The International Hot Rod Association's Nitro Jam returns to Pittsburgh Raceway Park in New Alexandria today and Saturday with some of the most iconic cars in drag racing, the Fuel Altereds.
Fuel Altereds have been around for more than 50 years and this weekend, fans will be treated to some of the most colorful cars and drivers in the sport.
Ron Hope, 68, is the owner and driver of The Original Rat Trap, a replica of a 1933 Austin Bantam Roadster. He has been involved with Altereds since the late '60s.
Hope moved from his native California to Chicago in 1970 where he met and became friends with Don Green, then the owner of the Rat Trap until he sold it in the early '80s.
They met up again in '93 at the Bonneville Speedway and repurchased the original Rat Trap before deciding the car had seen better days and opting to build a new and improved version.
A Fuel Altered is a short wheelbase car usually around 100 inches in length. The motor sits high up in the frame rails directly in front of the driver, who sits on top of a direct drive transmission which uses Nitromethane for fuel.
A direct drive transmission is one forward gear and the new version also has a reverse gear.
When asked what it's like to drive a Fuel Altered, Hope's reply was direct: "First, Fuel Altereds don't have drivers, only passengers.
"It's exciting from the standpoint that it is unpredictable," he said. "Once the car starts, you are hanging on and there just isn't a better place to sit. It is unmatched in whatever you could experience. There's just nothing like it."
At 68, Hope is the oldest Fuel Altered driver in competition and will be competing with drivers that are a third of his age.
"They'll have a hard time getting me out of the seat anytime soon," Hope said.
The Rat Trap will be making a re-debut of sorts at PRP after crashing during the March Leadfoot Festival in New Zealand where the chassis, the supporting frame of the vehicle, had significant damage and the body was completely destroyed.
This year's Nitro Jam also features Prostalgia Funny Car, Pro Fuel Dragsters, Nitro Harleys, Les Shockley's Shockwave jet semi and the legendary monster truck Grave Digger. Today's Nitro Jam's FanFest Pit Party begins at 6:30 p.m. with racing at 8 p.m. Saturday's FanFest Pit Party kicks off the show at 5:30 p.m. and racing follows at 7 p.m.
Go to www.nitrojam.com for more details.
The IHRA Nitro Jam will be joined at PRP by the divisional Pro-Am event, which attracts competitors from more than 20 states and opens today with time trials before the Nitro Jam.
Eliminations for Saturday and Sunday will begin after 9 a.m. time trails are completed.
Lernerville Speedway in Sarver turns back the clocks today with Nostalgia Night, which features retired drivers and race cars on display. The track's Fab Four divisions of racing also will be in action. ... Five divisions and bike races for children are on tap tonight at Motordrome Speedway in Smithton. ... Pittsburgh's PA Motor Speedway will have the Spring Championship on Saturday for the Hobby Stocks plus all other divisions. PPMS will use Sundays as a rain date in 2012. ... Mercer Raceway Park has six divisions in action on Saturday and by a visit from the ARDC Midgets.
DJ Johnson: DJ1360rpm@aol.com.