Their parents are “junkies,” but the kids like to drag as well.
Pam and Doug Hayes have followed worldclass drag racers from their home in Middleburg, Fla., all the way to Spokane. They home-school their two children, so they can travel the country, following the races.
“This is the first year we’ve made all the races,” said Doug Hayes, who carried a respirator so he could stand the fumes wafting from the track. “But I’ve been a drag-racing junkie for years.”
They came to Spokane this weekend for the 34th annual American Hot Rod Association World Finals, which started Friday and ended Sunday.
About 10,000 people sat in the stands at Spokane Raceway Park Sunday afternoon, withstanding 30 mph winds and temperatures in the 90s.
Some fans wore earplugs. Some sat under striped umbrellas that made the grandstands look like a beach. Others wore wet towels tied on their heads.
The souvenir stands sold everything from jean jackets to checkered flags. The hottest sellers were anything white, good for collecting racers’ autographs.
“They want something they can write on,” said Ed Marks, who ran one of the stands. “They can’t write on black T-shirts, and they certainly don’t want a sweatshirt. One boy came in here, and he had autographs everywhere. Across his neck, on his shoulders. you can’t believe what they’d do for a signature of John Force.”
They’d do a lot. Force is the crowd favorite, the man who’s won a handful of world championships. He was an autograph machine, decorating dozens of people in the stands.
Micah DuBeau, 11, asked Force to sign his Adidas shirt.
“I just walked up to him and said, ‘Hi John,”’ Micah said. “He said, ‘Gotcha,’ and just signed it. He’s a good racer.”
Micah came to the races from Lewiston with his brother and friend, Todd Love, a longtime racing aficionado who refused to wear earplugs.
“Gotta hear that roar,” Love said. “Gotta feel the vibrations. (Earplugs) takes half the fun out of it. Then we get to go back home, saying ‘Huh? What? Huh?”’
How loud was it? You could probably feel the vibrations in Seattle, hear the roar in Canada. It was so loud people had to shout to be heard. It smelled like racing fuel with a hint of forest fire.
The extended Zumbusch family made a vacation of the drags. They spent three days driving to Spokane from Fairview, Alberta.
Sean Zumbusch, 11, had never been to America before. He liked it. He also loved the roar of the engines, but wore earplugs with a blue cord twisted around his face.
“It’ll wreck your ears, that’s why I wear them,” Sean said.
Casey Hayes, 11, daughter of Pam and Doug, wore a drag-racing T-shirt tattooed with the autographs of about 10 well-known racers. She’s got a wardrobe of souvenir shirts and a couple of baseball caps, and so does her brother.
“Now we’ve turned our kids into track rats,” Pam Hayes joked. “We’re true junkies.”
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