July 29, 2009

National Guard American Drag Racing League comes to Virginia

By Spc. J. Erin Jones
116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

DINWIDDIE, Va. — A crowd of over 60,000 fans cheered on the winning dragsters at the National Guard American Drag Racing League event Saturday, July 25 at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va.

 

Master Sgt. Marshall McDonald and Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb cover their ears as National Guard driver Joshua Hernandez pulls up to the starting line in his Pro Extreme 1957 Chevy Bel Air, July 24 at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va. (Photo by Spc J. Erin Jones, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

The two-day event kicked off Friday morning as a smaller crowd braved the heat to watch racers from the five pro classes: Extreme Pro Stock, Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Extreme 10.5, Pro Nitrous and Pro Extreme, do their practice runs.

Following the practice runs a pre-race ceremony was held in which Kenny Nowling, president and CEO of ADRL, thanked Command Sgt. Maj. Carl A. Holcomb, Command Sergeant Major of the Virginia Army National Guard, for his involvement in the event. Prior to the ceremony Nowling had presented Holcomb with an autographed photo of National Guard driver Travis Swearingen’s Pro Extreme 1941 Willys race car.

Holcomb then presented Sgt. William M. Fisher, an operations NCO with 29th Tactical Command Post 1, with an Outstanding NCO award for his leadership and dedication to the Virginia National Guard.

 

Soldiers with the recruit sustainment program in Sandston, Va., lend a hand with the pedal cart races during the National Guard ADRL event July 24-25 at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va. Other attractions included a mobile theater, race car displays and autograph sessions with the drivers. (Photo by Spc J. Erin Jones, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

After the singing of the national anthem, Nowling concluded the pre-race ceremony by asking the crowd to give a big round of applause for the men and women serving in the National Guard.

As the sun sank lower in the sky and the stands began to fill, fans witnessed celebrations and heartbreaks as the qualifying rounds went under way.

Both nights featured an exhibition run by the Interceptor, also known as “The World's Fastest Police Car,” a jet car that belched smoke and fire and is capable of reaching speeds up to 300 mph.

Day two began with full stands and more qualifying rounds then moved into eliminations before the final event were the top two in each category went head-to-head for the win and a Minuteman trophy.

In the end Brian Gahm took the win in the Extreme Pro Stock category with a run time of 4.14 seconds at 173.99 mph. The Pro Extreme Motorcycle win went to Lance Hines, who ran a 4.22 at 168.43 mph. Chuck Ulsch set new records in the Extreme 10.5 category with a 4.01 seconds elapsed time and 197.19 mph top speed before winning the final with a 4.03 seconds run at 196.07 mph. Jim Halsey took the Pro Nitrous win with a 3.90 run at 193.38 mph and Bubba Stanton claimed the Pro Extreme victory with a 3.80 seconds run at 196.70 mph.

 

Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb shakes hands with National Guard driver Travis Swearingen July 24 at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va. ADRL presented Holcomb with an autographed photo of Sweringen’s Pro Extreme 1941 Willys in appreciation of his involvement in the event. (Photo by Spc J. Erin Jones, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

The event was the sixth of 10 scheduled this year for the National Guard ADRL and, according to track general manager Bryan Pierce, the event set the record for attendance at VMP.

“The National Guard ADRL this weekend far surpassed crowds in the past,” said Pierce in a news release Saturday night.

The strong turn-out was largely a result of the generosity of ADRL. ADRL gave out at least 80,000 complimentary tickets to local businesses, churches, civic organizations and local Guard units, said Samuel H. Burch, the marketing contractor for Joint Force Headquarters, Recruiting and Retention.

Teamwork also played a part in the success of the event. There were three organizations working together to make this event happen, said Burch. The first was the event sponsor, in this case ADRL, who had their own cars and promotions. The second organization, the National Guard Bureau, provided their mobile event team, which included the National Guard race cars and the mobile theater. The last was the local recruiters who were there to interact with the public and help support the other two organizations, he explained.

 

Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb presents Sgt. William Fisher with an outstanding NCO award during a pre-race ceremony July 24 at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va. During the ceremony ADRL president and CEO Kenny Nowling thanked all the members of the National Guard for their service and support. (Photo by Spc J. Erin Jones, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

Then you also have the venue. VMP supports the Guard in many ways, said Burch. We’ve got advertisements on their website, and will now have advertisements on the track, he added.

There is also a military appreciation day planned for Aug. 29 at VMP with free admission for to all military members and their dependents, said Burch.

Since 2004 the National Guard and ADRL have teamed up to bring drag racing to fans at VMP and other tracks all over the United States while also educating the public about the Guard.

The National Guard is a sponsor of ADRL, said Burch. So every car on the track has a four inch by six inch logo on it, even if it isn’t directly sponsored by the National Guard, he added.

“It’s one of the best organizations for promoting the Guard at this point and time,” said Burch.

"It’s an opportunity to interact with the public and let them know who we are, what our mission is and how the Guard can benefit them," said Spc. Justin W. Felger, a recruiting and retention NCO in Midlothian and a volunteer at the event. "We are everyday people, just like them, but when the community needs us we’re here to help," he added.

After talking to Guard Soldiers the public could take part in petal cart races, meet National Guard drivers Joshua Hernandez and Travis Swearingen, and get up close and personal with the race cars before checking out video highlights in NGB’s mobile theater.

It was a good way for people to relax while seeing the Guard and interacting with them, said Burch. Everyone had a really good time, he added.

“Judging by today, if I got paid by smiles I’d be a millionaire,” said Felger.

The next stop on the ADRL circuit is slated for Aug. 7-8 at the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

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