JOLIET – Feeling the thunderous roar of race cars is what brings Josh Vanderputte to Route 66 Raceway.
Vanderputte of Michigan was one of hundreds of fans Saturday who gathered in the fan pit at the Joliet raceway for the 19th annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals. In the pit, fans could see crews at work on vehicles.
Even from the fan pit outside the stadium-style drag strip and dirt oval track, the roars of the race cars could be heard and felt.
“You feel them when they go down the track. Literally, it’s a small earthquake,” Vanderputte said.
But the experience of going to
Route 66 Raceway is more than a sensory one for fans. They also get to meet their favorite racers, get the racers' autographs and talk with their crews.
For Brooke Tanner, also of Michigan, it’s unlike any other sport.
"It's not any other sport where you can go and line up and get autographs from each individual racer at certain times throughout the day. …
There's nothing like that," Tanner said.
According to Route 66 Raceway, every ticket gives fans access to drivers and teams as they prep their cars. Fans can meet or see renowned drag racers such as John Force, Ron Capps and Erica Enders-Stevens.
One of the things Vanderputte said he liked about coming to Route 66 is meeting the drivers and talking with the crews.
Vanderputte said he was able to meet racers such as Pat Dakin and Chris McGaha, although Force is a big name in drag racing and hard to get to. Vanderputte said when meeting racers or their crew, fans realize the racers are people.
“You sit there and talk to them and get starstruck for a second but they’re people,” he said.
While the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals was the highlight of the Route 66 Raceway this past weekend, fans could see their favorite displays in Nitro Alley, receive autographs from Pro Stock motorcycle drivers and enjoy the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car display.
There was also a Mello Yellow autograph session where fans could meet racers such as Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria and Funny Car legends such as Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen.
Route 66 Raceway also offered fans on Sunday the Sealmaster track walk, where they walked the track at the raceway with special guests. There were also pre-race ceremonies after the track walk for driver introductions.
Pam and Bruce Lattina, of Joliet, also were at the raceway. They said they enjoyed the racing, the friendliness of the drivers who always sign fans’ shirts and the ability to see the pits.
“It’s a big crowd. It attracts the crowd and you get to see the action when you get to the cars up close,” Pam said.