I like to call them the Grand Slam of racing, the most unique motorsports events in the world.
There’s the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Baja 1000 … and the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals.
Nothing tops NASCAR’s biggest race, nor the most famous race of any type in the world – with the appropriate surname of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” – as well as the most grueling off-road race to be found anywhere.
But the 4-Wide Nationals?
No other track in the world has four cars going down a four-lane dragstrip like zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina – all at the same time!
It’s hard enough at times to watch a two-car race on a regular two-lane dragstrip. But when you add two more lanes to the mix on the only track ever built to accommodate four-wide racing, well, it’s something very special and unique for fans, media and especially the drivers themselves.
Since the first 4-Wide Nationals – which will be held again this weekend (April 22-24) – was first contested in 2010, it has become one of the most popular races on the 24-race NHRA national event circuit, joining the U.S. Nationals, the Winternationals and the NHRA Finals as part of drag racing’s own home run of competition.
Think about it: When you have four Top Fuel dragsters or an equal number of Funny Cars lined up side-by-side, you’re talking about roughly 40,000 horsepower at the starting line.
That’s right, 40,000 horses under the hoods of the four respective dragsters or floppers. Nowhere is that amount of power found anywhere else in motorsports, period.
When I first heard of the 4-Wide concept, I admit I was like a lot of others who wondered A) who came up with this idea and B) how would it be pulled off.
But after the first 4-Wide Nationals in 2010, I was a quick believer in the concept. It’s a show unlike any other four-wheel show you’ll ever see.
I realize it was a very pricey thing to build zMAX Dragway, but when you have a billionaire like Bruton Smith behind it, you know it’s going to be a first-class, top-shelf experience from start to finish.
I’ve talked to several track operators within the two largest drag racing sanctioning bodies within the sport – NHRA and the International Hot Rod Association. Many are in awe at what Smith has done, while others are admittedly envious.
Unfortunately, because of the cost factor, it’s virtually impossible for any existing tracks to be retrofitted or expanded to add two additional lanes of competition.
But unless you can find another billionaire like Smith willing to spend upwards of $100 million to build a similar track, again, that leaves zMAX Dragway as the most unique facility of its type anywhere in the world.
A couple of years ago, I heard of potential plans to build a four-wide track in either Dubai or Qatar in the Middle East, but I’ve heard nothing since.
If you’re a drag racing fan and close to Charlotte, you owe it to yourself to experience this most unique style of racing at this weekend’s event.
If you can’t make it in-person, make sure to tune in to your TV or, at the very least, tape it for later viewing.
Doing either will give you a new appreciation of this unique style of drag racing – unless you’ve already been a big fan of four-wide racing for the last six years that it has been at zMAX Dragway.
At first glance, it may look like organized chaos, but once you get the hang of watching it – and the related nuances of strategy that come with it – you’re likely to become a fan forever.
But I admit, there’s one downside to the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals. No, I’m not being a Debby Downer here. I just love the concept so much that I wish the NHRA would make it’s second return to Charlotte each year – the annual fall race at zMAX Dragway – also a four-wide race instead of the traditional two-wide event it hosts.
Maybe someday my dream will come true. Until then:
Double the pleasure, double the fun, double the horsepower, double the number of cars. That’s a winning grand slam combination that just can’t be beat.
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski