A Fast Friday Night In Middle Georgia
Welcome To Hampton, Georgia

Once a week, in a small rural town about an hour south of Atlanta, an event takes place. One where the heritage runs strong and a standard drivers license and a set of wheels is all you need to join in the fun. This my friends, is Friday Night Drags – a casual, homegrown, eighth mile drag event which has been taking place under the radar in middle Georgia for just over nine years.

In an attempt to fulfill your ever-so-sought-after need for speed, I recently grabbed my newly acquired Speedhunting credentials and threw myself into the wild in an effort to explore and exploit the horsepower wars that take place every week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Make no mistake, this form of racing and the culture that surrounds it may not be for everyone – but I feel it’s an aspect of motorsport that everyone should know about.

MJones_FND-36

With that all said, I’ll be the first to admit that I really had no idea what I was getting myself into – or what to even expect from this event. I’ve previously attended nighttime drag racing at Irwindale Speedway in California, and I’ve certainly spent some time around some gritty Southern car folk in my day, but mixing the two? Could it be a recipe for disaster? A massively failed attempt at hunting speed? Or could it possibly be all that I had hoped for? A tire slaying show with culture exploding from every angle.

MJones_FND

But five minutes of circling around the AMS infield was all it took for me to discover that the Friday Night Drags were exactly what I had imagined the would be. Not only was the culture absolutely out of this world, but it seemed with every step I took, I was stepping into a completely separate realm of the automotive world. There were the expected high-end, American shop cars and heavy hitters who have invested their youngest son’s college fund in effort to build the ultimate quarter-mile machine, of course.

MJones_FND-3

But within a few paces of those cars I’d be smacked in the face with a grassroots garage-built creation, like this junkyard RX-7. Makes sense, right? Not to mention the unexpected abundance of stretched Suzuki Hayabusas and modified golf carts all in attendance… It only took me about 30 minutes to fully acclimate to the scene, and after that point the only thing that really could’ve surprised me would’ve been a nitrous injected lawn mower!

MJones_FND-4

So go ahead, call this redneck racing and call these builds ‘junk’, because in reality that’s exactly what some of these creations are. This 1300hp-plus Bug, for example, was literally built with random go-fast parts laying around one man’s shop.

MJones_FND-33

So calling it junk could be as accurate as it gets.

MJones_FND-6

But don’t get too hung up on the trash factor, because although a nitrous injected lawn mower may barely be a surprise, the truly unexpected was easily found in the centerfield garage. Fancy a cream puff  82′ Corvette? Yes, I know, to the purists this is one of the worst Vettes ever made, but would you ever expect to see such a clean piece of history at an event where even a middle-aged white-boy wearing a stars and stripes t-shirt (that would be me) was rendered out of place?

MJones_FNSPOTS-29

Doesn’t do it for you? Okay, let’s jump back even further with this ’64. Hold your horses and have no fear – more images and details of this pristine bad boy will be addressed in an upcoming Spotlight-O-Rama…

MJones_FND-8

Speaking of the unexpected – and in complete contrast to the red Corvette – waiting outside the garage was a young local and his beloved lowrider; patiently itching for any bystander to take the slightest bit of interest so he could punch the buttons on his hydraulic system’s controller and boogie till the oohs and aahs disintegrated.

MJones_FND-9

But beyond the vast waves of diversity, outlandish culture and Southern slang was an undeniable sense of camaraderie. Or better said – from start to finish this event was really nothing but a massive family affair. This is an event that for every other day of the week is anticipated by each household in attendance. This my friends, is down South, middle Georgia, high horsepower, get squirrelly and let’s freakin’ race with the family, motorsport. Again, this form of racing and culture may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure as hell is about as pure as it gets.

MJones_FND-34

Take Bonnie here for example. She’s been slangin’ this Frankenstein of a Dodge pick-up with her mom and pop at this very strip since she was 15 years old.

MJones_FND-11

Or the young gentleman piloting this 1955 Willys Jeep Truck, who had spent every single night for the past three months with his brother and his father preparing this garage-built contraption for battle. The best part? He just turned 16. Can you even begin to imagine the lunch room debates at the local high school as to whose car is faster? I’m 99 per cent sure just about each and every deliberation is ended with a stern, ‘See you Friday night’.

Show N’ Shine
MJones_FND-12

As if things weren’t already interesting enough, before the main event kicks off there’s Show N’ Shine event where all infield contestants go for a short cruise around the NASCAR-spec oval before parking their cars up in front of the starting grid in order to be judged.

MJones_FND-13

It’s at this point where all attendees are able to take a break, stretch their legs and get an up-close-and-personal look at a good majority of the builds that would be slinging rubber at their faces throughout the evening. Even the local police officers in attendance couldn’t help but jump into conversation over some of the flawless fab work.

MJones_FND-14

Again, where else in the world are you going to see a lowrider with one wheel in the air, parked between a pair Ford F150s and a ratty Honda Civic holding up the rear…

MJones_FND-15

Not to mention having a mint condition Plymouth Barracuda within arms reach… Georgia – that’s where. Okay, maybe Mexico too, but generally just Georgia.

MJones_FND-16

Though it seemed like there were enough classes so that every entrant could take home a prize, the main award clearly went to the most luscious car in the house – that gorgeous 63′ Corvette I showed you earlier. It really was a beauty. The owner and his wife probably felt entirely out of their element, but it barely phased them as they were there for the same reason I was: for the love of all things automotive. For JoyOfMachine. Nonetheless, he was also kept thoroughly busy answering questions throughout the entirety of the night.

Let’s Talk About Racin’
MJones_FND-17

Once the Show N’ Shine ceremonies were officially complete, the engines began firing up, spectators were scrambling to the best available views in the house, and every competing machine was lined up by class and preparing for battle. The smell of race fuel was strong in the air and the sole presence of energy was overwhelming. It was officially time to get down to business!

MJones_FND-31

This event is broken up into a whopping 18 separate classes spanning every single tire-whipping form of transportation imaginable. Diesel trucks, sport compacts, dirt bikes, ATVs… you name it.

MJones_FND-19

The ones that reign the strip? In my opinion it was the Truck Advanced category, where any and all full-sized modified trucks are accepted.

MJones_FND-20

Then there’s Street Outlaw, which allows just about everything but full fiberglass bodies and a wheelie bars.

MJones_FND-21

And Pro, which is designated for naturally aspirated engines only. Nitrous isn’t allowed but chassis modifications are entirely open.

MJones_FND-27

Finally, it’s the class where things start to get really gnarly: Super Pro. Here anything and everything goes, or as the folks at Atlanta Motor Speedway like to say – and I quote, word-for-word – ‘Run what ya brung and hope ya brung enough!’ Glorious, aint it?

MJones_FND-23

All classes aside, one of the most interesting aspects of the event was the blatant diversity displayed throughout the starting grid. In one row I found a Puerto Rican-built, 13B-swapped Toyota Starlet, followed by a mysterious Supra.

MJones_FND-24

And in the next lane there’d be a slew of pure bred American racing trucks ready to stampede the tarmac.

MJones_FND-26

Alas, one of the key factors aiding to the gloriousness of Friday Night Drags is the fact that it’s all in good fun. Sure, there may be some small bets taking place on the sidelines, but from a competition perspective the event is solely based on a points system. And the winner of each heads-up race is determined by a finish line official, not a time clock.

No Cameras Allowed
MJones_FND-32

Not only are the times not recorded here, but I couldn’t find a single driver willing to divulge their power, ET or MPH numbers either. One response went along the lines of , “No offence, kid, but I’ve spent way too much money on this thing to give out that sort of information”

MJones_FND-35

Yet, that didn’t mean there still wasn’t a general lightheartedness grazing the topic. Like after snapping a photo of this gentlemen earlier in the day carefully prepping his sleeper Mustang, he turned to me and half jokingly stated, ‘Well it ain’t a secret anymore, is it!?” We shook hands with a smile and I was on my way.

MJones_FND-39

As I mentioned earlier, as Southern as I may be, I definitely felt out of place at the event. And once the actual racing began, it wasn’t long before I was reprimanded for being so by the official track photographer. Believe me when I tell you I did my research prior to turning up. I called the track multiple times well over a week in advance trying to get clarification on media credentials with no response or call back. I even called up multiple buddies who had experienced the event in the past to get a further rundown. And I asked the ticket attendant at will call what the shooting policies were and was given the go ahead. Yet, regardless of my professionalism it was all too clear I was on his turf. Even Larry Chen wouldn’t have stood a chance.

MJones_FND-37

So after a lengthy chat filled with swift charm, the intentions were explained, the betrayal was relieved and I was jumping back on schedule. Though, it wasn’t but five minutes later that I had another official breathing down my neck demanding an explanation for why in the world I had come to Atlanta Motor Speedway on a Friday night to take photos of 1000hp-plus nitrous sprayin’ dragsters. Seems crazy, right? But after explaining my purpose once again and extending the blessing I had received from Joe John, the track shooter, I was back at it.

MJones_FND-30

Amidst the political chaos, I was able to escape long enough to witness a crash, which I’ve been told rarely happens at these events. The run down? Exactly what you’d expect. The black Fox Body Mustang lost control about midway, slamming into the rear quarter of the opposing white Fox Body Mustang, running both cars off the course. I quickly grabbed my camera bag and sprinted down the sideline of the track to document the carnage, but of course, as soon as I finished the lengthy dash and picked up my camera, I was stopped in my tracks by yet another track official. Seriously?! I couldn’t even snap one photo I was so busy explaining what had been going on for the past hour and who I’d been talking to. Then just like that, the car was loaded on a flatbed and hauled away. It was at this point that I figured it was finally time to get out of these people’s hair. Speedhunters problems, right?

MJones_FND-29

Though walking back to the grid I was actually able to capture one final piece of glory – the aftermath of the victimized Fox Body.

MJones_FND-28

And moments later, both drivers were in each others face about the situation. The owner of the black Fox was claiming he lost control due to a retune they did earlier in the week…

Regardless, though it seems I’ll be spending more Friday evenings at this track hunting speed than I could ever desire, (and I’ll certainly be doing a 35mm film piece on this event in the future) it seems there’s a reason why this event has never been properly documented in the past.

MJones_FND-18

Maybe it’s due to a territorial power trip? Or could it possibly be due to the fact that the event holders want to do everything they possibly can to keep Friday Night Drags as pure and unexploited as possible. You be the judge. Either way, it’s undeniable that there’s a large mass of homegrown horsepower hiding away in Middle Georgia. I’m here to uncover it, one Friday evening at a time.

Matthew Jones
Instagram: matthewjonesphoto
matt@speedhunters.com

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

34 comments

by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
1

Now this is more like it! Straight muscle and power, not a "stanced" vehicle to offend the eye. 
Keep em coming SH!

2

kphillips9936  I see plenty here that offends the eye, but each to their own hey?

3

This was awesome. Great writing! I'll admit my first run through I thought "nice pictures" but reading the story made it awesome!

Author4

Spaghetti kphillips9936 lol, there is so much that offends the eye here. But its an experience, right!? Thanks for reading and commenting guys. Truly means a lot.

5
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

Sick story Matt, to see a grassroots style of event like this is great. Makes me want to get into shooting local stuff around Sydney more.

6
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

kphillips9936 It's not the style mate, it's how you use it. Showcars are showcars, dragcars are dragcars and so on. Everything is cool to somebody.

7

This reminds me of the Proving grounds at BIR:)

8

It's slightly less than an 1/8th of a mile down the pit road that they run there.

9

Hunting Speed... Uncovering car culture... Love it!

10

Idaho growing up, there were the High School Drags (yes it was considered a sport you could letter in).  Our schools SRO officer was the team's administrator.  We raced everything from minivans to vipers, great memories.

11

Matt Jones Spaghetti kphillips9936 I'm curious...please enlighten me. Just what offends the eye in a drag racing event?

12

AceAndrew2 I hear ya! Some of my best times were at the drag strip in high school, wish I could get a letter in it though lol.

Author13

kphillips9936 My comment was probably more directed towards some of the culture in attendance. I think I probably saw way too many short shorts on people who should not be wearing short shorts :) The array of builds were definitely radical though! and ill sure as heck be bringing you more content along these lines. Year One is in my backyard —better believe i'll be making a trip!

14

Matt Jones kphillips9936 Oh I see, lol. Yeah unfortunately that is often the case at these events and often get a laugh out of it. 
I will say that I'm interested in the beetle and what times it puts down.

15

kphillips9936 Matt Jones Spaghetti You see that's the thing though, what offends some, may not offend
others, it's all subjective. For me that beetle is offensive. It's
"stance" is whack, so is the V8 and the fact that it's a fatty. I don't
like Corvettes of any kind, and the 2 RX7's pictured are not to my
taste.

16
Gianluca FairladyZ

Z Spotted.......

17

Awesome story Matt, i live about 5 mins away from AMS and have been to Friday nights maybe 5 or 6 times and they definitely have an attitude there about strangers on the track, I think it comes down for safety for them though as you know now the crowd is filled with drunk rednecks (me) and they have no real way to setup proper media (because nobody shoots there honestly) and they are just making sure nobody is going to do anything stupid, like you said they have managed to keep it going for about 10 years strait with no real issues before. Cool to see some Georgia on here, the car scene here is.....different thats for sure. FND is a strange place thats best watched with 10 or so beers ( its BYOB here) and 5 or so friends,.

18

Great story, it really brings some refreshment to the writing. Here in my country most of the drag racing would be considered as the "tuner" category depicted here. Great photos too!
Cheers,
Eduardo

19

Spaghetti kphillips9936 Matt Jones Wow, not a fan of Corvettes? Of any kind? 
Oh well, too each their own.

Author20

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner Thanks buddy! And please do so! I'd love to see what you have going on out there!

Author21

kphillips9936 AceAndrew2 Whoa?! High school drag classes? Point me in the direction, please! :)

22

Great story Matt. I feel like the atmosphere is captured and told, just as it is on a friday evening. I just wish we would drag race more in The Netherlands...

23

“No offence, kid, but I’ve spent way too much money on this thing to give out that sort of information”
Entirely wrong attitude if you ask me. I love to talk to other car people about what they've built and what its capable of. No need for secrecy

24
FunctionFirst

Holy SHIT, event coverage that's not only on the fucking East Coast, but not just a FUCKING STATIC STANCE SHOW. 


FUCKING AMAZING.

25
FunctionFirst

"Yet, regardless of my professionalism it was all too clear I was on his turf. Even Larry Chen wouldn’t have stood a chance."


FUCKING SPARTA KICK THAT MOTHER FUCKER IN THE CHEST AND TELL 'EM: 

"THIS. IS. SPEEDHUNTERS!!!!!111!!111ELEVEN!!!11"

26

What is that white car on the cover of this article?

27
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

@tom Maybe a 1971 Plymouth Duster?

28

Hampton isn't considered Middle Georgia, and it's not an hour south of Atlanta

29
Slappy Pistons

Thanks for the coverage.  I'm sure there are some genuinely good people there but I personally get very quickly fed up with people "asserting their authority."  I hate that culture but I admire your patience.  I do understand why people would feel strongly territorial about their "scene" but there's a point at which it just becomes unnecessary and plain rude.  I guess you can't always expect a welcome with open arms, especially when you rock up to take a lot of photos at an event where a lot of people may have a lot of good reasons to not want photos taken, but things are changing and in a way it's a shame that stuff like this is so totally insular.

30

FunctionFirst its the south... not east coast.

31

RE: third pic in the show'n'shine page-- ""lowrider with one wheel in the air, parked between a pair Ford F150s and a ratty Honda Civic""--- Try a GM pickup on the right, and where's the Honda???

32

AceAndrew2 Dudeeee, that is so badass. I wish I had that, though I probably wouldn't win shit in my lifted Jeep with a bone stock I6 lmao. How long ago was this?

33

AceAndrew2 Dudeeee, that is so badass. I wish I had that, though I probably wouldn't win shit in my lifted Jeep with a bone stock I6 lmao. How long ago was this?

34

@tom It's my brother's 73 Duster. It has a 68 383 and 4.88 gear.

OFFICIAL SPEEDHUNTERS SUPPLIERS