Somebody once told me that competing and winning is a great feeling, but setting goals and accomplishing them is even better. If you enjoy succeeding in either, you might be interested in half-mile racing. Sure, road courses are a ton of fun, but you never get the feeling that only comes when lined up to race another driver head-to-head. Drag racing is cool too, but you only get to go a quarter-mile or even as little as an eighth-mile at times depending on what your local drag strip has to offer. Plus, both the track day and the drag strip have something in common: they will eat your tires alive. Good tires aren’t cheap these days!
Participants range from first-timers with bone-stock cars to 20+ year racing veterans with high-dollar shop cars, as well as everything between. You don’t have to have the fastest car or be the best driver to have a good time on an open runway. Speaking of the runway, the guys at SHIFT S3CTOR literally rent out an entire airstrip for the event. In this case, New Coalinga airport in a little town called…wait for it…Coalinga, CA. The days of racing your friends down an airstrip on Forza Horizon® are over; you can do that in real life!
Coalinga is a little over three hours from Los Angeles, but the trip is worth it. People come from out of the State just to get entry passes. This little town has a small section with about three hotels, two gas stations, and a couple of fast food spots. Everyone stays here during the weekend, which makes for interesting parking lots. The hotel of choice is Harris Ranch Inn, but if you can’t get in, you’ll have to settle for one of the two-star motels, down the street. The Harris Ranch steak restaurant is famous and has its own Harris Ranch Airport-308 so you can land, park your aircraft and walk to the restaurant for steak!
Regardless of where you stay, you’ll see 1200+ horsepower GT-Rs, twin turbo Lamborghinis, Corvettes on drag slicks, and plenty of trailers parked outside.
If your alarm clock doesn’t wake you up, someone’s exhaust most likely will, unless you spent the previous night having a drink or nine, over at the Harris ranch bar, where everybody goes to celebrate their wins, catch up with race car buddies, or even to ease the pain of having a broken car.
Getting from the hotel to the airstrip takes less than 20 minutes, and the drive is through some beautiful scenery. Once you arrive, you sign a waiver, park, go to the driver’s meeting, and get ready to race. Although about 200 cars show up throughout both days, you can usually get a solid number of passes.
Depending on how fast your car is and what class you run in, you have a decent chance of winning a category, which means winning some cash. Almost $40,000 was given out to winners throughout the weekend.
The top 5 fastest cars throughout the weekend were:
#29 Patrick Kennedy, 2015 Nissan GTR – 224.89 mph
#117 Mac Butler, 2010 Nissan GTR – 215.93 mph
#133 Myles Kerr, 1994 Acura Integra – 203.53 mph
#12 Andy Hartogh, 2005 Subaru WRX – 202.61 mph
#196 Katsu Uto, 2013 Nissan GTR – 202.43 mph
Don’t let the 200mph+ numbers fool you; it is not easy to hit those speeds in a half-mile. The Integra on that Top-5 leaderboard just happens to be the world record holder for fastest front-wheel drive car for a standing half-mile. That car has more dedicated ‘aero’ than any street-driven car you will ever come across.
Obviously, the GT-R is a popular half-mile machine at these events. You will consistently see them make big power and put it down better than most cars, which is the trick to getting high trap speeds.
The fast cars are great to watch, but some of the most impressive cars come from the mid-field. For instance, a 700 horsepower PT cruiser hitting over 160mph trap speeds was a sight to behold. I spoke to the owner, Juan Ibarra; he mentioned that his car wasn’t making as much boost as it should have due to the heat and should be capable of 170mph.
The heat seemed to play a role in almost everyone’s trap speeds when talking to the participants. Another interesting car was a 1990 Mazda Miata that the owner somehow managed to fit a small block Chevy motor in and then turbocharged. The modification didn’t stop there, though. The Miata had fully custom aerodynamic parts in order for it to attain high trap speeds, such as the 168 mph pass that he made.
All of the highly modified cars were neat, but perhaps one of the most impressive runs was one by a bone-stock Bugatti Chiron. Yes, a gentleman trailered a beautiful carbon fiber-bodied Chiron out to Coalinga, and made a pass. He was clocked at 189 mph, off the trailer. Most people spend many years or dollars chasing speeds like that, but this car was able to do it out-of-the-box. It truly made me happy to see someone drive their Chiron like it was intended to be driven.
In case you may be wondering how fast 189 mph in a half-mile is, a stock SRT Hellcat will usually do mid to high 150s in similar conditions. I’m not sure about you, but a stock Hellcat is properly fast in a straight line.
At the end of Sunday, I left the airstrip thinking about building a half-mile racecar and figuring out the budget I’d have to deal with. Needless to say, the experience at Never Lift is addicting! Even as a spectator, I felt like it was something that would be so cool if it were done on a monthly basis.
With that in mind, I think it is just a little more special and a little more competitive when only done 2-3 times per year. I can’t wait for the next event, and I’d recommend everyone that has the urge to go fast to give it a try no matter what you drive!
Michael Gallardo found interest in cars at around 6 years old. Going to the drag strip to watch NHRA races and riding in his Dad’s VW Beetle were the earliest memories that he can credit his passion to. A year after high school, Michael bought his first car, a 1986 Porsche 944. Ever since then, he has been switching it up and trying to experience all of the cars that he possibly can. Interests include watching Formula 1, going to the shooting range, collecting watches, trying new places to eat, and an occasional round of golf.