Canadian drag racing and hot rodding can be seen a few ways due to winter. We have a short show/race season compared to California or the southern states. We like to say our cars are better because we have winter to work on them though. However in winter a lot of the car people seem to disappear. There are no events that they go to because all of the cars are either being worked on, or are in storage.
The challenge is to create an event for car guys that doesn't involve cars, and last winter I found one. I heard about this get together involving tape measure drags, and yes, you heard that right. I told a few people about the event, and one of those people was Matt Tuckey, who jumped on the idea and managed to take it to the next level.
The idea for tape measure drags is quite simple. The start and finish lines are 8 feet apart, usually on a smooth table of some sort. The first person whose tape reaches the end wins. Very simple.
Matt, who likes drag racing, and races his own vehicles whenever he can, was dreading the long Canadian winter (not that we are having one this year). He called up a company from the States that builds timing systems for drag strips and asked them to make something that would work for tape measures. They had never heard of tape measure drags, and after filling them in on what he was trying to do, they managed to sort out a system and sent it up to Matt, who promptly built the "dragstrip" and got a good friend, Ryan Thompson of Mind's Eye Concepts, to do up the posters and a bunch of friends over for the first running of his tape measure drags.
This system was much more elaborate, and much more precise than what anyone else has been using up until now, but it worked so well, and kept arguments at bay (friendly banter was still in full force). There was a switch at the start line that the tape measure had to trip in order to stage, and at the end there was a light beam for the finish line. The controller would read reaction times, and the lights were just like a regular dragstrip.
I gotta say that for a first time event there was some really well done tape measures, both modified and stock. I arrived with my own, and since none of us had seen anyone else's tapes, I wasn't too sure about what I had brought.
I'm of the mindset that if you're going to do something you should do it to the best of your ability, so I cracked open 2 tape measures and did what I could, I wound them up a few rounds. I ran into a problem when I got there though, Matt needed to know how long the tape was, and I didn't know, since I had removed the case before I showed up. Someone suggested I pull out the tape and check, and in the spirit of honesty I did just that. Partway through the unwinding of the tape measure things started going a bit more slowly since the spring was tight. Next thing I know, I hear a rather loud whirring sound, which will be remembered as the first, and only proper, casualty of the night. The plastic shaft that the spring was attached to broke off of the casing. I still had a second tape though.
The second tape was my last chance, so I was on a mission to quickly make it a bit faster. I borrowed a screwdriver from Matt, and quickly pulled it apart and wound it up a few more rounds. After putting the case back together I pulled the tape out to see what my last ditch efforts had accomplished, and quickly discovered that I must have over tightened the spring. Even by loosening it back to where it was, the tape wouldn't recoil properly anymore. With no test and tune I came up to the start line, hooked the tape to the end of the track, and when the light when green I let go, and what I saw nearly brought tears to my eyes. The little tape that was supposed to, just simply couldn't. It barely even made it to the end of the track! Best two out of three though! Second run, and maybe some miracle had happened! Green light and I let go, same story, except that my opponent had red lighted! At this point I knew that the only way I could get anywhere was if he got a red light on the third run. I hooked up next to him again, hoping for the red, and hoping that my tape could actually make it to the end of the track this one last time. Prestaged....Staged....Yellow...Yellow....Yellow....Green....no red in sight. And that was the end of my night of racing, just like that.
The night was full of a lot of laughs and yelling. Everyone was there to have a good time, and there were no sore losers, and winning meant getting a few bucks, as we each put a couple buck in the pot for our respective classes at the start of the night.
This is one of those events where everyone can get involved. Firstly, it's cheap! Everyone has a tape measure lying around, and all you need to modify it is a screwdriver. Secondly, it's family friendly. Matt's kids were out with us having a great time, and their reaction times were pretty good too! And thirdly, it's a good way for car guys to meet up with friends in the winter. Everyone who came out was a car guy, and the same spirit of competition that you see at the dragstrip was there, only no one really cared if their tape measure broke, or if they lost. It's all just a bit of fun.