From the roar of the engines, to the intoxicating smell of exhaust fumes and burnt rubber; racing stimulates the senses. While some may not truly appreciate the sport of drag racing -- those that do race love it.
Don Benton of Hampton, for example, has been racing since he was a kid. He used to race his dad on tractors every day as they headed home on the farm and always lost. He finally realized his dad would tinker with the engines to make his tractor faster to beat Don.
"One day we went home and we raced and I beat daddy because I knew his trick and I have been hooked ever since," he said.
For 25 years, Benton and others like him have been racing at Dorchester Dragway, north of Ridgeville on Hwy 78. Every Sunday night, people come out to race at the track -- some for fun, some for money and others just to test their vehicles.
Billy Semken of Summerville backs his Chevy truck off the trailer and gets it ready to race. It took him about four years to build his truck from the ground up and he spends his time racing across the Lowcountry when not working in his automotive shop. He built the truck as a present to himself for staying sober and it snow balled from there he said.
"I would have too much time on my hands if I wasn't racing... this keeps me out of trouble," he said referring to his desire to stay sober.
As Semken tests tires and charges batteries, other trailers file in along side him carrying all sorts of cars and trucks. The roar of engines can be heard across the parking lot as vehicles are unloaded and tuned in the pit area.
Before long, cars are lining up at the track for their first run of the day.
Crowds gather to watch as each car, truck and motorcycle prepare for their run down the track by rolling through a puddle of water and stomping on the gas pedal to spin their tires. Smoke starts pouring off and blanketing the entire area as the wonderful smell of burnt rubber fills the air. They all perform the same ritual to make their tires sticky which gives them traction.
Basically, by the end of a night, a couple hundred dollars in ground up rubber sits near the starting line and everyone's clothes smell of smoke.
The cars line up at a 'light tree' that flashes a green light when they should go and each car hurls their driver towards the finish line 1/8 of a mile away. Quickly, a crew comes out and sweeps the fallen rubber to the side and another group lines up to perform the same deed.
Between the races, some tweak their engines to perform better or to compensate for hot and muggy conditions. Semken explained that racing depends on many variables including weather conditions. Racers tune their cars to match the conditions and hopefully improve the time it takes for them to travel down the track.
During the early part of the evening, before the sun sets, few cars venture out onto the track. Many racers wait for the best possible conditions before pulling onto the track. Semken said on some nights, cars are still pulling through the dragway entrance at midnight because that is the best time to race; when the air is cool.
Those not racing line the fences next to the track and watch as the cars fly by. While some sit in bleachers, others pull their vehicles up to the fence and unload ice chests full of food.
J. J. Jinks of Beaufort and his friends fire up a grill as they watch the races. It is cheaper than buying food from the vendors he explains as he cooks the food. Many, like Jinks, come to cheer on friends who are racing and see other friends at the track.
As the sun sets, the track gets busy. A line of vehicles waits in staging lanes for their turn to race. A set of friends line up next to each other so they can race next. They laugh as they throw verbal insults at each other about whose car is faster. As they pull up to the starting line, another group cheers them on along the fences.
After the race is over, drivers collect a slip of paper: time slips that tell them how quickly they crossed the line and how fast they were traveling. Guys sit around comparing time slips before pulling up to the starting line for another race.
As the night grew cooler, the more crowded it became. Many were pulling their cars off the trailer for the first time getting ready to race. At this time of night, many were competing in grudge matches. Basically a head to head race where the winner gets bragging rights over the loser.
For most drag racers, this is a hobby they love. Most build their own cars and race them a couple of weekends a month saying the fun of launching off the line and flying down the track is a form of stress release. It is an expensive hobby they claim as they run down the cost of engine parts and all the tires.
One gentleman pointed at a car saying he spent $30,000 on his engine alone. My car cost less than that... guess I'll just burn rubber and head home.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.