YOU ARE HERE: HeraldMail HomeCollectionsCars

Dragsters gone in 9.25 seconds

August 25, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

His tires sufficiently burnt, Danny O'Day exploded down the quarter-mile track in his reproduction 1934 Ford Coupe.

His front tires rose up, about 5 feet high. They stayed that way for a little more than 9.25 seconds, his time on the scoreboard. His speed: 146.5 mph.

Last October, O'Day, who lives in Massachusetts and North Carolina, and his Superwinch Ford Coupe established the world record for speeding and wheelstanding. He covered a quarter-mile in 8.73 seconds in Mechanicsville, Md. His speed was 155 mph.

"Controlled??? insanity," his trailer reads.

The wheelstander was the main attraction on a sunny day of racing and showing off Sunday during the annual Mid-Maryland Ford Meet at Mason-Dixon Dragway on U.S. 40, east of Hagerstown.


Dozens of people parked classic and antique cars on the grass and lifted the hoods for the world to see.

Inside the dragway, however, the cars moved - swiftly and noisily.

O'Day's yellow coupe, powered by a 541-cubic-inch, blown-alcohol, big block engine, made a roaring, rumbling sound.

Since the front wheels are in the air, O'Day steers with a hand brake that drags either rear wheel. He sees through the grille.

Scott Morgan created a whiter, thicker plume of smoke than most cars when he revved a Mustang near the starting line. Someone opened his passenger door to release smoke that got inside.

During an interview before his run, Morgan said he's still getting used to the force of the Mustang, which he started driving a few months ago for owner Larry Knight of Knight Precast in Glyndon, Md., near Baltimore.

The motor produces 2,000 horsepower and the car runs on 101/2-inch tires, creating some serious "black-tracking," or zig-zag pulling to the sides, Morgan said.

For comparison, a typical pro-level drag racing car might generate 1,400 horsepower and run on 161/2-inch tires, he said.

"It's a new endeavor for us," he said.

The Knight Precast "Hurricane" Mustang could race a quarter-mile in about 7.3 or 7.4 seconds at 190 mph, Morgan said.

In a late-afternoon run, the silver and blue Hurricane fell short of peak performance, but wowed the small crowd anyway. The result was 7.86 seconds, at 167 mph - despite a chute that popped out near the finish.

"That's not a pony under the hood," the announcer exclaimed. "That's a horse."

Burning rubber before the run has a purpose: Traction.

Butch Long of New Windsor, Md., who has worked at the dragway for about 20 years, said drivers heat up tires to the temperature of the track, which O'Day estimated to be 110 to 115 degrees in the middle of the afternoon.

Drivers pulled up to the starting line with their estimated time, determined by previous trials, written on their windows.

They raced each other while trying not to go faster than their estimated time, which is known as "breaking out." If a driver won but broke out, the other driver won - unless both drivers broke out.

Reacting too quickly to the green "go" light also was grounds for disqualification.

The Sunday card featured six categories: Street, trophy, Mustang, Thunderbird, pro and super. Street cars must be legal to drive on the road. Super cars can be souped up with anything from a nitrous oxide injection system to treadless tires.

Children raced in a junior division.

Michelle Francis of Westminster, Md., brought her sons Cole, 8, and Travis, 12, to race, along with her nephew, Kenny Kile, 16.

Her husband, Jeff, was driving a Mustang in an afternoon heat.

She also brought her father, Donnie Kile, of Middle River, Md., east of Baltimore, who started drag racing in 1968.

Kile opened his wallet and flashed a picture of his 1968 Cobra Jet Mustang, which has a 428-cubic-inch engine under the hood. He still has it, and another of the same model.

Kile said his wife used to race the Cobra Jet Mustang in a Miss Universe circuit on the East Coast. She and seven other female competitors wore short-shorts and sported beehive hairdos.

Clyde Young, 14, of Boonsboro, a spectator, came for the Mustangs.

Mike Young said Clyde and his sister, Nat, 8, had two of the nicest cars parked at the dragway. Clyde's car, a red 1967 Jaguar E type XKE convertible, and Nat's car, a black 1989 Jaguar XJS convertible, were Mike Young's gifts to his children.

Clyde Young started his car up to show how the engine purrs.

Nat Young, though, will have to wait awhile. "Mommy said I can't drive it 'til I'm 21," she said.

The Herald-Mail Articles