From the streets to the strips -- teen drag racers want to find legitimate avenues to racing.
Jason pulled the wire, and the earth shook.
Four hundred thirty-one cubic inches of displacement rattled the chests and ear drums of the youths and teachers who stood in the garage at the south end of Lawrence High School. The dragster was alive, and it sounded mad.
Jason Stieben, an LHS senior who captured second place at a recent drag race, was in automotive heaven.
"Since I was about 8 years old, I've been working on cars," he said. "I liked the noise they made."
What sat before him in sparkling red and silver, making more noise than 10 average family trucksters, was the "Fluke/Rydin Decal" alcohol-burning dragster, a car that won the U.S. National Championship in the top alcohol class recently in Indianapolis, reaching speeds of over 230 mph.
Helping Jason fire up the Oldsmobile-built alcohol engine was crew chief Rob Wendland, a 1985 LHS graduate. Wendland returned Thursday to his alma mater to share what setting goals, striving for a dream and staying away from drugs and alcohol can accomplish.
"This is like Joe Montana coming and talking to the football team," assistant principal Dick Patterson said. Patterson said he could appreciate speed; he grew up in the 1950s.
Students like Jason want Patterson to allow a school racing club to be established. The visit from Wendland could help.
Patterson said liability for accidents or injuries would be the deciding factor. If the school is held to no liability, he sees no problem with a race club.
"It's another area that kids have a common interest in and can be connected to the school," he said.
Wendland, 28, the youngest crew chief on the national circuit, said he visited schools all over the country between races.
His mission is to show young people that racing can be safe and profitable if done correctly.
"You have to give them a place, or they'll go race on the street," he said.
"I talk from experience. They know me quite well out here. The police have written me a lot of exhibition of acceleration tickets."
Jason said he and his friends also had been known to race down streets in Lawrence.
"I'd just like there to be a couple more (organized) races a year," he said. He drives a '55 Chevy that can go 114 mph.
He looked at the dragster's chrome pipes and contemplated his future. "I'd love to drive one of these."