Liquid Assets

Imagine a placid lake reflecting a cloudless sky. Now take a deep breath as a boat sails into view, and hold your breath for a count of five -- the exact time it takes for the 5,000 horsepower top fuel drag boat to scream down the liquid quarter mile.

This weekend, contemplate pure power at the Coors Light IHBA World Finals Drag Boat Racing at Firebird International Raceway, where Top Fuel Hydros, Pro Gas Flats and boats in a dozen other classes compete for the 2003 championships.

Amy Pisule, Firebird car drag crewmember, describes the sound of the boat races happening: "When the motors start up," she says, "you hear a deep, lopey' sound." Fan Delbert Long elaborates: "You don't hear them as much as feel them. At the end of a run, a chorus of car alarms is cheering drivers on."

The rabid fan base adds another splash of adrenaline to the fun. "The crowd acts different than at the car drags -- they get into it more," says Pisule. Families enjoy the kid zone, the memorabilia market, and this year, extreme skydivers, who plummet from the air looking like death in a free fall and hit the water running.Long advises race fans to set aside $10 until the end of the day. "You'll need to get a haircut on the way home, cause the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up."

If you love the smell of nitro-methane in the morning, go early for a whiff of victory.

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Kim Toms