A subculture of flaky speed freaks? Maybe it was once, but no more. It is organized drag racing now, all glossy with public relations and a growth image—crowds are up 30% over last year. Why, PTA presidents have been known to participate, openly and without shame. The top U.S. hot rod associations swear that more than 10 million spectators saw a million-plus entries in some 6,000 sanctioned events last year alone, numbers that are getting pretty cultural, and everything is up, up, up in 1970, including a record $5 million in prizes. Turn the pages for a James Drake photographic sampler of the scene, followed by expert testimony from the nation's hottest rodder of them all, Don (Big Daddy) Garlits.
Burning out is dragster talk for spinning wide rear tires in puddles of bleach, as Chip Woodall does here, to improve the traction.
Hanging out the laundry, as they say, a supercharged dragster uses its parachute brake to help decelerate from a top speed of better than 200 mph. The Trojan helmet at left is one driver's reach for individuality. Like two of the three men below, he wears a face mask with breathers designed to filter out toxic exhaust fumes during normal operation and smoke in case of fire. The other driver uses a bubble mask.
Tearing the night in an after-dark event, a Detroit muscle car does its quarter mile (above). Lights add an eerie dimension to a sport that is mind-bending enough in daylight. The pickup truck below produces 150 mph and is fitted with small roller wheels to help stabilize its starts.