Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Life Hardly a Drag for This Man; the Fernandina Beach Resident Enjoys Drag Racing and Was Track Champion at Jax Raceways

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Life Hardly a Drag for This Man; the Fernandina Beach Resident Enjoys Drag Racing and Was Track Champion at Jax Raceways

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

FERNANDINA BEACH - Drag racer Wayne VanBeek says it only takes one 140-mph sprint down a track to get into the high-speed sport.

Over the years, he's introduced several friends to it, and they've wanted to come back for more, he said.

"They get interested in it," he said. "Before too long, they're running, too. One trip down the track will get you hooked."

But VanBeek, 39, a 1985 Fernandina Beach High School graduate, has taken a love for speed and turned it into a winning streak. In September, he won his fifth regional drag racing championship in Douglas, Ga. After the 2004 season, he was track champion at Jax Raceways before that track closed.

VanBeek had a good teacher in the sport, he said. His father, Fernandina Beach resident Tom VanBeek, also raced and today serves as a member of his son's crew.

"It runs in the family," the younger VanBeek said. "He was racing in the 1950s. It was something he discovered. Before I could drive, I'd help him in races. I started off racing in one of his cars, a '66 Corvette."

Today, VanBeek runs a 2001 Worthy dragster. His father works on the car's engine and transmission when work is needed, he said.

"It's a dragster," VanBeek said of the long, slender race car. "It's for straight running."

VanBeek said he typically gets up to speeds of 138 mph on a eighth-mile track, but has gone as fast as 175 mph before, running on a quarter-mile track. In competition, he runs in elimination brackets, he said.

"It'd be nice to try to run 200 miles per hour, just to say you've done it," he said.

When VanBeek races, he competes head-to-head in bracketed competition against one opponent at a time.

Both wait for a cycle of lights to turn green, and then much of the race belongs to who hits the fuel first. The winner continues on to take on other opponents, the loser is typically done for the day. …

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