“Don’t think it’s a bad thing. Don’t be offended. Don’t think we’re horrible criminals because we drive over the speed limit.” For 21-year-old Iris Saltus, drag racing is not a crime; it’s an adventure.
It’s the adrenaline rush that pulses through your body at the beginning of a race and after it as well. It’s the fluttering beat of your heart before the race as you concentrate on waiting for the flagger to make the sign to go. It also can be pretty dangerous. But Saltus doesn’t think about the danger. “I’m not concerned with crashes,” she says, “it’s too fun to think that it will end badly.”
Saltus says that in street drag racing, there is a possibility that things can go wrong, but “there are far more dangerous things to do,” she says. It is illegal, so according to Saltus, the only real danger is getting caught by the police.
There is not much preparation that goes into street drag racing. “It’s more mental preparation,” says Saltus. By this, she means talking yourself into racing, remembering to breath, and avoiding the shakiness and fidgeting that often come before such a nerve-wracking activity.
Street drag racing is what it sounds like: racing through a straight street, 1/4-1/2 of a mile, between lights or between stoplights. A driver will pull up to a stoplight, and a revving engine, hand signal, or a yell will signify if the driver wants to race. “Also sometimes you’ll see a car that looks fast, and then you’ll just know they want to race,” says Saltus.
Saltus, a junior at the University of Nevada, Reno, has been racing cars since 2008. She started out doing autocross, which is a competitive race where drivers steer one at a time through a course marked by cones, at a low to moderate speed. These events usually take place at airport runways or in parking lots. This type of racing aids drivers in controlling their vehicle.
The first time Saltus tried drag racing was during her junior year of high school. She had a 2005 Mini Cooper S and a friend had a Nisson Altima. After hearing her friend brag that his car was faster, they decided to race. They met at a light near the school and Saltus ended up winning the race. After that, she knew it was something she wanted to continue doing. “It’s just that rush of going fast!” says Saltus. It’s also the satisfaction that comes from winning. And it’s relaxing. This might not seem like an appropriate word to describe such a fast-paced activity. But to Saltus, this is the perfect way to describe it. “It’s the feeling of going fast, the tension build-up, and then the immediate release that makes it so relaxing,” Saltus says.
Saltus’ participation in drag racing is sporadic and usually unplanned. It can happen almost anywhere, but most of the time she finds herself downtown, at nighttime, going 60 to 70 mph between red lights, usually in a 25 mph zone. “The first thing I think about is that I known it’s a bad idea, but I have to do it.” The adrenaline kicks in and those thoughts quickly vanish. After that, it’s just concentration on the race and the possibility of winning that matter.
Although she is not involved in professional drag racing, Saltus knows that professional racers spend a lot of money preparing their cars for a race, sometimes up to $50,000. “The sky is the limit,” says Saltus. But if you’re not into cars, drag racing probably isn’t the activity for you. “If you’re not a car person, you just won’t get it,” she says.
There’s always an unexplainable rush and exhilaration that comes with participating in fast-paced, somewhat dangerous, and well, illegal activities, but what truly makes drag racing such an adventure for Saltus? “It’s the adrenaline. And doing stuff that not everyone wants to do, that not everyone will do.”