B&M Millon Dollar Drag Race - Attack of the Doorslammers
Memphis Motorsports Park, Memphis TN
From the February, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Cameron Evans
Illustrators: Kevin McKenna
We have a hard time labeling even the most educated enthusiasts as true "hot rodders" unless they have actually drag raced their cars. We're talking about heading to the local strip, "dialing in" with shoe polish on the windshield, and taking a crack at both consistency and sharp reactions to compete against the locals in a round by round dash for cash.
Nowhere is this exercise more impressive than in the B&M Racer Appreciation Series and its crown-jewel event, the B&M Millon Dollar Drag Race. Here you'll find the best racers in the world duking it out for the biggest potential prize in drag racing. This Memphis finale is more than just a bracket race, as multiple events and numerous prizes within the race have more than 445 racecars lining up at the gates days before things get going.
For the street machine set or those that drive cars similar to them, no event within "the Million" is bigger than the Mickey Thompson Footbrake Invitational, presented by Popular Hot Rodding. Mickey Thompson put up $2,000 to win, $1,000 for the runner up, $500 for a semi-final birth, and $250 for getting past first round, not to mention a 2 for 1 gift certificate toward a set of tires for all sixteen participants. To qualify for the Invitational, one had to finish in the Top 10 among Footbrake class points earners in the B&M Series or be among the selected six racers from around the drag racing community. This had the best "non-electronics" racers (bracket racers whom simply stall the converter against the brake pedal and swap feet at the light, rather than relying upon a transbrake and electronic delay box for performance and consistency) chasing the seven race series for a chance at facing off in an abbreviated ladder like you'd find in the Big Bud Shootout for the NHRA stars. The racers were more intense than NHRA pros, too!
They take this racing seriously and the staging lanes were filled with big-block and small-block doorslammers specifically prepped to run the number. Most cars ran the Memphis 1/8 mile in between 6 and 8 seconds, so by comparison you'd see 9 to 11 second runs from them at 1/4 mile tracks. More importantly, these guys are deadly on the .500 sportsman tree, with the majority of runs featuring sub-.550 second reaction times. If you don't think that's a big deal, try doing it consistently in your hot rod!
Among the other events on the grounds were Thursday's Simon Racing Products Gambler's race for a free entry into "the Million," $20,000 to win events on both Friday and Sunday named the "Barker Trailer Sales Twin 20s," the Jeg's "Clash for Cash" Shootout (for "electronics" race winners in the series), the K&R "Reaction Time Shootout" for quick leavers within the B&M Series, and the Goza "Tighten it Up" Challenge for index heroes. Make no mistake, however, all eyes were on Saturday night's giant prize, where Joel Reynolds took home more than $200,000 for his efforts! "The Million" name is a bit of a misnomer, as only after signing up 500 entries (215 cars actually entered) allows the final prize reach such heights, but even reaching a fifth of that makes it drag racing's biggest payday. Buybacks, sidebets, and deal making among opponents only add to the excitement. Series promoters paid out $520,000 that night!
Check the B&M Racer Appreciation Series schedule for 2003 at www.bracketnews.com, find a race near you, and take advantage of their "race for free" program where participating GM Performance Parts dealers can offer you a free tech card and shot at the True Street field. Collect enough points in the Footbrake class and you too could be participating in this year's Footbrake Invitational at "The Million" in Memphis, held September 25-28, 2003.
This crowd races as tough...
This crowd races as tough as they look. Here's your Mickey Thompson Footbrake Invitational participants (top, left to right): Doyle Kay, Randall Roop, Jeff Stout, J.R. Jackson, Monty Joe Bogan, L.C. Bingham, Chris Wiley, (bottom) Mike Ellison, Brooks Stevens, Steven Fleming, Rick Robertson, Ben Willis, Greg Smith, Tony Zimmerman, (Jacob Rutledge not shown).
Pretty doesn't get you the...
Pretty doesn't get you the win light in footbrake racing, proven by the steady-performing Chevy truck of Tony Zimmerman. This Phoenix City, Alabama-based racer didn't have it this day, as his full-throttle charge for the stripe (to overcome a.560 reaction against a .505 light) had him breaking out. This pickup runs mid 7s in the 1/8 mile without issue.
Brooks Stevens had one of...
Brooks Stevens had one of the few Fords in the Invitational, wheeling his 10-second Mach 1 Mustang to the semi finals with through skill and consistency. This Pell City, Alabama, racer got by Randall Roop's redlight in round one, went 6.801 on a 7.79 dial in over Mike Ellison in Round Two, before falling to Steven Fleming's stellar .509 light. Traveling to as many races as possible and outstanding driving gave Stevens second place in B&M points.
Small-block Novas are among...
Small-block Novas are among footbrake racing's most popular entries. This '66 works well for Doyle Kay, who was the most feared of all participants in the Mickey Thompson Footbrake Invitational. Doyle was the B&M Racers Appreciation Series Footbrake World Champ in both 2001 and 2002, but titles don't mean anything once your staged. The likeable guy from Asheville, Alabama, redlighted with a .489 reaction time, allowing Mike Ellison's blue Nova to cruise onto the second round.
The Invitational final round...
The Invitational final round was filled with suspense, as two hard-working kids in their Novas pounded their way through three rounds to duke it out for $3,000 in purse. Steven Fleming, from Lexington, Kentucky (far lane), was just a tad later than eventually winner, Chris Wiley, as both drivers tried to "dump" each other, covering the brakes to avoid breaking out and encourage the other to do the opposite. Wiley's .532 light was coupled with a 7.619 ET on a 7.60 dial in, compared to Fleming's stellar 7.459 on a 7.45 dial in. In footbrake racing, it rarely gets closer. Both cars were great examples of PHR bracket cars, with small-blocks, small tires, and bolt-on traction bars.
Chris Wiley had a winner's...
Chris Wiley had a winner's circle crowd that would have made the biggest and most famous families in drag racing duck for cover! These people can in giant numbers from Pell City, Alabama, to root him to victory. As for this writer, he finally achieved his dream of giving away a trophy like his old man did in those 1970s photos from Irwindale, Seattle, and OCIR--pretty cool.
On a weekend when the footbrake...
On a weekend when the footbrake cars were among the stars, one of our own took home the big title. Joel Reynolds, from Adamsville, Alabama, used his Chevy doorslammer to eliminate seemingly dozens of dragsters to take home more than $200,000 in "The Million" bracket race on Saturday night.
Rarely does a slow-reacting...
Rarely does a slow-reacting door car beat the odds against nimble dragsters, so credit Reynolds for excellent driving and car setup. Interestingly enough, runner-up Claude DeBonis won his way into the show by taking the Gambler's race and it's free Million entry on Thursday night!