With only three weeks left in the Friday Night Drags racing action for 2011, it is go time for drivers looking to claim a second-half points championship, which would earn them a spot in the Championship Night race on August 19. The first-half champion and second-half champion will go head-to-head that evening, with the winner being crowned the overall season champion. Season champions will be honored during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend, September 2-4.

Next week's event will be a double points night for racers, adding an even higher emphasis on running well. In the first half of the season, several points races were decided, in part, from the results of double points races. Drivers who have not performed as well as they had hoped can make up ground on the standings leader. At the same time, points leaders can take a major step towards finalizing their second-half championship with a win.

Pit Area Tailgate Party at Friday Night Drags & MCR Safety Show-N-Shine

This week's Friday Night Drags & MCR Safety Show-N-Shine will have a southern, summertime feel to it, as one of the greatest racing traditions will take center stage at AMS. This Friday's racing will feature a Pit Area Tailgate Party. Fans are always encouraged to watch the evening's action from the pits, getting an up-close look and smell of the melting rubber, the alcohol fuel exhaust and the feel of the raw speed up and down the pit lane. But this week fans are asked to bring their grills and chill out with friends and family for an evening of racing under the stars.

MCR Safety Show-N-Shine Winners Recognized on NASCAR Race Weekend

One of the perks of competing in the MCR Safety Show-N-Shine is that winners are eligible to show their vehicles off on the fronstretch of Atlanta Motor Speedway in a special car show during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500, Labor Day Weekend at AMS. With large car counts each week and as many as eight classes for judging, it is not too late for fans to bring their vehicles out and compete for an MCR Safety Show-N-Shine trophy.

The Anatomy of a Tear-Down

The high-speed, high-horsepower automobiles you see racing up and down the pit lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway during Friday Night Drags are finely-tuned racing machines. Like all cars, there is the normal maintenance and upkeep to keep the vehicles running in top condition. And just like our street cars, dragsters sometimes need major service.

McDonough's Mark White recently took Super Pro machine through a process called a tear-down. A tear-down typically consists of a total disassembly of the engine, clutch and transmission to show any improper wear patterns. While a tear-down is often a preventative maintenance, sometimes a tear-down is warranted when the car's performance begins to wane, such as in White's case.

White had started to notice a slight decline in overall performance late in the first-half of the season. The need to investigate became very obvious on July 8, the same night that White was crowned mid-season champion of the division. During the finals, White was unable to get his 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang to make power after second gear, allowing Grantville's Tony Morse to claim the win.

With the first-half championship earning himself a spot in the championship night race on August 19, White withdrew the car from competition for the next two weeks, completely disassembling the internal components of the car, examining for problems. The tear-down was more than beneficial.

"I did discover a few things hindering my power," says White. "That's the beauty of a tear-down, you discover secrets, where wear patterns are beginning and try to head them off, slow them down, or get rid of them. Wear comes from resistance, and resistance means a loss of power."

White says that the average horsepower for a Super Pro dragster is around 2,500, and that the average cost for a motor of that caliber is at least $50,000, often times more. With such a financial investment, it's important to take care of the motor.

"That's why we're meticulous and I build everything myself," says White. "I have to be on top of my game or I could shotgun my motor. Prior to the tear-down, I was smoking out of the number one cylinder, and that told me there was a problem. Turns out, the blower was leaking gear oil. It didn't hurt anything because the oil was up to par.

"My situation wasn't drastic; the blower had just played out. I had some ignition issues that I found while I was tearing down. That's the lucky part, I found a problem that was getting worse and would have kept on."

After bringing the car back out for last week's Friday Night Drags, White quickly learned that all of the car's issues were not solved. White's car would not keep proper oil pressure, and another tear-down is in the works this week.

"I was watching my oil pressure, and it went from 120 at an idle, which is normal on an engine like this, to 100 after the first run," says White. "Then it went from 100 to 80. Now, I'm concerned. But I made a run on 80, and after that it dropped to 60. As I prepared for my last run, the pressure was fluctuating from 60 to 30. And I knew then I had a problem and I was concerned I was doing major damage.

"The problem is an oil pressure problem, but I will have to pull the crank out, magnaflux it, and make sure it doesn't have a crack from being loose in the block. But with this much horsepower, you have to expect the unexpected. That's what I'm learning."

Drag racing is a labor of love for White, who has spent 20 years putting this car together. And after twenty years, he is just now getting the car where he wants it. Aside from the financial commitment, it is almost a job in itself, with White estimating that he spends around three hours every day after his job on the car. Weekends and off-days are spent working on the car as well. But it isn't seen as work to White.
"It's what I love doing and I recommend someone doing what they love and spending as much time on that as they can find . . . we do it because we love it. It's a major adrenaline rush. And the vibes you get from the other racers and the crowds that show up, it's a major turn-on about what we love doing. It'd be better if there was even more competition out there, maybe 15-20 cars in the high end categories. That'd be an awesome turn out."

The 2011 Friday Night Drags season will run on Friday nights through Aug. 19. MCR Safety Show-N-Shine car show judging begins at 6:00 p.m. and practice drag runs begin at 6:15 p.m. Grandstand gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the drag eliminations starting at 9:09 p.m.

All racers ages 16 and 17 must have a fully-executed minor's release form on file at the speedway prior to competition and forms are available at the Speedway or at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Competitors must wear a DOT-approved helmet and have operational seat belts in their vehicle and pass a pre-race safety inspection.

Entry to drag race or for the MCR Safety Show-N-Shine is $20 or competitors can enter both for $30. Spectator admission is only $8 and exterior parking is free, while infield parking is $20.

For more information about Friday Night Drags and Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.