- Published on Monday, 24 June 2013 20:52
Visit the pits at Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals July 4-7, 2013.
NORWALK, Ohio – Blonde hair and a flash of orange and bluish-purple flames marks Nolan Racing, a second-year Top Alcohol Dragster team competing in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series in the North Central Region in the National Hot Rod Association.
Nolan Racing driver and owner Don Nolan, 47, Manchester, Kent., also owns Nolan Survey, 101 Third St., Manchester, and works for the Department of Transportation for the State of Kentucky.
With an eye for permanent fixtures – such as roads, bridges, schools and shopping malls, old boundaries, and lay of the land in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky -- Don Nolan also developed a keen eye for dragstrip landmarks: Christmas trees and finish line win lights.
“I've raced something since I was nine years old,” Don Nolan said, “motorcycles, go-carts, drag boats, top dragsters. I started bracket racing a top dragster 10 or 15 years ago.”
About two years ago, Nolan Racing switched to a Top Alcohol Dragster, and they've trekked to Summit Motorsports Park twice since then.
In the Mickey Mart Rewards Cavalcade of Stars presented by Budweiser May 17-19, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park, Nolan Racing created extra thunder.
“We didn't qualify,” Don Nolan said. “The first round we pushed the head gasket out. We blew the burst panels out. That's when you heard the big kaboom!”
As if 260 mph weren't thrilling enough.
“(Another racer) did it at the beginning of the track and we did it at the end of the track,” Don Nolan said. “It was pretty frustrating. When it blows, it can blow your head forward. The blower was kind of flopping, but it stays with the car. I thought we would be loading up and going home early, but we had the parts.
“We worked until 3 a.m.,” Don Nolan said. “We softened the tuneup. We burned the number 1 cylinder out. I think we would have made it in seventh or eighth if we had all our cylinders.”
Normally the Nolan Racing strategy lays down a solid pass and builds on it.
“You kind of hope for a good first pass,” Don Nolan said. “You don't have to set the world on fire; you can tune up off of that. But when you blow it up the first pass, you're behind the rest of the time.”
For crew, Don Nolan turns to his brother, Michael Nolan, 44, Manchester, Kent., a middle school history teacher; Don's son, Colton; Mike Saltsman, Bowling Green, Kent.; and Eric Volmer, Chicago, who adds experience with blown altereds.
“We run this out of our pocket,” Don Nolan said. “We're trying to get sponsors to buy better motors and be contenders. If somebody came to me and said, 'Would you run a Top Fuel?' I would say, 'Heck, yeah!' But I love the alcohol cars. I love the blown cars. I don't know if the NHRA is going to keep the blown cars, though.
“We've got a few sponsors: Visone RV, Renegade Oil and Fuel, Robinson Meats, and Cumberland Gap Water,” Don Nolan said.
Nolan Racing gears up for six races a year, with the closest track about 3 ½ hours away in Bowling Green, Kent.
As Don Nolan's children – Ava Drae, 6; Taylor, 14; and Colton, 17 – mature and engage their father in a family dance for car keys and driving privileges, Don Nolan knows at least Colton's Junior Dragster experience helps him handle highway speeds of 60 mph. or more.
If only the situation were so slow and simple.
“Colton is 17,” Don Nolan said. “He's got the attitude he's wanting my car, it goes in the 260s.”
Normally we write about pedal fests in Funny Cars. Can fatherhood feel like a pedal fest?
“They have to be 18 to get their license,” Don Nolan said. “He said I'm getting too old. It's time for me to retire. I said, 'When you get old enough to rebuild the motor, you can take over.'”
Until then, Colton finesses the pickoff throw from center field.
“He's got colleges looking at him,” Don Nolan said, adding the girls like cheerleading and piano. All of the Nolan youth help the team at the track, creating a shared experience.
“It's just something I love. My kids love it. We love it,” Don Nolan said. “It's a family sport.”
Get acquainted with Nolan Racing on Facebook.com by clicking on: Kentucky roads lead to Norwalk!
For information and tickets for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, a part of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, July 4-8, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, click on: Looking for a Norwalk Wally!