Drag racing used to be a sport of shade-tree mechanics and pink-slip swapping, but modern drag racers rely on technology and finely honed skills as much as any other professional motorsport. Here's an example: this Sunday's NHRA final that saw the winner and the loser separated by less than one-ten thousandth of a second -- with 0.0000 seconds between the two cars -- thanks to one driver's awe-inspiring reflexes.
Sunday's final in the Pro Stock class at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn., featured former world champion Mike Edwards in the red car above versus Allen Johnson in his Dodge. Johnson's car made the trip down the quarter-mile faster than Edwards, hitting 207.05 mph in a 6.661-second run, with Edwards' car doing a slower 6.674-second pass at 206.16.
But Edwards hit the pedal on his car just 0.005 seconds after the green light lit -- a near-perfect reaction time that bested Johnson's reaction of 0.018. Adding those to the runs, both finished at 6.679 seconds; although the display time only goes to four zeros past the decimal, the internal NHRA clocks track down to the millionths of a second, and video shows Edwards hitting the line a fraction of a inch before Johnson.
It's not unheard of for a professional drag race to finish in a 0.0000 tie, but it is the first time a NHRA final has come down to such a slim margin. "I don't even know how you can describe something like (the final) in words," Edwards said afterwards. "Four zeros for the margin of victory. I just can't believe it."
Johnson was similarly incredulous, but felt it a little differently. "I think we'd rather shake the tires, hit the wall, anything other than lose like that," he said.