Unlike their NASCAR or IndyCar counterparts, drag racers don't have practice sessions at their events. The nitro-class racers can test within limited conditions, but they clearly would love to spend more time in their cars than rules and economics permit. Now they have something besides a practice Christmas Tree to keep them focused. And it's as close as their cell phones.
An iPhone / iPad app called "Dragster Mayhem" has captured their attention these days. The trick is to outsmart the rather random computerized Top Fuel simulator and land a berth in the incredibly prestigious "4.0 Club." According to C&J Energy Services Dragster teammates Bob Vandergriff and J.R. Todd, scoring a 4.0 is relatively hard.
"It's an aggravating game," Todd said, shaking his head at the thought of how much time he has invested in playing it and how a player can follow all the proper driving procedures and still record a slower elapsed time.
They agreed that the game doesn't help them hone their skills inside the cockpit. "Not even close," Todd said with a grin that signaled that it was a hopeless cause.
"It's mainly just a forum for us to talk smack to each other," Vandergriff said -- after sharing that his "career-best E.T." is 4.081, a time that wouldn't qualify him for the real-life Summit Racing Equipment Southern National this weekend.
Todd, as it turned out at the time of the conversation, was on the bump spot after three qualifying sessions with a 3.967-second effort -- while his longtime friend Bruce Litton was off the grid just a thousandth of a second behind at 3.968.
Among those in the NHRA pro pits who have been sucked into this cyber-silliness are Funny Car driver Jeff Arend and dragster drivers Brandon Bernstein, Antron Brown, Dom Lagana, Shawn Langdon, Morgan Lucas. Also in the loop are Vandergriff crew chief Rob Flynn and Mike Guger, Tony Pedregon's crew chief, as well as Vandergriff's brother Kevin.
Although the group hasn't reached proportions great enough to require a secretary to keep track officially of all the E.T.s, Vandergriff said players cannot claim simply that they have posted particular E.T.s -- they have to verify them by texting the "E.T. slip screen" to the others.
"Jeff Arend is under investigation for cheating," Vandergriff said. "He knows he's under investigation. One of the things you have to do is make the car go straight. He was playing at the Phoenix airport in between flights, and he rigged his car up with a napkin at a bar to make the car go straight. We've told him his 4.0 run comes with an asterisk."
As if the NHRA doesn't have enough dragster mayhem of its own.
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