I'd like to ask if maybe any of you former touring nitro
"shoes" recall P.I.D. from a driver's perspective. If you've been
there, I'm sure you'd remember it. Maybe not fondly. But my perspective was
from the other side of the fence, and the "keystone" role it
played in my formative drag racing exposure.
Where should a dragstrip be? Guess if you're in SoCal, this means anywhere
an Industrial Park or housing development is destined to fit. Elsewhere,
it's geographically challenged sites or desolate, "field of
I imagine many of us can share stories about such drag strips we have
encountered, and I hope you will.
What brings this to mind are the Big Shows in Bristol and Denver. Today,
both are reconstructed, "modernized" facilities, but originally
they were in the spirit of "damn the torpedoes ...we're buildin' a
Another strip comes to mind with which I had a much more personal
relationship... Pittsburgh International Dragway, now defunct. In many
respects, it was like Bristol. It was situated in a ravine, and was flanked
on either side by parallel mountainsides. Steep, close together
mountainsides that not only contained the sweet song of racing engines but
replayed it again and again in diminishing echoes.
About the only level section was the quarter mile itself. The staging lanes
angled down one hillside toward the starting line, and the shutdown went
immediately uphill, short and leftward curving around the mountain. Many
scars on the outside guardrail down there where high speed machines set up
to go straight attempted left turns under heavy braking.
Only the minimal excavation to make this all fit was done. The rubble,
together with steel mill slag and coarsely crushed strip-mining shale
("red dog") filled the floor of the ravine to form a parking lot.
Spectators viewed the proceedings either through a chain-link fence at
strip's edge or over the tops of their parked vehicles from the
It may not sound like a particularly appealing place, and for certain, it
lacked Bristol's charisma. But I remember it fondly because it was here that
I was introduced to the rites of nitro, and in many respects, it was perfect
for that experience. The whole place would tremble, the report off the
mountain walls cracked like rifle fire, and the sweet,
spent nitro hovered and lingered in the narrow valley confines.
All this was thirty five years ago, yet the passion that ignited at this
"dragstrip where a dragstrip oughtn’t be" seems a long way from
being extinguished. Thanks, P.I.D.