PINKS All Out - Four Wide, Side By Side!
32,000 Fans Attend A Historic Pinks All Out Taping At Zmax Dragway's State-Of-The-Art Four-Lane Dragstrip.
From the September, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Rod Short
Photography by Rod Short
Drag racing has long been a fragmented sport. Take, for example, Drag Radial, Foot Brake, Pro Stock, Outlaw 10.5, Super Pro, Nostalgia Super Stock, and Pro Extreme. They all have their diehard fans and they all run similar formats, but try explaining the differences to the everyday fan. Throw in that they all run at different places under different rules. Pretty confusing for the first timer, don't you think?
That may be the biggest reason why PINKS has become such a hit for the casual motorsports fan. In a world where reality TV has become standard fare in nearly every home, it's grassroots drag racing that's simple to watch and understand. It's raw, it's edgy, and it draws viewers into becoming emotionally involved as they root for their favorite drivers and cars.
"To me, this is the world's largest game show," said Rich Christensen, who is the creator, producer, and face of PINKS on TV. "My job is to go out there and communicate, so if it's your first time to the track, you'll know exactly as much as someone who's been watching for 20 years. You might not know all the intricacies of how the car works, but you'll certainly know that the first to the finish line wins and the loser goes home."
Rich Christensen is the founder,...
Rich Christensen is the founder, host, face, and soul of PINKS. With his combination of attitude, showmanship, energy, and the ever-present TV camera, each event has become an alluring panorama of everyday racers struggling to beat the odds and win.
In the years that PINKS has been on cable TV, the show has progressed through different incarnations. PINKS Lose the Race-Lose your Ride, drew immediate interest and was an instant hit for the SPEED cable television network. Yet, even with a bona fide hit on their hands, the TV executives knew the basic formula needed tweaking. Various gambling laws severely limited at which tracks the show could be run, and casting became difficult, as individual racers quickly learned this was a great place to advance a personal agenda.
PINKS All Out debuted in September 2006 with the goal of expanding the field to 250 racers with a $10,000 grand prize. The new format was a hit as well. SPEED never intended to get into the event business, but the success of the program has led to their appearance at 28 tracks across the country. It also spawned a spin off, known as Arm Drop Live, which has an aggressive schedule with 33 events planned for just this year alone.
"Arm Drop is my opportunity to go around the country to smaller tracks that PINKS wouldn't go to," Christensen explains. "It means that racers don't have to travel so far to see me. I come to see them. We put on the exact same show as PINKS All Out, and I love the intimacy of it."
During the course of each PINKS All Out event, the show's technical advisors evaluate the field of grassroots drag racers as they run through two rounds of time trials. Thirty-two entries are then selected based upon the closeness of competition, consistency in performance, and, of course, their adherence to the rule of running "all out." Once selected, the 32 cars will run off down to a field of 16 finalists, which are then rigged with cameras and microphones before their final eliminations. Once the field is narrowed down to just two cars, a best two out of three round robin finale will determine the ultimate winner.
Christensen talks about the basic rules constantly while he's wired to a live mic at the starting line. For the 32 finalists, they are exceptionally simple:
* First to the finish line wins, the loser goes home.
* If you go too fast, you're thrown out.
* If you jump before the arm drops, you're done.
* If you take too long, you're disqualified.
* If you drop coolant on the track, you're banned for life.
For the fans who came to see the show at zMAX Dragway just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, on April 25, the evening turned out to be a double treat, as they got to see not only PINKS All Out, but also the first ever televised four-lane eliminations. The 32 finalists all took their turns at four-wide eliminations to determine the final eight. Once there, the final eight had the chance to compete for $10,000, a NAPA Auto Parts tool chest, and the chance to run in front of a national cable audience on SPEED. The finalists then reverted to the standard two-lane elimination to finish the show, which is tentatively scheduled to premiere on August 6, in 720-pixel high definition.
The event went flawlessly, as 32,000 fans packed their way into the facility in one single day. Not only did the event put 500-plus grassroots racers on a national stage, but the spectacle also exposed thousands to the sounds and smells of drag racing.
Remaining Arm Drop Live Event Schedule
Yet another incarnation of PINKS All Out will soon be at 33 different tracks throughout the nation in the form of Arm Drop Live! The basic difference is that these will be non-televised events, which makes the racing even more up close and personal with Rich Christensen.
|Aug 7-8 ||Milan Dragway ||Milan, MI |
|Aug 14-15 ||Pacific Raceways ||Kent, WA |
|Aug 28-29 ||Bandimere Raceway ||Denver, CO |
|Sep 4-5 ||Cedar Falls Raceway ||Cedar Falls, IA |
|Sep 11-12 ||AutoClub Famoso Raceway ||Bakersfield, CA |
|Sep 18-19 ||Bristol Dragway ||Bristol, TN |
|Oct 2-3 ||Richmond Dragway ||Richmond, VA |
|Oct 9-10 ||Heartland Park Topeka ||Topeka, KS |
|Oct 16-17 ||Tulsa Raceway Park ||Tulsa, OK |
|Nov 6-7 ||Houston Motorsports Park ||Houston, TX |
|Nov 13-14 ||Rockingham Dragway ||Rockingham, NC |
|Dec 4-5 ||Firebird Int'l Raceway ||Chandler, AZ |
Visit www.armdroplive.com/schedule.php for latest information.
Rich Christensen In Five Quotes
"I'm from a town of 3,000 in Iowa where you were judged growing up on your work ethic. I took pride in trying to outwork as many people as I could and, more importantly, do it in such a way that was smart and honest without screwing anybody."
"I'm not a car guy. It's the most mind boggling thing. I still can't open the hood of a car. I don't get it when I look at it. I have no idea what I'm looking at. None. This allowed me to focus on the human in the car. When everybody else is focusing on the nitrous and the turbos and the blowers, I never saw any of it. I literally saw the eyes of the guys sitting in the car."
"I tell you what I think. I tell you what I feel. If I came out to PINKS All Out and spent the money, I'd want a show and I'd want to be treated with some respect. Do you see bikini shows here? Do you see wet T-shirt contests here? Do you see $40-$60 tickets here? No!"
"A third of the people here have probably never been to the track before. They've just come out to see what I do. If I can give them a good experience and they start coming back to a track and learning about it, what's the lifelong value of that spectator? It could potentially be thousands of dollars for the track itself and more importantly, for drag racing."
"I drive a hybrid Camry and a Highlander, but I also have an AWD Chrysler 300 that I travel with when I don't feel like flying. I stretched it 40 inches, stuck a leather bed in the back and put a satellite dish on the top. It has black wheels, an upgraded air intake and a chip in it. We've had some of the most fun trips driving across this country. I'm madly in love with that car."
Billionaire Bruton Smith stirred...
Billionaire Bruton Smith stirred considerable controversy in late 2007 when he announced plans to build the nation's only four-lane, all-concrete dragstrip adjacent to Lowes Motor Speedway. When the local city council ruled against it, Smith threatened to close the NASCAR track and relocate it elsewhere within a year. The local government relented and the 46.5-acre zMAX Dragway facility with seating for 30,000-plus ran its first event the following year.
David Dunwoody's Refrigerator...
David Dunwoody's Refrigerator White '78 Chevy Malibu wagon had the crowd of 32,000 on its feet with 9-second runs at almost 140 mph. David ran a 406 with an NOS Cheater system on this street-legal wheelstander.
Running eliminations with...
Running eliminations with four cars abreast on TV is something that had never been attempted, until PINKS All Out arrived in Charlotte. ZMAX Dragway provided the right facility, but a computer timing system had to be devised along with new procedures and logistics in order to pull it off. Everything went smoothly as the last 32 cars were pared down to eight in just four rounds of eliminations.
Over 500 racers jumped at...
Over 500 racers jumped at the chance to get into the final field of 32 cars at PINKS All Out at zMAX Dragway. PINKS expanded the field from the usual 16 finalists to take full advantage of the four-lane racetrack for this event only.
Having the opportunity to...
Having the opportunity to compete on a national level in front of huge crowds on national TV is part of the magnetic draw for a wide variety of Sportsman racers. There's no Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, or Pro Mod to take the spotlight away from the everyday racer, and car enthusiasts relate because it brings them a show that's on their level.
Russell Boyce of Greenwood,...
Russell Boyce of Greenwood, South Carolina, made his first PINKS appearance memorable as he made it to the best two out of three final rounds in this '70 Ford Maverick. Having never raced the quarter-mile before, the car ran high 9s with a 460 that was bored and stroked to 502 ci. With no time to cool down or charge in between rounds, he was unable to make it to the line after the heat got to his Powerglide. Once he was home, the cooled-off tranny worked fine. Boyce later said that putting three Chevys on the trailer at once was his best memory from the event.
Buster D'Amato was another...
Buster D'Amato was another first timer at PINKS and won $12,000 to match the number on his original '65 Nova SS. Running all motor with a 406 small-block under the hood, this car is still driven on the highway, complete with wipers, radio, and a full interior. With round robin-style eliminations and no time to work on the car in the later rounds, Buster feels that a street car has a distinct advantage over a full-time race car in PINKS competition.
In PINKS All Out, each of...
In PINKS All Out, each of the eight finalists received $1,000. Five hundred dollar bets made against each other in the subsequent rounds determined how much money they would ultimately take home. Seen shaking hands just before the final round, runner up Russell Boyce (left) and winner Buster D'Amato have since gotten offers to increase their earnings by match racing at area tracks.
Don Main of South Point, Ohio,...
Don Main of South Point, Ohio, turned a lot of heads with this 468-powered '68 Impala SS street car. "I've been watching this show since it first came out," he said. "I've never done this before and I just wanted to come out and have some fun. It's different, and it's really done something for the sport."
Larry Pierce and his buddies...
Larry Pierce and his buddies rushed to complete this 421 small-block-powered '72 Chevy C-10 pickup just before the race in honor of another friend who passed away. "PINKS has brought a lot of attention back to drag racing. It's also got more people off of the street and onto the track. That's why I think they're so many people here. This is the ultimate dragstrip."
Darrell Cox (left) and driver...
Darrell Cox (left) and driver Damien Carter represented the domestic sport compact crowd with this 10-second twin-turbo, 2.4L-powered '02 Dodge Neon SRT-4. "We're here to encourage the grassroots racers to come out. It doesn't matter what you have. If you have a car you want to run, PINKS is a series where you can come with your family and friends and participate."
Dewey McCaskill and his wife...
Dewey McCaskill and his wife celebrated his 70th birthday while en route from their home in Colorado to zMAX Dragway to race their 10-second '57 Chevy. "PINKS is probably the best thing that's come out for people who just want to race," he said. "You bring what you want to run without the hassle of having to run against high-dollar cars."