Fans will enjoy a special treat at zMAX Dragway on the first night of the Sept. 14-16 O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. A night of fire will launch the first race of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Included in the special night are a spectacular fireworks show, jet cars and an awe-inspiring nitro session under the lights.

“The header flames are way up high, you feel the percussion, when you hit the throttle it hits them in the stands,” said Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster and current points leader. “It’s like lightning happening, it’s like a thunderstorm. It’s a nighttime experience you can’t get anywhere else but NHRA drag racing.”

Fans will see two nitro qualifying sessions on Friday, one scheduled at 4 p.m. and one for 6:30 p.m. Under the lights, the flames that erupt from the headers of the 8,000-horsepower nitro machines shoot 10 feet high, providing an awesome spectacle for those watching.

“When you have a Funny Car going down the track and there are header flames two, three feet above the roof, there’s nothing like it,” said Robert Hight, driver of the Castrol/Auto Club Funny Car.

“We always run better at night. The numbers that you see on that scoreboard are going to be better at night because the track’s cool and the air’s great. Drivers love night qualifying, especially if you get down on the first run on Friday, you can really throw down and try to shoot that big number, just like Matt Hagan did last year, 3.99 [seconds]. zMAX Dragway will always be in history for holding the first three-second Funny Car run. It shows you how good the racetrack is.”

Last year at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Friday’s session under the lights, Hagan made history with a 3.995-second run, the first Funny Car pass to break the three-second barrier. During the same session, Jack Beckman set the Funny Car national speed record at 318.99 mph.

Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon also stressed the importance of the night session.

“Friday night is the big run for us just because of the fact of we’re making three runs in the daytime and then we get that one run at night so it’s very critical to make that run on the Friday night session and that really, a lot of times, seems to determine the top-five,” he said.

Jet cars will thrill the crowd with an exhibition run Friday night. They produce 5,000 horsepower and will be piloted by veteran driver Elaine Larsen and rookie Marisha Falk. Their jet engines produce huge flames and the vehicles will reach speeds up to 300 mph.

Friday’s night of fire will end with a magnificent fireworks show.

General admission tickets for Friday are only $20, and children 13 and under are admitted for free every day of the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, but they must have a ticket.

Tickets and camping are still available for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 14-16 at zMAX Dragway, by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).

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