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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tucson Dragway events unite locals with a need for speed

Rebecca Noble
Ron Furlong burns out his Mustang during Arizona No Prep Test and Tune at Tucson Dragway on Friday, March 3, 2017.

There are some famous words from one of film history’s most lucrative franchises that most car lovers will know: “What’s retail on one of those?” “More than you can afford pal, Ferrari!”

For many millennials, “The Fast and The Furious” franchise was the catalyst that bore a lifelong obsession: cars. All over the world, young men and women saw Brian O’Connor or Mia Toretto every time they looked in the mirror, and Tucson was no exception.

Friday night. Seven o’clock. Many cats are out on the town, but the Car Cats are out on an ethanol run. On Friday Night Drags Open Test and Tunes, hundreds of racers gear up and head down to the Tucson Dragway to live their own fast and furious fantasy.

Friday Night Open Test and Tune is as close to a “Fast and Furious” scene as anyone can legally get: a meet up of hundreds of cars from all over Tucson to race one another or race the clock to set the best time or prove themselves the fastest in town—at least until the next Friday Night Open Test and Tune.

For those who live their life a quarter mile at a time, it may be 10 seconds of freedom; for the modified car owner, it’s an excellent opportunity to showcase tuning talent; and to the exotic car owner, it’s an opportunity to show the world how much performance money can buy. When gas is burning and wheels are turning, there’s always one thing that every participant shares: their love for speed.

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“This event is a great way to meet people who all have a similar passion,” said prospective Car Cat Michael Guerin, a freshman majoring in business. “Everyone respects one another; it doesn’t matter what you drive. Like, we showed up in a Nissan Skyline. There are like five other Japanese cars here, and everyone has complimented us despite being such a standout. Maybe your car has cambered wheels, maybe your car is a dyno queen. It doesn’t matter because it’s yours, it’s an expression of self. Some people have art, or writing, or a sport; we’ve got cars.” 

Trenton Hollenbeck, a freshman majoring in biochemistry and math, came to the Friday Night Open Test and Tune to test out the setup of his car after completing a turbo swap and tune on his Subaru WRX.

“While it was intimidating to compete with other cars that run low 12’s, I had a blast,” he said. “It was great seeing low 13’s on my new setup, and I will be adjusting my launch control next time to hopefully run high 12’s.”

Hollenbeck is part of Car Cats,  a UA club that caters to anyone who is interested in cars and car enthusiast culture. From E46 BMW M3s to supercharged Subaru BRZs, there is a place for anyone and everyone with any kind of ride.

“When I bought my car a few years ago, I thought it was amazing and it has come a long way since then,” Hollenbeck said. “What I like most about the Car Cats though is that there is no discrimination. It doesn’t matter that I drive a Subaru and that other members drive Mustangs and Hondas. It doesn’t matter because we are all close and share a passion for cars more than anything.”

Hollenbeck said there is a difference between true car fans and fanboys.

“A fanboy will rally behind his or her brand or team or whatever, but a true car fan will see the merit in everyone’s ride, even if it isn’t exactly their cup of tea.”

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Hollenbeck said Car Cats has biweekly meets and tries to go to the Friday Night Drags Open Test and Tune frequently when the dragway is open to the public.

“Like an engine, there are a lot of moving parts, and trying to organize for everyone to get down to the dragstrip is tough,” Hollenbeck said. “Some weekends we will get a bunch of people, and other weekends maybe just a handful. It really depends on who’s available and who’s cars are running, even the weather plays a role. So it’s not every weekend as a whole club, but definitely we get out there as often as we can, even if it’s just a couple of friends within the club.”

So what’s it take to head down to Tucson Dragway and make some passes? Nothing is the answer. No experience is required, not even a helmet; they’ll provide them. 

Doesn’t matter what you drive, Camry or Corvette, Benz or Bimmer. The only thing that matters is that you go out and drive it, instead of letting it drive you.

Follow Mitchell Furrier on Twitter.

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