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."

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."

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