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No flinching allowed
Bruce Newman
August 01, 1977
"Destructive accidents" and drivers flying across the finish line ahead of their wild and unpredictable craft are as much a part of drag boat racing as rooster tails
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August 01, 1977

No Flinching Allowed

"Destructive accidents" and drivers flying across the finish line ahead of their wild and unpredictable craft are as much a part of drag boat racing as rooster tails

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When boat and driver make it from start to finish in one piece, it is a breathtaking sight to behold. A blown-fuel hydro covers the quarter mile in about seven seconds and generates such fearsome power that the water from its rooster tail often reaches the height of a four-story building, the spray at the starting line just beginning to melt back into the lake as the boat flashes across the finish.

"Everything happens so suddenly," says Mike Stevens, the driver of a blown-fuel hydro called Blood, Sweat & Nitro. "Sometimes I'll be sitting in the boat when everything has calmed down after the race and realize that I'm holding my breath. I actually have to remind myself to breathe."

One time Stevens' head was snapped straight back by the wind at 190 mph and began bobbing around so that he looked like one of those spring-necked dolls that people put in the back window of their cars. Stevens somehow managed to finish the race without killing himself but he didn't regain control of his head until he had shut off his engine. Another time he saw a small fish jump out of the water about 100 yards in front of him, and was on the fish before it was back in the water. "That's why I wear a face mask now." Stevens says. "At 190 miles an hour a drop of water could penetrate your face. I could see the water from the fish coming at me, but I didn't have time to flinch."

That is the kind of stuff that many drag boat racing fans like to hear: water penetrating someone's face, a man's head flopping around like laundry in the breeze. Like the sport's daredevil drivers, drag boating fans, it would seem, haven't flinched yet.

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