Smoke and Fire - Welsh Media Productions



Smoke and Fire - Welsh Media Productions
S moke
F ire
Citrus Nationals At Moroso Motorsports
By Pat Welsh
Drag racing is a simple sport
really. Two cars accelerating side by
side from a standing start to a finish
line that is 1,320 feet down the strip.
If you get there first you win the race.
It’s all over in a matter of seconds. Five
very fast seconds.
Moroso Motorsports Park in Jupiter
hosts the Murray’s Speed and Custom
Mountain Dew Citrus Nationals every
year in November. I’ve been going to
it since I moved to Florida in 1988.
The race, started in 1981, was a prestigious stop on the winter tour and all
of the sport’s heavy hitters came down
to take a crack at the title. Some of
the fluff has gone out of the race due
to various reasons, yet it continues to
bring in some cackle in the form of
exotic dragsters and funny cars, jetpowered craft and even a couple of
The sun is poking through high
clouds, the asphalt is dry and the winds
are keeping things pretty comfortable.
Families with kids in tow are walking
through the pits admiring the jet funny
cars and dragsters: super low-to-theground creations with turbine engines
for propulsion. One kid is getting his
picture taken next to the Superwinch
wheelstander, another is collecting
autographs from the drivers and yet
another is talking to the driver of the
Queen of Diamonds jet dragster, Jessie
Harris. Jessie could easily be a runway
model with her stunning good looks.
The staccato of engines and the
smell of fuel are in the air. Local racers are working on their ‘69 Camaros,
altered roadsters and even a stock
1982 AMC Eagle. A car that was revolutionary in its day is now someone’s
racing hobby.
This simple sport is made complex
by the technology that is required to
keep drag cars competitive and by
the safety measures taken to ensure
that every driver is given the chance
of survival in a high-velocity crash
or fire. Sophisticated fuel and clutch
Photos / Welsh Media Productions
management systems, computer monitoring and a fraternity of crew members have replaced the nostalgia of cars
from the past.
The crowd roars its approval when
the first pair of Top Alcohol dragsters
perform smoky burnouts. The crowd
is even more impressed when both cars
roar down the track in a real super
close race, won by only a couple of feet.
Elapsed times of 5.62 and 5.66 seconds
flash on the scoreboards. This is racing
as it should be. Speeds reached 258.31
m.p.h. for the winning car of Dave
Heitzman from Decatur, Mich.
Many in the crowd are here to see the
special exhibition passes by the jet cars.
A pair of jet dragsters tow to the starting line. Drivers are securely strapped
into their seats and are wearing thick
firesuits. The signal is given and the jet
engines slowly purr to life. Gradually the
crescendo reaches an ear-numbing 120
decibels. Mothers cover their children’s
ears in the grandstands. When the drivers flood their engines flames and white
smoke shoot far behind their cars. The
heat from where I am is intense.
They slowly pull up to the starting
line beams, engines roaring. The starter
flicks a switch, the Christmas tree lights
turn amber then green. The two cars
roar off the starting line with afterburners fully ablaze, yellow flames coursing
out of the tailpipes. I’m knocked back
on my feet by the jet blast.
Jessie Harris in the Queen of Diamonds
sets a new track record with a speed of
301.30 m.p.h. Considering it took only
a quarter of a mile to reach that velocity, this is impressive.
The crowd goes absolutely nuts.
By day’s end my experience along the
wall at Moroso Motorsports Park has
left me a little haggard. I’m dirty and
covered in black tire beads from the
hundreds of smoky burnouts that I’ve
photographed, and my ears have been
exploited by the roaring launches. But
already I’m planning on coming back
for next year’s Citrus Nationals to do it
all over again.
On Nov. 25 Chris Gould, 52, of Bowdoin,
Maine lost his life in a crash at Moroso
Motorsports Park. Gould lost control
of his Firepower jet funny car after a
6.07, 280.97 m.p.h. exhibition run.

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