Despite that hideous price, I was softened up and relaxed enough to wander to the fences for the second session. Eighty-plus degrees, sunny, and as I rounded the turn for seat-row sections17-18, I got my reward for what I had seen as a race saddled with economic savagery and business-usual casualness. Hitting the seating area was like walking into a spotlight.
The place had an edge to it. First off, the seats and aisles were packed. The crowd was brown and juiced. The skin-tight young women looked fabulous, tall tanned and lovely… and that’s saying something coming from me. My idea of hot sex is putting on some shorts and driving over the speed bumps in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Cardinal Mahoney’s been popped more than I have. The fences were three deep with a variety of testosterone t-shirts shouting out from a macho wilderness. Yeah, this where I always belonged. When I worked at NHRA, I loved the 800- to 1200-foot section. You got great feedback, loud laughs, and in a number of cases, fans who knew what they were talking about.
“You guys at DRAGSTER are real assholes, you know that?”
“You’re right, brother. Let me have another non-filter cigarette and by the by, the shirt’s stolen.”
At about roughly 3 p.m. at the 43rd running of the bulls, I saw something that made my pulse quicken. Overhead was a plane with a sign trailing that read “Bare and Legal Showgirls” with a (909) area code number after it. I REMEMBER THAT!!! The last few times I had struggled through a few Pomona NHRA events where that act had disappeared, and I figured that the towers of scour at POWERade or NHRA had said, “Scrub those signs. This is a family sport, dammit!!!” and into the valley of death rode the 600 (or whatever that number was).
Not this year. I guessed a little nostalgia for the old folks. But wait, it got worse. No sooner than that, and I espied a scrap in the stands and the Pomona goon squad trucked on up and down with a few tattooed warriors in tow. And that happened a couple of times within the next half hour.
For me, the capper was some chubby-cheeked somewhere-in the-20s kid getting carried down the grandstand steps on a stretcher with the jungle savages whooping and hollering in full war paint. You know the drill: about a six-pack too many and a half-pint Kessler washback that clocks the punk. I’d like to say “been there done that”, but I’ve got a reputation to enhance.
Please don’t misunderstand the above. You don’t have to be on the verge of a red line OD to have fun. It does have its charm when the right time, place and conditions are prevalent, but clumsily extinguishing a cigarette on the top of some 7-year-old’s Mohawk is viewed dimly in most cultures.
In the midst of the building madness, the action on the track picked up and I don’t mean the POWERade drill team. The people are partying and popping up the fun meter and suddenly you get this artificial, corporate drek. (Memo to Eddy Hartenstein: In 2008, lose this cheerleader crap that plays to the crowd in oil downs. Run triple X movies, anything, but not this. Damn, talk about Jimi Hendrix opening for the Monkees.) But to a decent degree not on this particular weekend.
To return. I didn’t get to see a 330 by a Funny Car which is the only mark that has escaped the scope of my spotty attendance, but a few of the Top Fuelers tacked up 330s, a somewhat reasonable concession I guess. Of course, the highlight of session for me had to be Mike Strasburg’s blower-exploding, flaming, tire slashing 288-mph run. Having seen 1,453 final Top Fuel qualifying sessions, these never fail to get a rise out of me or the fans. Naturally, I don’t want to see anyone get hurt (Certainly not after the Blaine Johnson crash, absolutely the single worst day of my race-watching life). But anyone who says they don’t crank up after a body-pitcher or fireballer, is, how can I say this in a non-inflammatory way, being disingenuous.
As we approached the end of the final Top Fuel session, I headed back to the car for the final time at an NHRA national event, I had no plans to come back Sunday. No, I was hardly bored or pissed. I actually got a lift out of the day. I enjoyed myself at the races for the first time since Scott Gardner’s World Series race at Cordova Dragway or even George Ray’s Wildcat Hot Rod Dragstrip. The people were great and the cars... All right. I got a taste. Good enough.
And more important (maybe than anything concerning the event) I did want and got my last look at an NHRA national event, and it was just fine. I’ll survive. Like getting a thank-you peck upon leaving the whorehouse.
Into the sunset behind Arrow Highway.