(LMS) -- CONCORD, N.C. (April 8, 2009) - SPEEDT officials today announced that the first four-wide, nationally televised, official drag racing competition will take place during the PINKS All Out television shoot at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on Saturday, April 25. The episode, which is being shot for Season Three, is scheduled to tentatively premiere on Aug. 6, and is presented by NAPA.
Traditionally, the show's technical advisors evaluate a field of 450-plus grassroots drag racers through two time trial sessions and a 32-car runoff to select a field of 16 finalists. The cars are chosen by an objective set of criteria including closeness of competition, consistency in performance and an adherence to the rule of running "All Out." Once revealed, the cars are lined up in the staging lanes, rigged with cameras and microphones, and run through a competitive eliminator commencing around dusk.
That format will be altered specifically for zMAX Dragway.
For this event, more than 520 racers have signed up, and each will receive two time trial runs in hopes of being selected as one of 32 cars to participate in one of eight, four-wide eliminators. The remaining eight contestants will then compete in the customary "side-by-side" format to the race's conclusion, where a best "two-out-of-three" hot lap final will determine the winner.
"Listen, we took one look at this place and we wanted to be the opening show," said Hunter Nickell, SPEED president. "Now the Smith's (Bruton and Marcus) and Christian Byrd (zMAX Dragway executive director and general manager) have this place cooking and we can't wait to get there."
Robert Ecker, SPEED vice president of programming and executive producer of PINKS All Out, talked about the decision process in offering an actual four-wide competition.
"When the prospect of bringing the show to zMAX Dragway first presented itself, the enormity of the challenge was more than a little daunting," Ecker said. "At first we thought it would be cool to just run four-wide as an exhibition, but as our discussions deepened a plan to run competitively took shape which makes tremendous sense on multiple levels.
The entire day is now designed to build anticipation for that moment when Rich Christensen stands in front of four high-powered cars and does the first nationally televised competitive four-wide arm drop in drag racing history. It promises to be an electric evening."
"This is exactly why we made this place the 'Bellagio of drag strips,'" said Bruton Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., and founder of zMAX Dragway. "When I heard that PINKS All Out wanted to use our facility as it was designed, at its maximum potential, by running four lanes at once, I was overjoyed. This hasn't been done in over 30 years, and has never been done on a properly maintained, state-of-the-art drag strip. Something this big and this historic could only happen at one place, and that's zMAX Dragway."
PINKS All Out is hosted by creator and executive producer Rich Christensen and offers grassroots racers a chance to win $10,000, a new NAPA tool chest and an opportunity to run their cars in front of a national cable television audience on SPEED, the definitive network for motorsports and the automotive lifestyle. All racers are asked to run "All Out," but if they are caught sandbagging (or slowing their cars to hit a perceived elapsed time) they will be eliminated from competition. The show, a production of Los Angeles-based Pullin Television, will be telecast in 720p high definition.
This will be the show's first appearance in the Charlotte area, and will be the 23rd different track visited since the inception of the show at the Texas Motorplex on Labor Day Weekend of 2006. That inaugural show premiered as a Thanksgiving evening network special later that year in front of a record-breaking television audience, which spawned the creation of the series.
"We had a tremendous show at Bristol Dragway with PINKS All Out a couple of years ago," said Jeff Byrd, president of Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway. "It was definitely one of the largest turnouts we've ever had, outside of our NHRA events. The fans absolutely loved it and couldn't get enough of it. It's a fantastic event and zMAX Dragway should have a spectacular show, especially with them running all four lanes."
A 'Four-Wide' Historical Perspective
As with the original PINKS and now, PINKS All Out, looking back on history has been important to the show. But much like the almost mythological "racing for pink slips" scrolls that emanated from Southern California during the post World War II hot rod culture, the legend of "four-lane" racing has been best told through story time and old photos.
According to National Dragster, the official publication of the National Hot Rod Association, examples of four-wide competitions can be traced back to the 1960s, where places like Rockford (Ill.) Dragway (now known as Byron Dragway), Fort Worth's Green Valley Dragway and a strip in Fresno, Calif., among others, all held four-wide competitions. In fact, a couple of photos from Rockford depict four "slingshot" Top Fuel cars lined up four wide with famous NHRA "flagman" Bill Maddaugh readying a start.
Also from the article, former ND editor Bill Holland relayed a story where the four-lane racing was made up of "teams," as it was the two left lane cars versus the two on the right. There were many concepts promoters tried back then. There was even a promoter - at Southern California's now shuttered Fontana Drag City - that tried a four-wide race with jet cars.
Another known example comes from back in the 1970s, when then-promoter of Maryland International Raceway, Todd Mack, rolled out a four-wide Funny Car exhibition race. Current MIR Owner and President Royce Miller, who also consults and is the part-time competition coordinator for PINKS All Out, talked in further detail about some of that history.
"It was more of an exhibition than a true competition or drag race,"
said Miller, whose track will be hosting a PINKS All Out shoot on June 20.
"Obviously, when you are running on a track like that, the outside lanes aren't grooved so they were kind of in the marbles out there. How it was set up was that one pair was put on the inside, and another pair put on the outside, and he had two Christmas trees. At the time, his radio promotion said, 'side-by-side-by-side-by-side' drag racing. And the racers were some of the standouts of the time with the 'Chi-Town Hustler,' Barry Setzer's famous Vega and a lot of those types of cars. Each racer got paid to make two or three runs.
"The other big thing was the safety factor," Miller continued.
"Could you imagine how hairy that four-wide racing was back then with four cars racing down the track with nothing separating those cars except an outside guard rail - a single-strand guard rail at that? They had to stay in their territory because it could have gotten real ugly."
Miller has been instrumental in piecing together many of the logistical aspects of this race, and marveled at Smith's vision for creating such an opportunity.
"What we're going to do is not an exhibition, but an actual four-wide competition," Miller said. "For Bruton (Smith) to build a second track, and the cost of all of that concrete that's in there, it's pretty extraordinary. No one ever, in the history of the sport, has built two complete race tracks in between the grandstands. Not to mention that both tracks are of a high caliber with two, all-concrete surfaces all the way to the finish line. It is just something so unique, and I don't think there's anywhere else in the country that you could hold such a four-wide event, with evenly prepared surfaces.
"We have two independent timing systems that aren't set up to run four-wide," Miller added. "What we're going to do is set up a special system of simultaneous starts on both tracks, with one starter switch. We're going to come in with special wiring in the tower to create that. One starter will start both trees, which will allow us to hold one drag race despite having independent timing systems. Once they run (set in association to Christensen's armdrop), the numbers will create a very accurate way of determining an actual winner. I think it's going to be a blast to experience that four-wide charge going down the quarter mile."
PINKS All Out, called the "Woodstock of Drag Racing," by Summit Motorsports Park President Bill Bader Jr., is an entire day's worth of on track racing and off-track activities, culminating at dusk in the running of the final 32. As part of the midway, which will feature many interactive track displays, the SPEED Mobile Theatre will be on hand providing air-conditioned entertainment and autograph sessions, while on track fun includes jet cars, wheel standers, a burnout and wheelie competition and a variety of professional and amateur drag racing equipment.
Tickets for PINKS All Out, April 24-25, at zMAX Dragway are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling the Lowe's Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS. Tickets for Friday's test and tune are $15, while tickets for Saturday's qualifying sessions and eliminations, including the four-wide racing are $25 for reserved seats and $20 for general admission. Kids 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
SPEED is the nation's first and foremost cable television network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 78 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest-growing sports cable networks in the country and, the home to NASCAR on SPEED and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services. For more information, please visit SPEEDtv.com, the online motor sports authority.