Race Weekend Central

Nitro Shots: Keeping the Wheels on the Ground

Drag racer Tina Pierce wrecked Saturday night at an IHRA event. Almost immediately, video circulated on the internet and social media, prompting unfortunate comments from some male readers. Granted, they were not in the majority, but they were disturbing, saying things like “this is why women shouldn’t race” and that she could not drive. Pierce, of course apparently suffered a parts failure and the result had nothing to do with her gender. Yet some cracked jokes about how women are clueless about cars or belong in the kitchen. It would be nice to say that last bit was an exaggeration, but it’s not.

Last year, Angelle Sampey talked to Frontstretch about her early years in the sport and the resistance she faced.

“It kind of made me hard so I wasn’t the real Angelle. When I came to the races, I had a wall up around me constantly and I had to because it was tough,” she said. “And then outside of the competitors, there were also fans that way. There were fans that just hated me, whatever reason they could find, they hated me and still to this day they do. They don’t even know me! Especially a fan, someone who has never spoken to me, is on the internet bashing me, so that kind of stuff made me become pretty nasty. I was out here and I wouldn’t talk to people and I was not nice. I know I wasn’t.”

Some women do indeed develop that mean streak, that thick skin and it doesn’t necessarily help with their perception either because then they are just looked at as a bitch. Some just hang it up and quit, even if they have talent, because they don’t want to deal with it. That’s a shame.

In NHRA, at the top levels at least, it seems like a corner has been turned. The Force girls, Alexis DeJoria and Erica Enders-Stevens shared experiences very different from Sampey’s. Their male competitors express great respect for them and a number of those competitors have daughters who have started in Junior dragsters. John Force, as old school as you can get, already brought up one generation of racing girls and is starting on a third, putting a granddaughter in a Junior dragster as well.

“There are women in our stands,” said Force. “They’ve got to have somebody to cheer for, so why wouldn’t you want drivers?”

Here’s hoping the rest of the world grows up and sees it that way soon, too.

What’s News?

  • Industrial Distribution Group (IDG) will partner with Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team and driver Shane Gray for the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway March 27-29. The Belmont, N.C.-based company is a market leader in the design, build and management of supply chain solutions. “This is a real neat deal for us,” said Gray. “The Gray Motorsports team is grateful to IDG for coming on board for our hometown race.”
  • One lucky NHRA fan could take home a 2016 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout motorcycle, the grand prize in the ’15 NHRA Sweepstakes. It’s just one of a number of nice prizes on offer. First prize is a VIP trip for two to the 2016 NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas. Fans can enter throughout the season at http://www.nhra.net/2015NHRAsweepstakes.asp or at the Mello Yello Powerhoouse display in Nitro Alley at NHRA events. Winners will be announced shortly after the close of entries at midnight on November 15th.

Driver of the Week: Larry Dixon

Category: Top Fuel
Hometown: Van Nuys, Calif.
Date of birth: October 23, 1966
2015 car: C&J/Casedhole/TEAS/Tiger dragster
Crew chief: Mike Guger
Team Owner: Bob Vandergriff Jr.

Career Highlights
Career wins/final round appearances: 62/108
Best points finish: 1st in 2002, 2003, and 2010
Career best ET: 3.769 seconds
Career best speed: 324.98 mph

2010 – Earned third NHRA Mello Yello Series world championship; won 12 races in 12 final rounds; scored eight No. 1 qualifying positions

2009 – Scored five wins in nine final-round appearances; finished second in points; earned nine No. 1 qualifying positions

2003 – Earned second consecutive NHRA Top Fuel championship; won eight races; swept the Western Swing, the fourth driver in NHRA history to do so

2002 – Earned first NHRA Top Fuel championship

1995 – Named NHRA Rookie of the Year

Some Things Most People Don’t Know About Larry: Actually, this one might be something pretty much everyone knows about Larry, namely the terrifying wreck he had at the Gatornationals last week. It made all the highlight reels as Dixon’s car buckled and split in two, with both halves getting airborne. Dixon flew through the air before what was left of his car made contact with the outside wall and came to rest. A testament to the safety equipment in place in NHRA cars, Dixon walked away without injury.

“What a ride but hey, I’m here talking to you,” said Dixon on the ESPN telecast on Sunday. “NHRA safety, Bob Vandergriff, and he’s very anal and obviously C&J Energy Services, they’re so behind the safety. The last time I did this 15 years ago, I had a helicopter ride, I didn’t wake up until I got to the hospital. The head padding, the HANS device, we didn’t have the seat belts. We have 7 point harnesses now.

“It goes up so fast. When you don’t have that front wing holding you down, you can’t stop it. You get off the gas and you hit the chute and the guys were joking because in the still photos of it, I’m pulling on the brake and doing all the things that you do while you’re awake but it just happened so fast and when I was up in the air and traveling for so long, you’re waiting to hit. All my equipment worked for me.

“When I went through my last one and my head hit the roll cage and it split my helmet, tried to pop my eye out of the socket, at that race, I ordered a HANS device. I got it the week we lost Dale Earnhardt at Daytona. Why would I ever take it off? I’ve been wearing one since 2001.”

In case you somehow missed it, here is video of Dixon’s accident.

NHRA 101

If you are new to drag racing, the first question you might have while watching an NHRA broadcast is “What do they mean by a holeshot?” It’s something you are bound to see a few times during a typical series of elimination matchups. For starters, the winner in Mello Yello Series eliminations is the driver who crosses the finish line first. So one would assume that would always also be the driver who puts up the lowest elapsed time (E.T.) and faster speed, right? Well, no. There are two things that make up the run. One of those is the elapsed time, which is tracked from the moment the car rolls across the starting line beam to when it crosses the finish line. But there is also the reaction time, which is the time it takes the driver to react to the green light on the Christmas Tree and roll through that starting line beam. For the pros, this reaction time is measured in fractions of seconds. But if you get a good enough jump on an opponent off the starting line, you might still beat him to the finish line, even if he does post a better E.T. That’s called a hole-shot win.

Number of the Week: 75

Greg Anderson scored a milestone victory at the Gatornationals last weekend, his 75th, and also broke a 64-race winless streak that dated back to Englishtown in 2012. Anderson is now fifth on the all-time NHRA wins list and third on the Pro Stock wins list, trailing all-time winningest Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson by 22.

Where to Watch

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series takes a week off and then heads to the most unique event of the season, the 4-Wide Nationals from zMAX Dragway outside Charlotte, N.C. This is also the first of five live race broadcasts scheduled for this season.

QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)

About the author

A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.

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