Need for speed

You see the light turn from yellow to green and the adrenaline runs through your body as your foot is already into the 355 horsepower corralled just in front of you. The car launches from the start line, pinning you back in your seat, the tires struggle to find the grip to launch the car down the 1,320-foot strip of pavement. All eight cylinders roar in a fury as you race towards the finish line, and in 10 seconds, you’ve just covered a quarter mile from a standing start.

For drag racer Chad McDonald, a junior at Northern Kentucky University, these emotions come every weekend, March through October.

Three years ago, he went to Thorn Hill Dragway in Kenton, Ky. with his high school friend whose dad owns Thorn Hill.

“I was hooked from the start,” McDonald said.

Drag racing is a form of racing where two vehicles, side-by-side, start from a dead stop and attempt to complete a straight, level quarter-mile in the shortest time. Whoever crosses the finish line first, wins.

McDonald has been racing for three years at different tracks including Thorn Hill Dragway, Tri-State Dragway and Mountain Park Dragway.

McDonald majors in criminal justice, and said he wouldn’t mind racing professionally, but for right now, it’s just a hobby.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” McDonald said.

He races a 1984 Z28 Camaro. but started out racing a Mustang. He switched cars because he said he is a “Chevy kind of guy.”

During the week, he spends time working on his car, making sure it’s in top-notch condition to race because he wants to win everytime.

When McDonald first gets to a track, he walks around, socializes with others and makes sure his car is working properly. He doesn’t get serious until he sits in his car and all he concentrates on is crossing the finish line first.

“When I’m racing, I like to get into the zone; just block everything out. I like to be concentrated on catching a good light and beating the other guy,” McDonald said.

As soon as the green light shines, the show starts.

“It’s all adrenaline. When I get behind the wheel, it only lasts for 11 seconds, but it’s fun. Nobody can really say they go 113 mph. It’s not a big deal to me, I want to go faster,” he said.

When the drivers are in their cars, they follow the Christmas tree that lets the cars know when to take off. First, there will be pre-stage and stage indicator lights. Pre-stage warns the drivers they are approaching the staged position. The stage indicator will let the drivers know they are on the line, ready for go. Then, the three-amber starting system begins. There is a countdown of one amber light at a time until the green light comes on. The second the drivers see green, they are free to race towards the finish lin

Though the excitement of fast racing can be fun, but it doesn’t come cheap. Maintenance of the car can empty a racer’s pocket. Racing each weekend runs the risk of blowing the motor or transmission, which would have to be fixed, and tires are a necessity that cost hundreds of dollars. There is also the special racing gas and the uniform.

The races usually last all day, and people can race cars, trucks and even mobile homes. Sometimes, the dragways will have what they call pit bike races, when people race golf carts and four-wheelers.

The best thing about drag racing for McDonald is “Just doing it. I love it,” he said.