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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

MIR Jet Car Nationals 2002

By Stephen Jones

Rich Hanna's First Strike gets ready for another launch at MIR's Jet Car Nats. Photo by Stephen Jones
Rich Hanna's First Strike gets ready for another launch at MIR's Jet Car Nats.
Photo by Stephen Jones

See ALL of Stephen's MIR Jet Cars photos and wallpapers HERE!

It's August 17th, 2002, and time for the 14th annual Jet Car Nationals here at the recently refurbished and renovated IHRA sanctioned Maryland International Raceway at Budds Creek, MD. This is only the second time I've been to MIR since witnessing the total demolition of the old tower last November. If you haven't been here for a while, I gotta' tell ya', it's FANTASTIC! 

I've worked in a lot of media rooms the past 10 or so years, but this has got to be the jewel of them all. The control suite is modern beyond belief, the media room is spacious with comfortable, reclining chairs, plenty of counter space to hold laptops, monitors, camera's, and your lunch or dinner. To get in to any of the suites, media room, or even the bathroom, you need a plastic card key. Kinda' the same type of entry key you would use at any of your better quality hotels. 

For all the work... and money... Royce Miller and his family have done to modernize this facility, on a scale of 1-10... I'd give it an 11! If you are a competitor or just a spectator and you haven't been to Maryland's #1 drag strip...and perhaps one of the top three strips in the East...you owe it to yourself to make the trip to Maryland International Raceway in scenic southern Maryland.

There's been a flurry of activity here today. Along with the jet funny cars and dragsters, we've had open competition from MIR's Frantic 7, junior dragsters, motorcycles, alky dragsters, and throngs of local bracket racers. The parking lot and grandstands are filling up quickly. The pits are loaded with local fans checking out the hundreds of race cars, jet vehicles, the NASCAR game tent, and the snack bar. We did have some brief moments where it looked like we might get some rain, but it cleared and the sun started to set behind the back of the starting line.

Royce had his hands full today as he was running around making sure everything was working right, consulting with his staff, and even announcing for a short while until one of Englishtown's regular announcers, Sean O'Leary, showed up. Sean did a fine job in keeping the fans pumped up though it was obvious he'd just seen Austin Power Goldmember as just about every other remark was punctured with "YEAH, BABY, YEAH!" It did get a bit stale after repeated use over the hours of the event, but the fans seemed to enjoy it.

The first round of the jet show started off right around dusk with brilliant fire shows from each team. Only one jet dragster had a problem. Aggi Hendricks and the Queen of Diamonds jet dragster sprung a fuel leak right after the engine was cranked up. Rich Hanna shut the dragster down and towed it back to the pits. According to Rich and Aggi, a fuel line clamp was not tightened enough and came loose when the engine rpm's cranked up. Aggi came back about 20 minutes later with the problem corrected and made a nice pass.

Bunny Burkett was on the grounds and made two passes...both against Hanna Motorsports JET CARS! On both passes, Burkett made long smoky burnouts and backed up while the Jet FCs performed the fire shows. Pass #1 was against the Top Secret Eastern Raider Jet F/C and pass #2 was against the First Strike Jet F/C. Bunny was 0/2 on both shots.

Bob Motz and his Kenworth Jet Truck made an early shakedown 1/2 track pass to the delight of the early arriving fans and two after dark passes that almost char-broiled yours truly. The first pass was a 7.511/211.43 mph and the second pass, about two hours later, registered 7.565/213.27 mph. Just before both passes, Royce Miller had a giant water truck hose down the entire area behind the starting line and all the way to the back fence. With a whole new paved staging lane, Miller didn't want Motz "cooking" the new asphalt. There was also some concern about the very dry tree's and wild shrubbery behind the starting line. Motz truck puts out a very long and intensely hot stream of fire and thrust. 

The first pass melted the flags on the pole behind the starting line, blew down the fence several hundred yards behind the starting and moved an extremely heavy water box several yards back. On both of Motz's fire shows and launches, the trees and wild shrubbery several hundred yards behind the starting line were whipping and blowing around as if a strong thunderstorm was moving in. Fortunately, nothing was damaged and Royce Miller, after inspecting the scorched and still steaming staging area, was seen walking towards the tower breathing a big sigh of relief.

Some of the huge crowd started heading out the gates a little after 10:00, apparently having seen enough racing for the day or weary of the intense heat and humidity. For the many that remained, there were more jet car/dragster passes and a visit and demo from Transaurus... the fire breathing, saliva drooling metal monstrosity that rose out of its rolling metal tank like holding container to slowly rip apart a -- supposedly -- illegally parked car near the rear of the tower. This is the first time this writer has witnessed this demo though I've heard about it quite frequently at other tracks. It was impressive, but does go to show that drag racing can be a circus at times. It is entertainment and that's part of the deal in running an event like this.

Getting out of the track on to Rt. 236 and the 9-10 mile trip to Rt. 5 was a breeze, thanks to the energetic MIR security staff and local police and sheriff's support. This has been somewhat of a problem in the past, but as a component to the facility upgrade, this a big noticeable improvement. There are lots of pictures and other pertinent info on the tracks outstanding web site...http://www.mirdrag.com

When the IHRA comes to MIR late next month for the CARQUEST Mid-Atlantic National, most all of the improvements will have been completed. The competitors, officials, and the media...many who have been here frequently in the past...should be surprised and overjoyed at all the new improvements. This reporter will be on hand to gauge the reaction from these participants. Should make for some interesting responses.

Stephen Jones


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