With a sickening crrrrack, the white Dodge Duster lurched and died, dropping its entire drive shaft onto the starting line. Meanwhile, the flashy red GTO in the next lane popped a wheelie and ripped down the quarter-mile track in 10 seconds.
Drag racing highs and lows happened en masse last week at Pacific Raceways in Kent during the filming of a Pacific Northwest edition of the Speed Channel's hit TV show "Pinks All Out." More than 450 amateur drivers took part in the races, getting a chance to burn rubber in front of a national television audience and win $18,000 in cash and tools.
The majority of racers hit times between 8 and 13 seconds, but don't expect to see the fastest cars in the finals when the show airs in November. "Pinks" producers select the field of 32 from the middle of the pack based on results from the preliminary rounds. All of the cars had times within two-tenths of a second from one another.
- The Seattle episode of "Pinks All Out" is tentatively scheduled to air on the Speed Channel during the second week of November. The network reruns "Pinks" frequently, so the episode should air several times during the winter.
For the thousands of spectators that showed up at Pacific Raceways, the most popular match-ups were between atypical dragsters, such as a VW Beetle versus a Honda Civic, or whenever old beaters were paired against showy contemporary models.
For "Pinks" racer Zac Cain, of Port Angeles, the weekend was filled with mixed emotions. A few days before the event, he found out that his wife was pregnant with the couple's first child. While it was hard to stay focused, he said, the excitement of possibly being on TV focused his competitive spirit.
Between heats, he made small adjustments to his Camaro Z28 from a grassy staging area, replacing the frayed alternator belt, tweaking the timing and rebalancing tire pressure. He also helped the driver parked next to him adjust the fuel ratio and replace a cracked spark plug in his '62 Nova.
"It's a really communal event," Cain said. "Lots of the newer guys are surprised by how nice and helpful everyone is."
Cain made the final 32 to earn a spot on the show, but he false-started in his heat. Nevertheless, he seemed pleased that he ran a respectable 10.48 and was thrilled that host Rich Christensen gave him the thumbs up at the starting line.
"Oh well, that's racing!" he said.
His attitude was typical of that among the grass-roots racers at the event: It's not about the prize money, but the adrenaline, the camaraderie and pleasing the spectators with huge clouds of burn-out smoke.
"I had a great time," Cain said, "and can't wait to strap in and go for another ride at home again!"