Drag Racing's Fan Freindly Pits

Reading, PA, September 15, 1997 - Reading was host to the Pioneer Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway this past weekend. The track is tucked in a small valley, lined with lush green trees. The trees provide the good air needed to produce...

Reading, PA, September 15, 1997 - Reading was host to the Pioneer Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway this past weekend. The track is tucked in a small valley, lined with lush green trees. The trees provide the good air needed to produce the mind boggling horsepower in drag racing today. The drivers say the track is fast. In drag racing you're either fast or last.

Drag racing has enjoyed the same rise in popularity that other forms of motorsport have experienced in the states. Drag racing has come a long way from its humble beginings on old airstips. Even the huge transporters in the pits are being designed to be more fan friendly. As the crowds have grown larger, the teams have found new ways for the fans to enjoy the sport.

The name of series sponsor Winston, rides along on the Top Fuel car of Gary Scelzi as well as on Whit Bazemore's Funny Car. In the pits, the two Winston cars are split by a huge Winston tent complete with an awesome surround sound theater and a racing simulator ride. I didn't get in to the theater, but I wonder what can be heard once Scelzi fires up his fueler just a few feet from the tent.

John Force knows that all the world's a stage and he's not about to let anyone go home thinking they didn't see a good show. Force is famous for his near track length burn outs.

Force knows what pleases the fans and the fans love him. Force uses their adulation to psych himself for putting together a winning pass.

In the pits, the Castrol Technology Center sits between the Force team Fords of Force and teammate Tony Pedregon. The Castrol Technology Center is the team's nerve center. Engineers have three work stations where they can study the data collected on each run. A complete satellite downlink provides the same weather radar used by television stations. In the future, the satellite system will provide live in car television coverage in the pits.

Cameras on either side of the technology center are focused on the Castrol cars as they are prepared by the crews. Plans call for seven cameras to be placed inside and around the technology center once it is finished. Presently, there are four cameras. In addition to the two facing the cars, there's one having a look at the fans and one inside the technology center.

The back of the Castrol Technology Center is John Force's personal stage. Flanked by four television monitors on either side, the trailer's back porch provides Force with a place to meet and greet the fans. While the eight monitors flash the views from around the team's pit, Force meets the public in a scene reminiscent of a politician's whistle stop.

Racing to get the cars ready for their next round can be just as exciting to watch as the on track racing. It didn't cost anything extra to visit the pits this past weekend at Maple Grove.

After the Pro rounds, the fans flock to the pits to watch as the cars are torn down and rebuilt for their next high speed excursion. Drivers busy themselves with the cars preparation or sign autographs until it's time to suit up for the race. If the driver is busy, the fans wait graciously until the appropiate autograph opportunity arises. Otherwise, they're happy to observe the fast paced action as it unfolds. When the driver signs the last autograph and announces "gotta go", it's time for the fans to get back to their seats for the next round.

The stands were full all three days at Maple Grove. Friday's big attraction is the second qualifying session which is held after dusk. The fuel cars belch flames the entire length of the race track. Mixed with the outrageous noise and the smell of nitro wafting through the air, the combination is nothing less than spectacular.

David Reininger - Motorsport News International

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi