Speed Isn't Enough

Tim McAmis, drag-racing champ, tries to be a millisecond faster than the big-money boys. Tough duty.

Oval-track's never appealed to him. Sixteen cars going around at once, beating their way to the finish line. Somebody makes a mistake, they have 20 or 30 laps to make it up. Drag racing feels cleaner, more sophisticated -- one on one, and speed's what counts. Make a mistake, lose by one-thousandth of a second, and it's over.

Completely over.

He winces. The Craftsman cut's still raw. Not even qualifying, that close to home -- it'll take a while for that to heal.

McAmis doesn't want to jump through hoops for a sponsor -- but he wouldn't mind flying to the end of the dragstrip without worrying about damaging his engine.
Jennifer Silverberg
McAmis doesn't want to jump through hoops for a sponsor -- but he wouldn't mind flying to the end of the dragstrip without worrying about damaging his engine.
Tim McAmis burns rubber, on purpose, in his shiny black supercharged '63 Corvette.
Jennifer Silverberg
Tim McAmis burns rubber, on purpose, in his shiny black supercharged '63 Corvette.

He wonders, again, just how much difference a sponsor would make. He's used to converting uncertainties into certainties, risk into speed. He knows all the variables of drag racing, from humidity to flu medicine to a ten-cent ignition wire mysteriously come loose.

Now money's become the biggest variable of all.

He can't stand the thought of doing 25 displays and getting to races three days early and getting bribed with performance bonuses, the way some sponsors do with their drivers.

But he loves racing enough to want what money could give them.

They could hire a full-time pit crew. Run tests under every condition, experiment with every combination of settings. Buy top-of-the-line equipment, and plenty of spare parts.

With Budweiser's money, Kenny Bernstein broke the 300 mph barrier in 1992, reached 310 mph in 1994, won six NHRA championships, set a world-record time in 2001. The mayors of St. Louis and Madison proclaimed last Sunday Kenny Bernstein Day.

So.

Maybe a sponsor.

McAmis just hired an agent to make presentations to likely corporations. His brother even called up the Navy, but, like the Army and the Marines, they wanted to sponsor one of the flashy top-fuel or funny-car teams.

McAmis feels his brain brake, slide to a stop, rethink the whole thing. He's set five national records, won five national events and the first pro-mod world championship. Maybe it's time to quit.

But it'd sure be nice to run one year with a sponsor, race the way he wants to, take chances without worrying about breaking equipment. Really go for it, and see what happens.

Before his time runs out.

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