut the fuel off and then by the time it got up under the floorboards, I got outta there.”

He laughed, which is more than the less brave among us might have done the morning after his silver Chevy Camaro belched flames from under the hood. A loose fuel line was the culprit, aided by a burst air hose, creating a backdraft-type effect Ron Howard himself would be proud of. 

“The fire actually wasn’t as bad as it could have been on the inside,” said Lester McGaha, Chris’ father and co-crew chief of sorts. He’s seen enough to know. “We had to replace some wires, the fuel line and of course the front right tire. We got lucky.”

There’s some bubbling, or ghosting if you prefer (we do), on the hood of the Silver Bullet. It looks like someone took a heat gun to it and messed around for about 30 minutes. Instead, it was a ball of fire that would make a Top Fuel team smirk, if not grimace. That’s more than enough excitement for McGaha for one weekend. 

He’s qualified in the No. 16 spot (there are 16 cars on the property) and after warming up the car with his son in the seat he seemed satisfied. Listen, the car didn’t catch on fire. That’s good enough. 

“This has happened before at the dyno shop,” said McGaha. “Same problem. That’s not any fun and it gets fiery in a hurry. I was at the other end of the shop and the entire engine was just covered in fire.”

When McGaha has made it down the track he’s done so with middle-of-the-road numbers. He’s averaging a 6.562 elapsed time (.006 second behind the class average) and when his car doesn’t catch on fire, he’s getting down the track. He’s looking for some more of that in Q3.