Recently I had the chance to do something I never dreamed I’d do when I started racing over 30 years ago: Bruton Smith built the four-lane highway at his racetrack in Charlotte, and ever since I laid eyes on it, I wanted to drive my ol’ hot rod down it, along with my three other Mustangs. I didn’t get the chance to race all four of my Mustangs, but I got the next best thing when the Countdown to 1 started in September. The first race was at Bruton’s zMax Dragway, and they decided to have an exhibition run on Sunday before the finals of four Funny Cars and four Top Fuel Dragsters. NHRA made the call that the four quickest losers in the first round would get first shot at running down the four-lane highway.
In the Funny Car, it was me, my teammate Mike Neff (who drives of the Ford Drive One Mustang), plus my other Mustang buddies, Tim Wilkerson and Del Worsham. In Top Fuel, it was Kenny’s kid Brandon Bernstein in the Budweiser dragster, Antron Brown, Forrest Lucas’ kid, Morgan, and the hot-shot rookie who is racing for Snake, Spencer Massey.
Before the race, they had a drivers’ meeting where Graham Light, from the NHRA. explained how the Tree was going to work; I was more concerned with putting on a show. I asked Wilkerson what kind of burnout we were going to do and if they wanted to do extra long burnouts or normal burnouts. A couple of guys said they were planning on doing normal burnouts. I couldn’t believe it! I told those guys I was going to do a burnout to the sand trap at the top end, then I was going to turn around and do a burnout back. I knew we had to put on a show for the fans. On the burnout, I was out there, and I see Worsham and Wilkerson going by me, smoking the hot dogs, as my hot rod noses over.
I’ve had enough of the burnout. As it turns out, I know Worsham put some extra fuel in his hot rod. He gave me a run for the money, but I still had him covered by a mile. I just about went to the 1,000-foot finish line on my burnout, and the crowd loved it.
When we got back to the starting line, I can’t remember the last time I was that excited to be racing. I had Neff on my right, with Wilkerson next to him. That is a lot of horsepower to have right beside you. Worsham was on the far side of the track, so it was louder than any starting line I had ever been on. When that Tree came down and we took off, I knew it was something special. Neff got the win on a hole-shot, but my Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang had low ET at a nice 4.11. Austin and Bernie have got me figured out, and we’ll be in good shape for the championship.
When I got to the finish line right in the lights, it exploded. It was dead. It almost didn’t make it. It was out of pop. Then, I ran back up and watched the dragsters. I thought, “You’re all suicidal. Wings flying and [stuff]!” It was just an awesome sight. I know it was exciting for the fans because I know my adrenaline was pumping watching them stage, and you just don’t know what it will look like. You’re trying to watch all the Trees to see who stages first, and it was really a lot of confusion. It took a lot of concentration to make it happen.
I’ve been doing this a long time, and I saw it in the old days – I’ve heard about it, and I’ve read about it. When I was in my Castrol hot rod, my adrenaline just went crazy. I have not had this much excitement since high school football when we charged the cheerleaders’ showers. I’m telling you, it’s a rush. You’re out there, and you’re like, “This is illegal. You can’t do this. This is not fair. This is not rational.” This is how it is, and we ought to thank Bruton Smith for how bitchin’ this is, and I’m proud that Bruton and NHRA let us be a part of it.
Afterward, I was still dizzy. I saw 32 bulbs light up – and when you’re as old as me, you’re dealing with double vision. I calmed down and thanked everybody for letting me be a part of that race. At the end of the day, my son-in-law, Robert Hight, won the real race, which jumped him up in the Countdown to 1. All my hot rods are running for the Full Throttle championship, so it was a great day in Charlotte.
I want to thank Bruton and Marcus Smith for building the four-lane highway, and the NHRA for letting us put on a great shot for the fans.