Friday, July 25, 2008

Fire on the strip

It’s not uncommon to see a semi-truck screaming by you in the fast lane on the interstate. But it would be really unusual for that truck to have two jet engines stuffed in the rear of its bed and fire blowing out of its exhaust pipes. Fans will be treated to that showing this Saturday night when a jet semi-truck, two jet dragsters and two jet funny cars each make several runs down the Pittsburgh Raceway Park drag strip in New Alexandria for the annual Night of Fire.

These Night of Fire events are typical at strips across the country after IHRA national drag racing competitions. PRP spokesman DJ Johnson said it brings a large audience because the jet cars, also called “portable space heaters,” are an impressive display of fire rumbling down the quarter-mile.

“Seeing the jets in the daytime doesn’t have the impact,” Johnson said. “When you see them at night, it lights up the joint and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

The jet cars reach speeds from 275 to 300 mph on the quarter-mile drag strip. Johnson said one year they unofficially clocked a car at 304 mph, meaning it’s an especially difficult task to slow them down at PRP where the runoff area is shorter than national tracks.

“They have to do a whole lot of stopping … at our place,” Johnson said. And how do they accomplish that? “Big parachutes.”

The shows follow the normal drag racing schedule and will run at 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Adult tickets cost $20, kids ages 11-15 will cost $10 and children under 11 are free. A fireworks display follows the final jet car races.

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