Auto enthusiasts have yet another reason to be excited about this weekend’s Food Lion AutoFair, when the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competes across the street at zMAX Dragway Aug. 26-28.

Fans will see some of the best grassroots drag racing in the Southeast at the three-day event that will feature 12 categories of racing, headlined by the Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car that top 250 mph. Many of the NHRA’s top stars got their start in the Sportsman ranks that will be featured this weekend at the Bellagio of drag strips.  

Doug Foley drives in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Top Fuel division, but he got his start in the Sportsman categories. He also runs a drag racing school based in nearby Mooresville, N.C., that helps drivers get their start in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Foley’s son, Doug, recently qualified for his NHRA competitor license at zMAX Dragway and just competed in his first event in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

“I think for the last couple years since zMAX Dragway has been open, we’ve been waiting for a race like this to come because it gives the Sportsman [divisions] the opportunity to run the highest level of competition, the NHRA series,” said the elder Foley. “A lot of times they get slightly overshadowed by the pros and all the hoopla and guys like me who come out with their Top Fuel cars during the big national events. This gives them the opportunity to go out and compete and all eyes are on them for the weekend. It’s great, the greatest facility in the country with the greatest Sportsman program in the country.”

The wide variety of drag racing machines at zMAX Dragway this weekend will include vehicles that resemble the top classes in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, dragsters and Funny Cars, as well as machines that look more like you might see driving down the road or parked across the street at the Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ronnie “The King” Davis, of Suwanee, Ga., is a 35-year veteran of the sport and the reigning 2010 Division 2 Top Sportsman champion. He races two ’63 split window Corvettes powered by Roush-Yates engines.  

“As far as coming to zMAX, I’m very excited about that,” said Davis. “I think it’s one of the best tracks I’ve ever raced at in my life. It’s a wonderful facility and we’re looking forward to having our first division race there.”

“I call [the Sportsman division] the backbone of NHRA racing. Fans get to see a really good mixture of cars. If you’re a racing fan or just a car fan, it’s a good thing to come out and be able to see all that. It’s roadsters and dragsters and door-slammers, and being able to see that at zMAX Dragway, the fine facility that it is, is just a double enjoyment in my opinion.”

Davis also stressed the extra access the fans have at any drag racing event.

“Fans can come up and talk to the driver, get right up close and personal and see the cars and the maintenance that goes on between rounds,” said Davis. “We have handout cards that we autograph for the fans and give out to the kids. We’ll stop and talk to them and tell them what they want to know and let them ask questions. It’s just a good experience because they can get right up close with the car and the drivers and the crew so I think that’s a good deal for the fans.”

The competitors in each division will run several rounds of qualifying on Friday and Saturday, and final eliminations will begin Saturday night and continue Sunday. In addition to the competition on track, fans will also have a chance to see flame-throwing jet cars roar down the strip in exhibitions on Friday and Saturday.

Categories that will compete include Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp Eliminator, Super Stock, Stock Eliminator, Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street. The division’s Davis Golf Carts Top Sportsman Series and Hickory Enclosed Trailer Sales Top Dragster Series will also be run in conjunction with the event.

Tickets for the Aug. 26-28 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at zMAX Dragway are $20 for adults for each day Friday and Saturday and $15 for Sunday. Kids 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Every ticket is a pit pass. Parking for the event is $5.

Connect with zMAX Dragway and stay up to speed with all the happenings at the Bellagio of drag strips on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zmaxdragway and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/zmaxdragway.