Imagine if you can, witnessing and feeling 50,000 horsepower of nitro inhaling supercharged HEMI® powered Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars all traveling down a four-lane drag strip at once. The concussion from all that power rotating the earth is monumental for both drivers and fans. The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will shake the Nevada desert and move the mountains as the 19th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals makes history this weekend.
For those of you new to the whole four-wide drag racing scene, this format can trace its roots back to the 1950s and 60s when hundreds of racers inundated their local drag strips in search of winning class, eliminator trophies and cash. Some track promoters began booking match races with big name racers to run four wide, much to the delight of the fans on bleachers and hanging on the fence rooting for their favorite driver and/or car brand.
Over time, NHRA moved away from the four-wide system and went to more traditional two-lane drag strips for many reasons, but primarily it was safer and more manageable. As NHRA drag racing matured, and the cars and safety equipment improved, the folks at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte created the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in 2010. Considered by many racers as the “Bellagio of drag strips”, it’s a spectacle of four-wide racing that contains Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle doing battle.
Since zMax Dragway is a modern facility with all the latest advancements in safety equipment and an electronic infrastructure, it was a no brainer to use the same formula for their sister track in Las Vegas that’s also run by the same owners.
The decision was made at the end of the 2017 NHRA season to make The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a four-lane drag strip. As if the town of Las Vegas wasn’t crazy enough with its over the top vibe, it was the perfect backdrop to bring the first-ever four-wide event to the West Coast. With two NHRA drag races at The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the race officials made the spring Vegas event a four-wide format.
From a racer’s perspective, four-wide racing can be a challenge.
“Some drivers feel strongly one way or another toward four-wide racing as a whole but, for me, I take the approach of, ‘How can you excel at something you don’t embrace?’” said Leah Pritchett, driver of Papa Johns Dodge//SRT®/Mopar® Top Fuel Dragster. “Can it throw all of us off our very much dialed-in precision routine? Yes. Are there larger chances for error? Yes. Does race-day mentality change once past the Christmas tree? Yes. Does it require a maximum level of focus? Of course. But that’s what the four-wide racing brings, beyond just the cars being physically lined up four-wide across.”
Regardless on how the drivers feel, they will all face the same challenges this weekend at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. With four fresh lanes that have been paved and groomed, there is no lane advantage yet. Come Sunday though, that might not be the case.