Disclaimer: Half-mile half events that include roll-race starts or lack timing tree equipment are for fun, not official record breaking or competition. Think of it as a legal and safe alternative to street racing.
Speed Kills or is it Speed Thrills? Both hold weight but let's face it, the latter is way more fun and reason behind my continual return to half-mile airstrip events over the past few years. For as long as tuners have played with performance, those vehicles have been benchmarked in a straight line. Extend the distance of that "straight line" onto a plot of asphalt designed for aircraft, and like Tom Cruise in Top Gun proved, buzzing the tower becomes that much more satisfactory.
If you've ever left a local quarter-mile test-and-tune night with a stupid grin after running 9 to 14 seconds of wide-open throttle, then it's time to consider a half-mile airstrip event. The increased distance equates to higher trap speeds, more time to collect vehicle data, and greater chance to rub shoulders with high-performance heavyweights—supercars that get warmed up at 140 mph.
My first encounter in this world occurred at the very official Mojave Mile in '11 while riding a nitrous-fed Suzuki GSX-R600. My big ass (6'3", 205 pounds) couldn't claw out anything greater than 155 mph before drag fundamentals prevailed, but I was hooked. Although, the event format while credited left much to be desired due to strict rules, expensive entry, rigid run groups, minimal photo zones, and worst of all, you'd be lucky to get more than five runs in a day.
Fast-forward and we adrenaline junkies are now blessed with more and more "laid-back" driver-oriented airstrip events. They are popping up at rural airstrips across the country. Like the early '90s, we are again living in a Golden Age of Speed, with worldwide automobile manufacturers releasing insanely fast vehicles. For example, the new Corvette Z06 out of the box can do a standing quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds—that's from a $78K sports car! With cars like this becoming obtainable, not to mention the number of more powerful cars tuners and enthusiasts are building, a controlled airstrip event is the safest venue to test both the stones in your pants and those of your ride without Johnny Law interfering.
Don't be scared. Like juggling hoes in different area codes, increasing calculated risk only adds to the opportunity for reward. Top speed events aren't a substitute for circuit training, just another card in the deck of sweet shit to do with your car. Many event organizers exist. We've found the event format of Omega Motorsport's No Fly Zone (NFZ) as ideal for those seeking a track-day atmosphere focused on pinning it in a straight line. Here's why:
Ease of Entry
No need to explain to the ol' ball and chain why you can't afford an overpriced Sunday dinner out after clicking buy on a grassroots airstrip event. For instance, lead organizer Tony Lopez charges NFZ entries only $200 for a full day—that's cheaper than most track days and includes running upward of 20 times on a full roster.
With an ambulance always on site, safety requirements vary depending on the event but always stress adequate rubber and a proper helmet. If your car meets local dragstrip requirements, chances are high it will also be acceptable at non-contest-oriented airstrip events.
Lopez explains, "Insurance still rules the world, so there are plenty of guidelines to abide by. Everyone's car gets a tech exam, covering items such as tire tread, body panels, and seatbelts. Of course, everyone wears a helmet, and depending on your speeds or setup, rollcage and other safety measures may be required. For the most part, your car can pass tech just as you drive it day to day on the street."
Experiences gained at the track are fodder for endless garage talk. Adding to your arsenal of memories, a firsthand account of burying the speedo on a near-perfect surface, running against a six-figure supercar, or seeing a tuner break 200 mph in a half-mile will up your man/lady stripes. This is also your chance to push the gum flapping to the side and challenge your buddy's 750hp Supra.
Lopez adds, "The motorsport world is always looking for the next avenue of expression. Half-mile is a great filler between full-mile and quarter. Most one-mile events do not allow side by side. Your own max speed at a certain distance is great, but the bigger appeal is seeing where you stand against the guy next to you. Cars have evolved along with technology—you gotta find something to do with all those ponies that isn't going to send you straight to jail."
On the spectator end, some events allow drivers to take helmet-clad passengers along for the ride. Want to ride shotgun in a supercar? Hopping in a Carrera-GT or Aventador is just an ask away! Where else does that happen?
Familiarizing yourself with how a car acts at launch, high speed, and under hard braking makes you that much more understanding of limits. The beauty of open top-speed events is that you're assured many runs, which means no pressure. Start slow, shut down early, roll on instead of launch—the action is completely up to you.
For the speed veterans and shops out there, open airstrip events are inexpensive and unique opportunities to dial in boost, adjust ECU parameters, or gauge performance of a new part installed. Track width, smooth surface condition, and large shut down area all equate to an ideal venue for real-world modification testing. It's also a great place to see what the competition is running.
So get out there and see for yourself!
Top 3 Fastest at NFZ EventsL
Omega Motorsport's NFZ half-mile events have sold out since the first one occurred at Minter Field in Shafter, California. Tuners, supercar owners, and general car enthusiasts fill the roster each time. For reference, here are three of the fastest half-mile trap speeds attained at the six NFZs so far:
- 212 MPH - Evolution Motorsports Porsche 997 Turbo
- 210 MPH - SP Engineering Nissan GT-R
- 208 MPH - Lamborghini Gallardo twin-turbo