The distinct whiff of nitro is something rather hard to forget — even for a 4-year-old.
That, all of 25 years ago, was Spencer Massey.
Quite fittingly, it will be 25 years ago this weekend when the first NHRA drag races were held at the raceway in Sonoma. And come this weekend, Massey too will be there.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Massey, who will drive the FRAM-Prestone top-fuel dragster at the Sonoma Nationals this weekend. “I’ve always dreamed about driving a top fuel car. I’m driving a top-fuel car, and going the quickest and fastest, it’s simply amazing.”
Amazing, however, was not how the drag drivers described last week’s racing conditions in Denver. After racing at an altitude of 5,800 feet in 100-degree weather, the drivers are welcoming the trip out West.
“It’s always a great racetrack, especially when it’s cool,” said Massey, who’s rebuilt 8,000-horsepower dragster was the No. 1 qualifier. “If we bring it down here to sea level, what’s it gonna do? I can’t wait to see what the car is gonna do.”
With merely four events to go before the countdown to the championship in mid-September, Massey last week clinched a top-10 spot. That’s something other drivers in their respected classes have yet to do.
“It’s a very crucial point in the season,” said Erica Enders, the sixth-ranked pro stock driver in the GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt. “Coming off the win in Chicago, we haven’t had the best showings the last two weeks ... so I’m hoping we can turn it around here.”
That win in Chicago on July 1 however vaulted Enders into the NHRA history books as being the first woman to win a pro stock event. It came over four-time world champion Greg Anderson, who she’d faced and lost to before.
“He made it pretty clear that he didn’t want to lose to us ... didn’t want to be in the history books for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I thought it was pretty cool that we made him eat his words.”
Defending funny car champion Matt Hagan will also look to get his season back on track after a labored start to the season.
“It’s been one of those things where it just hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, obviously,” Hagan said. “We just won the world championship, and you want to come out and defend your championship, and set the world on fire. But not everything goes the way you want it to.”
The qualifiers will happen on Friday and Saturday before Sunday’s championship round.