May - June 2003
A FAMILY TOGETHER FEATURE
An 'Ever-Present Concern' for Safety
Safety is of key importance to all drag racers, but no one takes it more seriously than the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), drag racing's largest sanctioning body.
NHRA puts forth a large number of safety regulations for drivers and vehicles in their rulebooks for junior and adult drag racers, in which they describe the safety of the sport as an ever-present concern. Frequent technical inspections of vehicles are required to maximize safety.
Children 8 to 17 compete as juniors in several age groups, with safety equipment mandatory as for adults. Junior drag racers wear a regulation helmet, neck and arm restraints, a five-point racing harness, and protective clothing, while junior cars must have a five-point roll cage.
"I don't know if our kids will continue the drag racing, but one thing I really like about it is that they are learning how to drive safely young," said Janna Tripp. "The safety requirements and precautions the NHRA has for the kids are the same as for the 300-and-over-m.p.h. Top Fuel dragsters. Kids are taught to follow and abide by these rules or they won't race."
John Tripp underlines the difference between street racing, which is illegal and highly dangerous, and drag racing at a NHRA member track: "I hate to hear drag racing mentioned in the news with somebody getting hurt or killed on the street, because that's not really drag racing, that's street racing. It's not a sanctioned event, and it's not safe."
Editor's note: All motorized speed events, including drag racing, are not authorized activities for any Scouting program level.
Drag Racing 101
A drag race is simply an acceleration contest between two vehicles on a straight course from a standing start over a measured distance: usually, a quarter-mile (1,320 feet) or, in the case of junior drag racers (age 8 to 17), an eighth-mile.
Competing vehicles are divided into 200 classes and 12 categories. Elapsed time (E.T.) and speed are monitored for each run.
A drag racing event consists of two-car elimination races, with winners continuing until only one remains.
The Super Street category, in which John Tripp races, features a single class of vehicle in side-by-side competition. In this and four other categories, points earned in competition at the best eight out of six national and eight divisional events can be counted for the year.
Traditionally, drag racers have competed in vehicles built to specifications that fit a specific National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) class. But a growing number of racers are competing in E.T. handicap racing, which allows slower cars to race on an equal basis with those having quicker and faster vehicles.
E.T. racers account for 80 percent of the entries in the 3,500 drag racing events held annually at the 140 NHRA member tracks in the United States and Canada.
Juniorsboys and girlsmay compete in eight age categories in the NHRA's Jr. Drag Racing League in vehicles that are near-replicas of the models that the professionals drive.
Driving proficiency must be clearly demonstrated by juniors and maximum speeds appropriate to age levels are strictly enforced.
May-June 2003 Table of Contents
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