There’s a strange masochism that comes with some types of racing. It can be an endless quest that often brings stress, exhaustion, and misery even on the best days. That addiction is rarely expressed better than by street-style events that infuse road tripping with racing, with their roots tied in Car & Driver’s One Lap of America and Hot Rod’s Drag Week. Extended gatherings like this typically attract a roster of road-rally vehicles wholly unfit for public consumption, and Rocky Mountain Race Week takes this formula and expands the day-by-day endurance format for drag racing. With that change brings a special kind of atmosphere, and we’ll be along the ride to sample all of it this year.
It’s five days, five drag races, with a road trip in between each. The concept sounds simple, right? The format stress-tests cars in ways they’ll never experience purely on the quarter-mile, rewarding consistency and reliability over the usual demands of drag racing: starburst explosions of acceleration followed by days of refreshing and rebuilding.
What typically makes a drag car fast—flyweight valve train, airflow through the motor optimized for high RPMs instead of daily-driven torque, after-thought cooling solutions in order to package more horsepower-churning hardware under the hood, and gearing so short that the specs could be mistaken for a tractor—rarely makes it dependable in such die-hard situations as … sitting in traffic at a long red light. Or cruising at 70 mph on the highway. Thus, endurance drag racing has become the gold standard in proving your worth in the street car world, where a vehicle still has to perform like a normal car in the sense that you can get into it and take it practically anywhere.
This year, Rocky Mountain Race Week is traveling through Oklahoma and Kansas, bouncing between Tulsa Raceway Park, Hartland Park, Thunder Valley, and Great Bend before hurling everyone back down to Tulsa Raceway Park for the final day of racing. In total, we’ll be in for more than 1000 miles on the road. Each track offers its own challenges, including different states of prep (the manual application of traction compound and rubber onto the track surface); unique nooks and cracks; and various bumps and elevation nuances. These are variables to which each driver adapts their machine in order to make the fastest pass possible that day.
Each day’s pass is averaged into the final time, not unlike how a stage rally adds up days of racing into a final score. This format requires that each driver break the timing beams at the start line, though they can simply abort the run and take a 20-second penalty pass. If a racer fails to make a pass before the lanes close, it’s game over.
The stakes are high. The overall winner is looking at a $15,000 paycheck, and those visions of greenbacks floating in their heads can be brutal when mistakes happen or the machine simply doesn’t hook on the track. While you might think the solution is simple as hot-lapping until you finally get the desired number, that comes with significant risk. Beating on the machine too hard and breaking something that ends the race week before day five is an ending nobody wants.
If you want to follow the drama from home, head over to BangShift.com between 4:00 p.m and 10:00 p.m. CT for the Rocky Mountain Race Week live stream (and jump over to YouTube to catch past days) as we enter the last two days of competition in Great Bend, Kansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Spectators are also welcome, adults $15 and kids under 12 free—zip, zero, nada! Today is the second-to-last day, with tomorrow being the final day of racing where the $15,000 prize money will be claimed.