Last night I attended my first drag racing event. It was the IHRA Nitro Jam Northern Nationals presented by Aeromotive in Martin, Michigan. I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for three years and have driven by US 131 Motorsport park many times but never attended an event. I wasn’t sure what to expect but as I approached the exit ramp early in the afternoon, I knew it was going to be a packed house. There is only one way in and out of the complex and even though we were 3 wide to get in, it took 10 minutes just to enter the gates to park my car. I met my friend Jim, who would be taking photographs for the event, Shea Holbrook and Larsen Motorsports. We went up the tower and grabbed our media credentials and then took off to get a feel for the layout.
Teams were working feverishly on their cars as we walked around the paddock. This event included Nitro Funny Cars, Pro Stock, Pro Mods, Nitro Harley’s and Jet Dragsters. You could say it had a little of everything and if you enjoy speed, this event had it. I had been warned to wear hearing protection and I’m glad I brought my ear muffs as these cars are very loud. It doesn’t matter what type of car is doing their warm-up burnout or actually on the start block, when they go you can’t hear anything the person beside you is saying. If you are anywhere near the track, the power from the cars are literally shaking your body. Talk about an adrenaline rush, you can feel the power in your chest.
We made our way to Shea Holbrook’s trailer and the Larsen Motorsports team. The jet dragsters are roped off right in front of the trailer and each driver is there to talk to fans, sign autographs and take pictures with. There is also a nice jet engine display for fans to learn more about how the power plant works. The jet dragsters are definitely the stars of Nitro Jam as it was always a busy area. Jim and I were given an in-depth explanation on Shea Holbrook’s jet dragster, which included all the buttons and levers in the cockpit. There’s no gas pedal in the car and the other surprising aspect was the braking. There are two brake pads on the floor board, one for the front and one for the rear. They are not used to slow the car until the car gets below 30mph, as a parachute is used after they cross the finish line.
For Shea’s first run of the night, she ran against Elaine Larsen. Shea won this race with a time of 5.9752 in the 1/4 mile at 268.02mph. Notice Shea’s reaction time as she won the race right off the line:
The jet dragsters have 4,500 pounds of thrust, which is the equivalent of 5,000 horsepower. The heat from the flames would actually light the asphalt on fire, so that is why you see a track official spraying the asphalt. Everything happens so fast.
One of the cool things that Shea Holbrook does is bring a family who has a boy that has Duchenne Muscular Distrophy. She’s an advocate for Duchenne as her family has been affected by the disease. Kevin was the lucky boy this weekend. It was his first time to the drags and he was smiling from ear to ear. I can say that Shea made sure it was a special experience for Kevin and his family. Shea made sure she was available to the family to answer any and all questions. Kevin was definitely the center of attention and I know after talking to him, he’ll remember the experience for the rest of his life.
The event actually ran ahead of schedule. It didn’t feel like there was much of a wait between Shea’s fist run and her final run. Shea would be running against her friend Marisha Falk. Marisha finished second in the jet dragster championship last year so it wasn’t going to be easy to beat Marisha. Shea told me to stick with her and made sure that I was able to be in the starting stand. It was a unique experience as I was able to be there from the car being pulled towards the launching point, firing the engines up and then being right there as they slowly make their way to the starting block. As you can see from the video, notice all the air coming from the side of the jet engines. You definitely would have your hat blown off. I had a fantastic time and am grateful for the experience. Thank you Larsen Motorsports and Shea Holbrook for the experience. You can help Shea out by voting for her to win the Bell Helmets through the visor competition. Now enjoy Shea’s final run.