NITRO-THUNDER: Kaysville father, son enjoy rush of drag racing

Jan 21 2012 - 8:45am

Images

Brett Harris (left) and his father, Jack, pose for a portrait this week with their dragster at their shop, Jack Harris Painting & Autobody, in Kaysville. In 1997, the two began building and racing National Hot Rod Association Heritage Series dragsters, with the engine in front of the driver instead of behind. The two, known as team Nitro-Thunder, have won four national championships and hold the All American Fuel Dragsters world record, completing a quarter-mile in 5.56 seconds and reaching 265 mph. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Brett Harris holds a trophy next to his dragster at his team’s painting and auto body shop in Kaysville. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Jack Harris and his son Brett Harris, both of Kaysville, build and race National Hot Rod Association Heritage Series dragsters and funny cars. They hold the All American Fuel Dragster world record of completing the quarter-mile in 5.56 seconds and reaching 265 mph. (Courtesy photo)
Brett Harris (left) and his father, Jack, pose for a portrait this week with their dragster at their shop, Jack Harris Painting & Autobody, in Kaysville. In 1997, the two began building and racing National Hot Rod Association Heritage Series dragsters, with the engine in front of the driver instead of behind. The two, known as team Nitro-Thunder, have won four national championships and hold the All American Fuel Dragsters world record, completing a quarter-mile in 5.56 seconds and reaching 265 mph. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Brett Harris holds a trophy next to his dragster at his team’s painting and auto body shop in Kaysville. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Jack Harris and his son Brett Harris, both of Kaysville, build and race National Hot Rod Association Heritage Series dragsters and funny cars. They hold the All American Fuel Dragster world record of completing the quarter-mile in 5.56 seconds and reaching 265 mph. (Courtesy photo)

KAYSVILLE -- Rocketing down a quarter-mile straightaway at speeds of over 250 mph is an activity Jack Harris, 68, and his son Brett, 45, do for fun.

"It's a rush; a lot of Gs," Jack said. "Boy, it sets you back and it's all you can do to keep your head from going back and hitting (the safety bars.)"

The Kaysville father and son began building and racing National Hot Rod Association Heritage Series dragsters and funny cars in 1997. These rocket ships on wheels -- which cost close to $200,000 to build -- have become a Harris family tradition.

NHRA drag racing was founded by Wally Parks in 1951 as a way to keep kids off the streets and provide them with a safe environment to race. Drag racing pits two cars against each other with a standing start. When they are given the go signal, racers give it all they've got to be the first one to cross the finish line.

Heritage Series dragsters are built with the engine in front of the driver, reminiscent of the designs of the 1960s and '70s. Modern racers are built with the engine behind the driver.

The Harrises, better known as team Nitro-Thunder, have become experts at the sport. Between the two of them, they have won four national championships. They also hold the All American Fuel Dragsters world record, completing the quarter-mile in 5.56 seconds and reaching 265 mph.

Click here to learn more about the Harrises and their racing.

The father and son celebrated their most recent victory in October when they won the Heritage Series Points Championship in Nostalgia Top Fuel with Brett in the driver's seat.

The three-day California Hot Rod Reunion, held in Bakersfield, Calif., is considered the premier race in the country for the nostalgia series.

When the racing "tree" lights signaled the racers to go, Brett's reaction time was faster than his competitor's.

This measure of how quickly the driver responds to the lights ended up being the deciding factor for this particular race.

Brett's reaction time was only 0.075 seconds, while his competitor took 0.108 seconds to respond.

Brett completed the quarter-mile in 5.725 seconds and reached 255.73 mph to beat his competitor to the finish line. Although his opponent reached the finish line quicker, in 5.693 seconds, at the higher speed of 269.29 mph, it was Brett's shorter reaction time that won the race.

In drag racing, this is called a "hole shot."

"A win's a win, but a hole-shot win is the driver that does it. The driver won the race," Brett said. "It's a good way to end a year."

The Harris family makes it a family event as they attend races all over the western United States. They make friends from all over the country who they look forward to seeing each time they race.

"That's what makes it fun, all the families doing the racing," Brett said.

He said that when they go to races, his 12-year-old son finds friends among the children of other racers and disappears all day long, returning only when he gets hungry.

The Harrises also have quite the fan following.

Jack said they go through about 1,000 fliers every race and often have a line of people waiting to request autographs.

"You get the bug for it, and that's all she wrote," Brett said. "Next thing you know, you're building a car and going racing."

The family also runs the Jack Harris Painting & Autobody shop in Kaysville.

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