Photos by John Schultz; Video by Dane Thompson
The holidays are over, the air is still cold outside, and a new year is upon us. Most drag racers across the country are preparing their high-performance machines for battle come early spring. They will be overhauling and upgrading their cars with the latest and greatest engines, speed parts, and tech to stay competitive for this year’s racing season. In fact, most big-time race teams, as well as many drag racers across the country probably have no idea that in Arizona the Super Bowl of clapped-out junk car drag racing is going down at Tucson Dragway at an event called ZipTie Drags.
For a handful of years now, Tucson Dragway has been home to an event called the ZipTie drags. The event is put on by Motortrend’s Roadkill show and hosted by David Freiburger and Mike Finnigan. The event features the cars from the show RoadKill and it gives fans the chance to get up close and personal with the guys from TV. Besides the “meet and greet”, you can bring your own vehicle out to race in one of three events: Grudge Race/Test and Tune, Fans vs Road Kill, or The 3k Hooptie Challenge.
Grudge Race/Test and tune is an open run format and is a “run what ya brung” heads-up style race. It’s a good opportunity for anyone to hit the track and finally see what grandmas grocery getter can really do. It’s also a good opportunity to race your buddies down the 1/4 mile, or even settle a score with that 1996 Buick Roadmaster wagon that pulled on you at the green light last week.
The next event on the line up is Fans vs Roadkill. It’s a lottery-style drawing where 10 lucky racers get the opportunity to race either Freiburger or Finnigan in one of the cars used on the show. This is also a heads up style event that is run in pairs and dwindled down to one winner. The cars are generally not that fast, but its fun to watch and sometimes wonder if they are even gonna make it to the stripe and light the board.
Last but not least we have the main event called the 3k Hooptie challenge. In this event, contestants build the quickest and fastest car they can for no more than 3k total investment. Cars are randomly paired together and run as a heads-up style drag race until one person wins. To keep it fun and “fair-ish” each participant’s car must be judged by the Road Kill gang and the spectators before anyone can line up to the race. The cars are judged live by Freiburger, Finnigan, and the crowd to see who is in, and who is out. The rules boil down to this: if the total sum of what you bring to the table looks like its worth more than 3k or is worth more than 3k, you will not qualify to run your car. If you make it through the gauntlet of fans, and the scrutiny of David and Mike, you’ll get your entry into the event, and your shot to be the next 3k hooptie champion.
In a nutshell, the ZipTie drags is just plain fun. It’s not an event that takes its self too seriously and allows for a good time no matter what you bring or who you are. For me, the people that flock to this event from around the country really are what makes it special. If you asked me to sum up what the ZipTie drags is like for a person that has never been, this is what I would say: The quality of the cars is low at best, but the quality of the individuals that come to enjoy this celebration of mediocrity are second to none.