JOLIET, Ill. — Route 66 Raceway in Joliet lights up Thursday for the kickoff of the 4-day NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, where thousands are expected to pour into the stands to watch the legends of the world's fastest sport do their thing.
If you've ever stood near the pit at Rt. 66, you'll never forget it. The dragsters fire off the starting line, launching from 0-100 miles per hour in half a second. The ground shakes. People describe it like watching a rocket launch.
The track is just a quarter mile, but in that short stretch the pros reach speeds of 330 mph. This weekend's NHRA Nationals marks the 20th anniversary for Rt. 66 Raceway in Joliet.
WGN's Erin Ivory showed up to do a story on their anniversary weekend, and found herself behind the wheel of a super comp dragster. Frank Hawley, a world renowned drag racing champion, gave her this advice: "It always looks easy until you try it. When it's your turn, humility kicks in."
It's one thing to see one of the supercharged dragsters from the stands, but another to be the person tethered behind the wheel of a 550 horsepower V8 engine. Test one: the burnout.
"Mine came off more like a sputter jump than the smoke and fire you'd normally see," Erin said. "It felt like I was hitting 100 with that engine roaring inches from the back of my head."
The digital scoreboard to the side of the track told a different story: 20.6 miles per hour.
"Yep, that was my top time down a dragstrip. The kind of speed you'd see at your kids school bus drop off zone," Erin said.
Erin walked away after having a blast, and with a Rt. 66 record as the slowest drag racer in their 20-year history.
Kids get in free for the kickoff of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Thursday, and adult tickets start at $15. Every NHRA ticket is a pit pass and allows fans all-access entry to interact with the drivers and teams.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Route66Raceway.com or call 1-888-629-RACE.