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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

More Kids' Questions about Drag Racing

By Bill Pratt

Here are some more questions from 6th to 8th graders I answered in 1997...

From Pam Dillion: Do racers make any money racing? 

Hi Pam! There are wide varieties of racers and wide varieties of winnings. Drag racers can win thousands of dollars, but at the professional levels, they often SPEND thousands of dollars just to compete. Three time world Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney may have said it best, "We don't MAKE a lot of money, but we MOVE a lot of money." Racers at the top need sponsorships from large corporations to be able to race competitively. This allows them to use the sponsor's dollars for racing, and lets them keep the winnings for themselves. Only a very few racers at the professional level make money strictly from winning races. 

Drag racers at most of the levels below the very top participate and enjoy their sport as a hobby. They make little or no money from it. Not too good a deal for people with thousands of dollars in their cars! I think it was explained to me best by fellow announcer Lewis Bloom, "Some people go out and buy expensive boats to enjoy during the weekends. These guys go out and buy expensive cars to race. It costs a lot, but they enjoy it and it helps them relax." 

One type of sportsman drag racer DOES have the potential to make THOUSANDS of dollars over the racing season. These racers are called 'Bracket Racers." Bracket racers are sort of like gamblers. They put up substantial entry fees to enter the events, but they have a chance at winning huge purses if their luck and skill holds out. It's kind of like a huge office 'football pool,' where 100 people put up $10 for a chance at a portion of the total of $1,000 collected. Bracket racers enter "Big Money Bracket Events" where 300-400 cars each pay $100 or more for the chance to compete. They then 'gamble' on their own skills to try to win round after round of competition. 

Bracket races are "all run" affairs; all cars race in round one, a pair at a time. Half those cars return for round two, half those return for round three, half those return for round four, and it does down until there are two cars remaining. The winner often gets about $20,000 and the runner up gets about $5,000. Other late round finishers also win money. To win bracket races, you need razor sharp reflexes, an ability to tune your car to consistent runs (within a hundredth of a second!), and, of course, lots of luck!

From George Pusk: What's the neatest looking car you've ever seen? 

That's a tough one, George! Drag racing, without a doubt, boasts the most beautiful of all racing cars. There is more chrome, 'candy' colors, breathtaking paint designs, and artistic lettering in drag racing than in all other forms of motorsports combined. Drag racing cars are often just as beautiful as the show cars that frequent the convention center circuit. I've had favorites over the years, but it would be impossible to pick one car that stood out above all others. I do admit a special fondness for "Candy Apple Red" paint and 1970 Camaros, though!

From Patrick Killian: Do you have a favorite driver? 

Hi Patrick. That's another tough one! I know so many drivers that it would be hard for me to pick one above all others. I keep track of nearly 50,000 racing teams (past and present) and I admit to liking them ALL (not that I KNOW them all!) There are drivers who are more accomplished than others, drivers who are especially nice people, and drivers who have made unique contributions to the sport. I also like the drivers who are out there plugging away week in and week out, secure in the knowledge that they may never win, but who are enjoying themselves nonetheless! The real answer to your question is no, I don't have one favorite driver. I DO like to pull for the underdogs, though!

From Ashley Nelson: Is it hard "commentating" on the races? 

Hi Ashley! It was VERY hard at first! There are many things to remember about talking on a microphone. You have to be clear, concise, interesting, LOUD, and focused. You have to remember that you are talking to a several hundred or several thousand people, so you can't just trail off without finishing what you are saying. One thing that still happens to me is that someone will come up in the timing tower and try to start a conversation or ask me a question while I'm talking on the mike! Your natural inclination is to interrupt yourself and answer the person, but you can't leave 10,000 people saying, "Why did he just stop in the middle of a sentence?" One of the hardest things to train yourself to do is to FINISH THE THOUGHT and communicate that thought to the crowd before you allow someone in the tower to have your attention. 

As far as the action goes, I like to use a combination of what I know about the drivers or cars on the line, combined with an observation of what the car HAS done in the recent past or during that race, combined with an observation of what the car IS doing right then. To be a good announcer, you should know your subject matter and should be able to say something interesting about every car that comes to the line. If nothing else, you can talk about how nice the car looks or how you think the driver may be feeling. One thing you shouldn't do is tell the people something they already know. People want to be informed and entertained. I try to be funny sometimes, but I try to balance that against providing all the information the fans need to increase their understanding, and hopefully their enjoyment, of the race in front of them.

From John Rallstone: How does somebody get to be a driver? 

Hi John! There are several ways to go about becoming a driver. Professional drivers usually start out at the sportsman levels and gradually work their way up to the professional ranks. If you have a lot of money, you might be able to buy yourself a car and name yourself the driver. That happens sometimes, but it takes the person quite a while to really get the hang of it. Sometimes, lucky kids get to drive professional drag cars because their parents have quite a bit of money. 

ANYBODY can drag race at their local track, however, if they have a safe car, a helmet (if your car goes quicker than 14 seconds in the quarter mile), and a few bucks. You can enter the track and race your car for $12 total at the track where I announce. Another way of becoming a drag racing driver that is really catching on lately is to attend a drag racing school. There are several such schools out there now, each one run by an experienced racer who can provide INVALUABLE lessons in how to race safely and competitively. A great web site containing information on several of these schools can be found at http://www.racingschools.com/drag.html.

Bill Pratt


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