ADRL Dragstock at Home in Charlotte, the Heart of Doorslammer Country
Charlotte race fans were as passionate as they could be, standing four rows deep for hours untold to watch their favorite drivers racing the eighth-mile. Their passion was in watching race cars, preferably coupes and sedans.
There was only one requirement to fuel their appetites. These vehicles had to have working doors and each driver had to hold on for dear life while attempting to race a straight line.
This weekend, when the American Drag Racing League’s [ADRL] Dragstock event rolls into zMAX Dragway, there will be many memories of the now defunct Shuffletown Dragway, which is now partially covered by Interstate 485. There will certainly be a few fans hanging on the fences just like in 1987 at Shuffletown.
The ADRL specializes in Pro Modified-style drag racing, highly regarded as a taste born in the Carolinas. Charlotte is regarded by many drag racing historians as one of the primary birthplaces of this kind of racing, where racers stuffed oversized, nitrous-fed engines between the fenders of their race cars and attempted not to wreck.
Many races were won at Shuffletown with at least one tire drifting into the grass.
Just ask North Carolina Hall of Fame inductee Tommy Mauney, who will race this weekend at zMAX Dragway.
"I stirred up the dust a time or two," Mauney, a two-time world champion admits. "It definitely wasn't the kind of racing for the weak at heart."
The chassis builder from Shelby, N.C., raced and won many races as part of the fledgling Quick Eight/Pro Modified doorslammer movement. These cars were labeled as doorslammers, a drag racing term used to describe full-bodied race cars.
“Shuffletown wasn’t the largest track, especially when you compare it to zMAX Dragway, but the impact it left on this style of racing was huge,” said Mauney, who will race in the Pro Modified division this weekend. “When we raced like we did back then, we had no idea this would take off the way it did. We just came to race.”
Doorslammer drag racing was clearly blue collar, and for those who watched these cars, nitro racing couldn't hold a candle. By this time in drag racing, nitro racing had just about disappeared from the local scene.
Shuffletown’s promoter Clinton Mashburn, whose son Doug is now the starter at zMAX Dragway, made his local racers the equivalent of those nitro stars. In doing so, he began matching up some of his quicker bracket racers in heads-up, no breakout match races. Eventually, it made more sense offering a purse and allowing these racers to race just like the professional drag racers on the major circuits.
Mauney was no stranger to professional drag racing, having raced Pro Stock a few years earlier. He jumped into the new series of racing against local heroes such as Ed Hoover, Charles Carpenter, Sonny Tindal, Blake Wiggins, Michael Martin and Wally Stroupe.
Mauney’s nitrous-injected small block [355-cid] Opel GT was one of the more popular cars capable of holding its own against Camaros, Trans-Ams, Corvettes and Novas displacing as many as 615 cubic inches.
“Every weekend was a battle,” Mauney said. “The competition was just as fierce there as anywhere else.”
This weekend’s ADRL Dragstock event will present a modern day version of the old Shuffletown days albeit in a much larger arena. Race fans will see cars pushing in upwards of 2,500 horsepower and channeling this energy through a suspended chassis.
The ADRL’s Dragstock represents a debut for zMAX Dragway as this event marks the first time the palatial facility has hosted one of these events. This flagship event for the eighth-mile drag racing series debuted at Carolina Dragway [Jackson, S.C.] in 2004, before moving to Rockingham in 2006.
Count Mauney as one of those seasoned drivers who will race zMAX for the first time this weekend.
“It’s going to be fun and yeah, I’ll probably think about those days while racing at Shuffletown,” said Mauney. “The Carolinas are rich in doorslammer history and in my own little way, I am proud that I was around to be a part of it. For those fans who came to watch us race back in the day, we felt we owed it to them to drive the cars to the edge and make it as exciting as we could. When you look at it, nothing has changed, really.”
Tickets for ADRL Dragstock IX are $15 each day or $25 for a two-day pass. Children 13 and under are admitted free. Parking for this event is $10 each day.
Spectator gates open at 10 a.m. on Friday, with qualifying runs beginning at noon. On Saturday, gates open at 10 a.m., with the final round of qualifying scheduled for noon and pre-race ceremonies scheduled for 3:15 p.m., followed by eliminations.
Tickets for all 2012 events at zMAX Dragway are available by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Interest-free payment plans are available.