Drag racing is a sport that requires weeks of preparation for just seconds of competition.
Hermiston business owner Mitch Myers knows this all too well. Once he sits behind the wheel of his 25-foot, 1-ton, 4,000-horsepower A/Fuel dragster and revs that engine, the race is over in a cloud of smoke and a matter of seconds.
“I just stay focused,” Myers said “I try not to get giddy. You can’t let your emotions get in the way. You just have to stay focused on the job ahead.”
Myers, owner of Nookie’s restaurant and sports bar in Hermiston, will be back in the cockpit of his dragster this weekend to compete in the National Hot Rod Association’s Northwest Nationals in Seattle.
On Tuesday, he hosted a sendoff at Nookie’s before he and his crew hit the road to the Emerald City, which featured local brewing, live music, and a showcase for local racers to display their cars.
The three-day racing event takes place at Seattle’s Pacific Raceway, and hosts brackets for a variety of different classes. Myers is slated for the Top Alcohol Dragster class, and will drive against nine other racers, including several regional drivers. Russ Parker of Salem, Garrett Bateman of Albany, and Kim Parker of Graham, Washington, are also on the bill.
“We all go way back,” Myers said of his competition. “I think our chances are really good. We have a team that can win.”
Myers’ Seattle appearance is part of his comeback this year. He spent the past 15 years in retirement until friend and Miersch Racing owner Larry Miersch convinced him to take the wheel once again.
“We’d been talking about it for years,” Miersch said. “We just kept chatting and came to an agreement, and off we went. It’s been fun.”
Myers will hit the Seattle strip in a car Miersch has been driving for nearly three decades. It’s the first American car to run 280 miles per hour under the NHRA regulations, Miersch said.
“I think we’re really starting to gel,” Miersch said.
If Myers can steer the car to a spot in the top eight during the qualifying rounds, he’ll earn a seat in the first round of eliminations, which are held on Saturday evening. A small pit crew, led by crew chief Jim Rizzoli, will be there to ensure his success.
“We’ve had a great season so far,” Rizzoli said. “Of course, you always want to win, but I’ve been pleased with our results so far. This weekend should be exciting. All the big boys come to town. Everybody who’s anybody will be there.”
After years of experience in the seat of a dragster, Myers is confident that he’ll turn in a strong performance in Seattle. For him and his crew, racing is a science.
“Races are won by thousandths of a second,” he said. “Miles per hour doesn’t win races. The most important thing is to get the car to the half track really quick. That’s where the car tends to lose traction. From there, the finish line takes care of itself.”