The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) is in the area this weekend, running from yesterday through tomorrow at Infineon Raceway.
Drag racing is a truly unique entity in the world of sports. Born in southern California after World War Two, the challenge of who can make their car go the quickest from a standing start to the finish line a thousand feet away in a straight line have proved irresistible for generations of racers. It has also proved to be a most unforgiving sport. When you have a car capable of going from zero to over three hundred miles an hour in a tick over four seconds, disaster is not uncommon. Neither is death. In the past five years four NHRA drivers have died in accidents during either a race or a testing session. John Force, the sport's unquestioned leader with fourteen championships to his credit, nearly lost his life in a 2007 crash.
Yet even with the danger, drag racing is an unquenchable passion for drivers and fans alike. It is also the most fan-friendly sport in America. Imagine being able to mingle freely with your favorite football team on the sidelines while the game is going. Never happen. Yet in NHRA, the garage area is open to all, with most every driver having free handout cards and coming out for autographs and photos in-between sessions.
Going through the garage, on many of the haulers you will see signs advertising the RFC services held twice on Sunday morning. RFC (Racers For Christ) is at every NHRA event, its logo appearing on the majority of dragsters. While every motorsports league has some kind of ministry, RFC is unique in one singular regard: the drivers lead the service. Tomorrow's will be led by Funny Car driver Jerry Toliver and Top Fuel driver Antron Brown.
Unless you're a NHRA aficionado, Brown is the best race car driver you've never heard of. At first glance, it's difficult to picture him driving much more than a SMART car. A genial family man, the squeaky-voiced Brown gives the impression he couldn't break the speed limit if he had to, let alone pilot a dragster. Preach? Yes:
Now, about the "best driver you've never heard of" comment. After a decade riding Pro Stock Motorcycles with more than a little success, Brown surprised most everyone by moving to Top Fuel dragsters in 2008. Other than the obvious differences inherent in going from a motorcycle to a car, Brown was going from a ride generating around three hundred horsepower to one that puts out eight thousand horsepower. In a sport where time is measured in the one one-thousandth of a second category, he would now be getting to the end of each race a full two and a half seconds faster. Obviously even if he was capable of making the switch there'd be a huge learning curve, right?
Brown won two races last year and is leadiing the points heading into tomorrow's finals.
He's making Matco Tools, his sponsor, quite happy.
And laying down an unabashed witness for Christ.