Photos by Andrew Chen
NHRA drag racing is one of the most visceral and exciting forms of motorsports, but it’s not just the 10,000 horsepower, bone-rattling action that makes the sport successful; the down-to-earth personalities and unprecedented access to drivers and teams are a large part of what keeps fans coming back year after year.
It’s no secret that NHRA drivers are rock stars among rock stars, but they remain humble and genuinely enjoy interacting with their fans. Strolling through the pit area during the SummitRacing NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, there were always at least a few drivers signing autographs and posing for photos. I chuckled as Top Fuel driver Antron Brown gave a fan a big hug because “that’s all [she] wanted.” As long as they aren’t racing on the track, there is always an opportunity to meet your favorite driver.
When I interviewed Matt Hagan between qualifying rounds, he greeted me, a complete stranger, with a sense of familiarity that’s usually reserved for long-time friends. We talked like we were catching up on old times and he stuck around afterwards to meet the fans that had gathered behind us. It’s this kind of warmth and welcoming from the drivers that makes the NHRA so different from other top-tier motorsports.
Having been to many other types of auto racing events, I’ve rarely seen a driver put their hands on a car other than to drive it, but as I passed by the Patron XO Café pits, Alexis DeJoria was packing her own parachutes in preparation for the final round against Robert Hight. Knowing that everyone is working together to achieve the same goal makes watching the race that much more enjoyable for me.
It’s nice to see that NHRA drivers are just like us—hot rodders who love to go fast.