Still More Kids' Questions about Drag Racing
By Bill Pratt
Here's the final installment of drag racing questions from the kids at
careerexplorer.com. Keep in mind this was 1997, so some of the performance stats and news items I talked about have been eclipsed.
1. Are there certain parts of the world in which drag racing is exceptionally popular? Submitted by Robbie Joyko
Hi Robbie! Actually, although the United States and Canada remain the primary location for most of the world's drag racing action, many other countries have embraced it in a big way. In fact, organized drag racing now takes place on every continent on Earth except Antarctica! There is a huge drag racing scene in Australia, with world class racers in many categories. The same goes for Europe, with heavy participation in England, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. Japan has a small contingent of racers in the professional ranks, too. Japan actually hosts an international drag festival every year--the world's only truly 'international' drag racing event--with participants from the United States, Europe, Japan, and Australia. There also is a fledgling organized drag racing movement in Indonesia! South Africa has a growing drag racing scene with participation in the professional and sportsman ranks. South America is represented by the tiny island of Aruba, which has a thriving drag racing scene. To help build interest in South American drag racing, the National Hot Rod Association took a group of American racers to Brazil last year. The cars and drivers were received enthusiastically, which bodes well for the future. I'll bet you didn't realize organized drag racing was planet-wide!
2. Do some drag racers go on to race at the Grand Prix level? Submitted by Erin Bowie
Hi Erin! I know of no drag racers that have tried their hand at Grand Prix racing, except perhaps Jim Busby in the early seventies. Indy Car racer Danny Ongais made a name for himself in Top Fuel dragsters before hitting the ovals, and John Andretti, who races Indy Cars and NASCAR, drove a Top Fuel Dragster a year ago. Comparing drag racers to Grand Prix racers to Indy racers to NASCAR racers is kind of like comparing apples to oranges, however. In each racing scene, drivers progress from lower "sportsman" classes, through intermediate levels, to the professional ranks. In each type of racing, the professional ranks represent the ultimate expression of the racing category. Each type of racing requires different scientific and engineering approaches, and obviously, different driving styles. Most drag racers continue to chase the drag racing world championship year after year without regard for venturing into other racing scenes. Given the level of competition in the professional drag racing ranks, that goal is lofty enough!
3. How difficult is it for the average drag racer to find a sponsor? Submitted by Nicola Gagnon
Hi Nicola. A lot depends on how much sponsorship the racer requires. Many times, smaller, local sponsorships are easier to obtain. A sponsorship for tires, oil, engine parts, meals (from a local restaurant--hungry crews eat a lot!), and even non-automotive small businesses are not hard to get if the business owner can imagine tangible results of his advertising. It is very, very difficult, however, to get a larger sponsorship. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articulate, competitive, outgoing racers who have trouble getting sponsorships. Most drag racers race for a love of the sport and for recreation. Even twenty years ago, a few people with good, middle income jobs could field a relatively competitive drag car, even in the professional classes. Sadly, this is no longer the case. It has been estimated that it takes between $2,000 and $3,000 for professional top fuel drag cars to make ONE RUN down the quarter mile! This makes the need for corporate sponsorship obvious, and has caused the average number of active racing teams to drop over the years. Drag racing is enjoying more television coverage lately. Hopefully, that will be the boost racers need to convince more sponsors to come aboard.
4. I've seen kids racing at local track. At what age do children start drag racing? Submitted by Jennifer McArthur
Hi Jennifer! Kids can begin drag racing in the "Junior Dragster" category at eight years old. Junior Dragster is a relatively new category that is becoming extremely popular. The cars are custom-built drag racing machines, along the lines of a sophisticated go-kart. The engines are five horsepower Briggs and Stratton-type lawn mower engines. There are performance and race car modification limits for the younger racers. As the kids become older, they are allowed to drive their cars faster. The upper boundary of the Junior Dragster age limit is 15 years old in states where kids can drive at 16, and 17 years old in states where kids must be 18 to drive. All Junior Dragster racers must undergo an orientation with the car and must make several test runs before they can race. They are never allowed on the track while full size race cars are racing, and the kids race on the eighth mile instead of the quarter mile, so they won't build up the additional speed. Junior Dragster racing has proven to be a popular and safe family sport. The interesting thing about the Junior Dragster racers is that they cannot drive anything ELSE at the racetrack! Most racetrack insurance regulations prohibit children from driving anything in the pit area, including bicycles, mini-bikes, and ATVs--and certainly not cars! This means the ONLY thing they can drive is their Junior Dragsters, and ONLY on the track!
5. Has drag racing's popularity increased as more media attention is centered on extreme sports? Submitted by Peter Robbins
Hey, Peter, good call. The similarity between extreme sports and drag racing is a very astute observation. Certainly, the spirit and energy represented by extreme sports matches the spirit and energy represented by driving a race car from zero to 320 mph in four and a half seconds! Young drag racers have always been associated with the "go for it" culture, from the "surfin'" days of the 1960's to the present. The paint designs, wild colors, and attitudes of many drag racers seem interchangeable those displayed by extreme sports participants. All this being said, however, I personally have not noticed a correlation between drag racing's increased popularity and its similarities to extreme sports. This could be changing, however. Christen Powell, a teenage Top Fuel drag racer, has landed a lucrative and hip Reebok sponsorship for 1998. As far as I can tell, this cross-pollination between motorsports and the sports traditionally represented by Reebok can only mean good things for drag racing's future.