I wanted to share this speech I gave a while back about getting my drivers license
Let me start by asking how many of you have a drivers license? I applied for and took my driver’s test just last year at the tender age of 39. After so many years getting my license was a scary proposition, I wasn’t sure I wanted to actually go through with it. I have worked on cars and engines since I was 8 years old. Why was this such a big deal.
In February of last year I was ready to take my driving test,
My drivers application was filled out, check
Had a car to drive for the test, check
I got my physical, check
Booked my hotel room, check
Assembled a team to help me for the weekend, check
After a weekend of testing I finally got my license, I now have a license to drive 200 MPH. (pause) in 7 seconds.
I now possessed a license that few people ever have a change to get. My license allowed me to drive open wheel dragsters at competitive NHRA events.
The National Hot Rod Association or NHRA has very specific rules to be followed when applying for a license.
First the vehicle and safety gear being used must be certified and inspected.
A driver must demonstrate the ability to get out of the vehicle without being able to see in less than 10 seconds.
A driver must complete 6 specific runs on the track.
All runs must be observed and signed off by track officials and a licensed driver in the class.
The NHRA requires very specific safety equipment for the driver and also for the vehicle.
Regulations dictate the vehicle design, construction and materials used to make the chassis and roll cage. Vehicles must be inspected and certified in order to even be allowed on the track. Fire suppression system must also be installed and inspected. For a driver its simple just a few certified items are required. Now try to picture this, It’s often 100 plus degrees out at the track and you have to wear……
A Fire suit, which is like wearing a sleeping bag
Fire resistant booties that cover your shoes and continue up past the bottom of the fire suit.
Fire resistant gloves
Fire resistant face mask
A Hauns device that helps prevent neck damage in a crash
Straps that connect your arms to the seat belt, so in case of a roll over or crash your arms don’t fly out and get damaged
And finally a 5 point safety harness to hold you firmly into the small driving compartment car.
Sounds like fun right.
Now I have the vehicle inspected, my safety equipment inspected, All there is to do is get in the car and drive a car with fifteen hundred plus Horse power down a strait track, no problem.
We pull the car into the staging lanes; I get loaded into the car with some assistance from the team. My first two runs on the track have to be a half track pass. My team comes alive, they pull me up to the starting area and detach from the car, the starter power cable is attached, the crew chief has made sure the power switch is on in the vehicle the air bottle is turned on, the safety pins are pulled. With a fuel bottle in hand he is waiting for the all clear from track officials. The crew chief gets the nod from the officials, he looks at me to make sure I’m ready, I give him a nod, alcohol is squirted into the throat of the vehicle and the starter is engaged, he looks to me and nods indicating to turn on the ignition. The car roars to life. The team is pulling off the power cables, removing the starter and pulling away the tow vehicle. It’s all on me now. My crew chief is now in front of me near the starting line, I pull the car forward and roll though the water box, I’m given the nod to do a burn out. I stomp on the gas and do a short burn out, not as long as I was supposed to but, it will work. I am now out in the middle of the track and a team member jumps over the railing to relay hand signals to me as I back up to the starting line. I’m positioned about 1 foot behind the starting line. The crew chief points to me and indicates is all mine. I creep up to the line looking at the tree of lights the first yellow light comes on, I creep a little more and the second yellow light comes on. I’m in position. Three more yellow lights flash on followed by a green. I stomp the gas pedal to the floor and hang on, I see the point where I am to let off ahead of me and I’m already feathering the gas pedal. I let off the gas at half track and coast to the turn out at the end of the track and wait for my team. They congratulate me and ask me how everything went and then ask why did you get off the throttle before the half track mark. I simply said, I was scared.
Later that day I did another half track pass and two more three quarter track passes. The next day I was to do my final two full track passes. Up until this point I didn’t need the parachute to stop the vehicle. One more thing to worry about. Remember I have to drive this car down a quarter mile track, keep it in my lane and remember to pull the parachute, shut down the motor all in less than 8 seconds. On my 5th run I let off the gas a little early, I was determined to stay on the gas the whole run on my final run. I remember barreling down the track with my foot holding the throttle all the way open with my right hand waiting to pull the parachute. Saying to myself, not yet, not yet, NOW. Pulling the parachute shutting down the motor and safely pulling off the track. My final run I ran 178 MPH in 7.84 seconds.
Getting my NHRA License was a experience of a lifetime and I am eternally gratefully for the opportunity. Now I wanted to share with you a glimpse of what this feels like. (video)
By Donald Henderson