Summer days at the drags


Recently, I got an e-mail announcing that Pacific Raceways, out in Kent, was celebrating its 50th anniversary in business. Also, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) would be holding its Northwest Nationals at the track.
I got to thinking and realized that this was also almost my 50th anniversary of going to drag races, although not to Pacific Raceways. To celebrate the two anniversaries, Eric Berge, a drag racing friend and the owner of Werner's Crash Shop on lower Queen Anne, and I drove out to watch the races, and to watch a few of our Queen Anne and Magnolia neighbors who were running their cars.
The first drag race I attended was the 1962 NHRA Winternationals down in California at the drag strip at the L.A. Fairgrounds at Pomona. My father had been given some free passes to the races and we lived just over the hill from Pomona, so Pop, my brother, Ron, and I drove out to see what this drag racing was all about.
That was 50 years ago and since then I've been to many a drag race.
Berge and I wandered through the pits, reestablishing some old friendships that I had made years ago. We only get to see these friends once a year when the community of touring racers come through town. We also stopped to see a number of local sportsman racers.
One of those racers is Rob Strom who lives in Magnolia and owns Ballard Lock and Key. He also owns a beautiful candy apple red 2000 Mustang that runs in Super/Gas. At first glance, it looks like a normal Mustang with fancy paint and trick custom wheels and tires. Then, as you look closer, you notice the whole interior is filled with a roll cage; this is a formidable race car.
When I talked to Strom a little further, he revealed that he started drag racing in the 1980s and that he's always run Mustangs. The whole car has a Fiberglas copy body, doors, fenders and hood that cover a steel tube frame and chassis. It took Strom three years to build the car.
The engine was anything but stock. Although in the Super/Gas class, you can run any engine you want, Strom thinks like I do, in that Fords belong in Ford bodies and Chevies belong in Chevies. Consequently, there's a big block Ford in Strom's Mustang, except it has been bored and stroked to 572-cubic inches, runs aluminum cylinder heads and breathes through a big Holley Dominator four-barrel carburetor. The engine makes 1026 horsepower on the dyno.
Strom runs the car in the 9.90 Eliminator bracket and electronic aids limit the engines horsepower output so hopefully it will run a 9.90-second ET (elapsed time) every time it runs the quarter mile. Without the electronic aids, Strom's car could easily run as quick as seven second ETs with speeds around 160 mph and be disqualified for breaking out, by running under 9.90. Strom's competitors run equally equipped cars and the whole race is determined by reaction times on the starting line. First one to leave, without red-lighting and being disqualified, usually wins.
When it came time for Eliminations, Strom made it through the first round, but unfortunately met defeat in his second round.
While it's the Nitromethane fueled dragsters and funny cars that get all the publicity with their 4-second ETs and speeds over 300 mph, it's the sportsman racers like Strom who fill the whole field and provide entertainment between the fuelers' quick runs.[[In-content Ad]]