The quarter-mile drag-racing track at Speedworld Raceway Park is sticky from burnt tires, and exhaust fills our lungs like we've been puffin' Pall Malls all day. Cars and motorcycles are lined up in pairs from the beginning of the two-lane blacktop, way back past the chain-link entrance, just like that Race Wars sequence in The Fast and the Furious. The Jettster and I, and her stick-man du jour Pachinko, are out in the island between the starting lines, covering our ears whenever a turbocharged car injected with nitrous oxide for extra speed rolls up and starts revving its engines and burning tires in a plume of smoke.
"The stickier the track, the better the traction," race official Sean Pokorny relates, after a pair of imports hit the gas, leaving us in fumes. "For higher horsepower cars, that is. But for the average Honda, say, sticky is not a good thing. It bogs their engines down and takes friction away from 'em."
It's near 1 a.m. on a humid Saturday eve/Sunday morn, and Pokorny is the cat workin' the tree -- the red-yellow-green racing light -- as literally everybody and his grandpappy is queuing up to drag-race legally. The lineups are insane: crotch-rockets against Scions straight from the dealer; a supercharged Nissan up against the BMW some Scottsdale kid has "borrowed" from dad. Other times, a fire-spitting dragster might go it alone because it's so fast no one wants to look like a pussy beside it.
"Sometimes these guys will race for money, sometimes these guys will race whoever," Pokorny tells us. "Tonight it's just a bunch of people having a good time, taking racing off the street and bringing it into a contained atmosphere."
We're here because our man Ali over at the PHX promo company After 9 Events (www.after9events.com) invited us up to check out the scene. After 9 does these race extravaganzas at Speedworld Raceway Park (www.speedworldmotorplex.com), way up in Wittmann, with nonstop drag racing until 5 a.m., a bikini contest, a foam party, and a field of show cars as far as the eye can see. The next After 9 blowout is supposed to be in September, and with a beer garden. We'd heard there was gonna be a beer garden at this race, but they must've hidden it well, because we walked that track for four hours and didn't see squat in the way of firewater.
"Kreme, can we take a break?" whines the J-unit, having taken a seat with her boy-toy, skinny Pachinko, whom I let her bring because he seems to know a lot about cars. "I at least need a soda if there's no brew."
"Check out this sick Camaro!" interrupts Pachinko, dancing a jig like a madman. I tell the J-girl to shush while Pachinko, Pokorny and I watch this bad-ass green Camaro approach solo, at first burning its tires, then settling down slightly for Pokorny's signal.
"That's Roger Renfrow in his '67 Camaro," explains Pokorny. "He's got a supercharged engine in it. It's a big block. A very nice car."
Pokorny hits the switch, and soon the Camaro explodes into the distance. Renfrow's time: 8.02 seconds at 176 mph. A fast pass. Remember, all Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious wanted was a good 10-second car.
"Ever have any accidents out here?" I wonder aloud.
"Yeah, we've had cars that hit the walls at 160, cars that have done nine flips at 190. A lot of engines blown, a lot of transmissions broken. With a lot of these guys, the faster they want to go, the more apt things are to happen," says Pokorny.
We decide to take a tour around the rest of the raceway and check things out. Out back behind the track is a 29-foot-long, purple jet-propelled dragster called the Invader (www.invaderjet.com), piloted by Curt Eierdam. According to Eierdam, the Invader is like a ground-hugging Space Shuttle.
"We did one pass, but we hurt the motor, so we're done for the evening," Eierdam says. "We ran 252 mph at six seconds flat for a quarter-mile. It's faster than anything else out here, but it normally runs 290 to 300 in a quarter-mile."
"Jeez, what kind of engine do you have in this thing?" asks the Jettster.
"We use a Pratt and Whitney J-60 engine out of a Sabreliner aircraft," answers Eierdam. "It puts out about 7,000 pounds of thrust, weighs about 1,300 pounds."
"Sounds like Kreme after a big plate of rice and beans," joshes Jett. "What's it like being in that baby when it goes off?"
"When we launch, it's like someone stepping on your chest," replies Eierdam. "When you go through to the other end and pull the chutes, you've gone from a positive six Gs to a negative four Gs, and it's like someone's kicking you in the butt. A thrill ride, from start to finish."
We mosey past the Invader, and check out all the people waiting to race, from the fellas on mini-motorcycles to one guy in his Scion with his whole family in tow. We finally find a roach coach and score a plate of nachos and some orange drinks. As we're walking and eating, we spot one of the cars we'd seen on the track, an old-school '63 Chevy Nova station wagon. These racing pals Ryan and Don take turns at the wheel, though it's Don's ride.
"I drive it on the street everywhere," Don says. "Best number was 10.5 seconds at 130 mph. It's a 300-horse engine with a nitrous on it. I've had it for a couple of years sitting around, and finally decided to throw it together real quick. I own a transmission shop in north Phoenix, and we like to come out here pretty often and whip up on the Hondas."
After a few more words with Don, we perambulate over to the area where all the show cars reside, either tricked-out imports or domestics with vertical doors, spoilers, wild decals, woofers as large as midgets in their trunks, and all kinds of electronics and flat-screen TVs throughout the interiors. I'm feelin' what I'm peepin', but Pachinko keeps grumblin' about "effin' rice burners." Seems Pachinko is a purist when it comes to racing and looks down on the too tricked-out imports. Or domestics, for that matter. So I let Jett and Pachinko wander around and score more pics, while I conversate with some of the dudes with the pimped-out rides.
I choose a sweet lil' number that's sportin' my favorite colors, orange and green, and then strike up a confabulation with owner Matt Garcia, 20, from Scottsdale. The trophies out in front signify that Garcia's won big-time in the past for his whip's looks, and he's justifiably proud.
"It's a 2003 Chevy Cavalier," states Garcia, breakin' down the specs. "It's got a Razzi Body Kit on it, and custom paint from House of Kolor. It's tangelo-pearl orange on top, and lime-time green on bottom with a silver pinstripe. It's my everyday drive car, but I show it all the time. The trophies are ones I've won in the past for best paint."
"I see you're here with all your buds." I nod at them.
"Yeah, we're all in the same car club together -- Team Wolf Pack," he says.
"So are you in school or do you work?"
"I work full time at Bill Heard Chevrolet in Scottsdale," he answers. "I'm also in the Marine reserves."
"Have you had to go over to Iraq?"
"I've been in for a year and a half now, but I haven't had to go over there yet," he says.
"Well, let's hope you don't have to, mon," I comment, patting him on the back. Nearby is another orange-ish ride I want to gander at closer, so I start headin' in that direction, when a gaggle of fly young Latinas parades by me. They're all easy on the eyes, especially Celine and Viri, at whom I decide to try spittin' some game.
"Why are you lovely preciosas out on this fine evening?" I inquire.
"Just for fun," replies Celine. "We came out from Carefree."
"I love your Sundial," I smirk. "So, you honeys lookin' for something in particular?"
"We're lookin' for some men," exclaims Viri, bobbin' her head as she responds. "Me, I want a cute man with a tight car."
"How 'bout me, am I cute enough for you?" I ask.
"You are fine," she states, batting her long black lashes at me.
"Too bad he came here in a hooptie," Jett breaks in, Pachinko by her side, the two of them ruinin' my steelo with the squalies, as Celine and Viri walk on by. "Hey, Kreme, they're gonna start the bikini contest soon."
"Put your libido on lock for, like, five seconds," I snap. "I want to talk to this guy with this Mustang over here. He won Best in Show tonight."
Soon I'm speaking with Yoseph Azizi from Phoenix, who's toting a huge trophy signifying his victory for the best-looking ride of the event, while others won for speed, and so forth. His 2000 'Stang is painted a glorious sunburst orange with gold flake, and he's got it up on 22-inch Forte rims. Pretty enough to eat, fender-flared and lowered. But Azizi says it's the electronics in the car that won over the judges.
"I've got a 37-inch plasma in the back, a 15-inch flip-down, an integrated laptop 19-inch in the dash, in-dash DVD, and a PlayStation 2," he breaks it down. "I've spent a bright shiny penny on it, and a lot of time, but it's what I enjoy doing."
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"C'mon, Kreme, the bikini contest is starting now," insists my switch-hittin' sidekick, eager to see all that bare skin.
"By God's gonads, girl, you'd think you're gonna be in it, the way you talk," I crack.
"I'd like to jump up there and compete," she admits, sheepishly. "But I'm not wearing any undies."
I cackle at the thought. "And, like, when has that ever stopped you before?"