Happy Birthday zMAX Dragway; Year Two had a Recurring Theme: Double Down
Two years ago today, NHRA drivers Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Dave Connolly used their Pro Stock machines to cut the ribbon on the newly completed zMAX Dragway and in just a very short time the Bellagio of drag strips has had a tremendous impact on the sport of drag racing (View the Year in Review photo gallery).
Year two at the world’s only four-lane concrete quarter-mile had one recurring theme throughout: double down.
Starting with the announcement in August of 2009, of a coveted second NHRA date in 2010, zMAX Dragway then went on to make history in September during the NHRA Carolinas Nationals by hosting the first ever four-wide exhibition drag race with modern NHRA nitro cars. The exhibition proved to be great foreshadowing of what was to come.
In January, NHRA president Tom Compton and 14-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force joined the creator of zMAX Dragway, Bruton Smith, to announce the first ever NHRA national event to be run four wide in March at zMAX Dragway. The inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals garnered unprecedented fanfare and media attention before, during and after the historic event. Force, the NHRA’s most decorated driver, became the first winner of the Four-Wide Nationals in Funny Car, while Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Smith claimed the first Four-Wide win in bikes. Mike Anderson (Pro Stock) and Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel) won their respective divisions and became the first two-time winners in NHRA at zMAX Dragway.
April had another successful showing of PINKS All Out as Rich Christensen and company returned for a second straight year, this time upping the degree of difficulty with a 64-car elimination field and a last-racer-standing format for the finals. Over 400 competitors from around the nation came to compete for $25,000 in cash in prizes. Even NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch flew from Talladega after qualifying his Cup car in the early afternoon, to compete at PAO in a unique competition with his 1970 Dodge Challenger.
The Summer Drag & Brag Series debuted in June and gave locals a chance to run what they ‘brung’ on the concrete quarter-mile during a six week series on Wednesday night events. Some racers however, such as Lynn Flowers, brought his 1977 AMC Gremlin all the way from St. Louis, Mo., just to run at zMAX Dragway during Summer Drag & Brag. Flowers said racing at zMAX Dragway was something that was on his bucket list, that he was able to cross off this summer.
Year two ended with a bang as the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals returned for their combined super show in early August. Two of the biggest muscle car racing organizations in the nation again brought in competitors from around the nation to compete in the weekend extravaganza that included two separate car shows.
What does year three have in store for the Bellagio of drag strips? If the first two years have taught anything is to expect the unexpected, but one thing is certain—it will be exciting and packed with can’t-miss events.
Tickets for all upcoming zMAX Dragway events including the third annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals can be obtained by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or online at www.zmaxdragway.com.