Then a light turns green.
Engines blare piercing exhaust notes, green and blue quads wheelie up and blur forward, clods of dirt cloud the air, and stands of people stand up and cheer. About five seconds and 150 feet later, it’s all over.
And it’s time to start all over again, at the third annual Stanislaus County Fair Quad Drags.
The head-to-head, single-elimination drag races offer riders just one chance at beating each opponent. There are no excuses for a botched start or a stalled engine. It’s go or go home.
Greg Shipman, of John Shipman Motorsports event promoters, helped to come up with the idea of quad drags three years ago.
“We invented this and basically it’s just drag racing,” Shipman said. “It’s what we all do in Pismo.”
Pismo – referring to the Pismo Beach dunes, where ATV riders from around the state gather – comes up often in conversations with the riders, as do casual mentions of Sand Mountain, Nev., and Sand Lake, Ore. The quad drags are competition, but these competitors are all friendly from their vacation-time riding.
“It’s a big circle, everybody knows each other,” said Johnny Cordoza, 26, of Manteca.
This was Cordoza’s second year at the quad drags, after making it to the second round of his division last year. Cordoza is all about seconds, in fact, claiming second in his 2-stroke sportsman class this year.
Cordoza’s been riding since he was five years old, on family vacations to Pismo. And, amazingly, some of the racers were even younger than five at Wednesday’s races.
Case West, of Oakdale, competed at age 3. But he’ll be four in November, he’s quick to point out.West finished third in his class of 50cc quads, drag racing at speeds not much faster than a Power Wheels Barbie Jeep.
At the opposite end of the spectrum – and the staging area – sat a flame-bedazzled Hayabuysa-engined custom quad replete with wheelie bars for optimum drag racing.
“I was tired of getting beat,” said Rick DeCosta of Manteca, 47, owner and rider of the behemoth.
DeCosta’s been riding his custom drag quad for two years.
“But he always comes in last!” shouted out a nearby friend.
That’s because DeCosta is forced to compete against other monstrosities in the unlimited class, including one with a nitrous oxide boost.Regardless of the results, DeCosta is quick to point out that his quad attracts significant numbers of the opposite sex.
“I’m the only one with girls,” DeCosta said.
And the win, as it turned out, beating Tim Williamson of Brentwood and Luke Blades of Hilmar for the unlimited class victory Wednesday night.A few rows over Billy Flores, of Merced, and Jerry Pricolo, of Escalon, stood next to a gleaming chrome quad.“It’s supposed to be setting on a little pedestal,” Pricolo said of his ATV, which he said he’s put about $30,000 into.
The two shared the ride, competing in different classes on the same quad. They’re both good riders, they said, and Flores had the truck needed to tow Pricolo’s quad. So it all worked out.
The two weren’t in the races for any serious reason – though Pricolo did finish third in the 2 Stroke Sportsman class, after being told by a track official he had to put a shirt on to drag race. Both were simply killing time before Friday night’s quadcross races.“We’re out here to give the serious people a hard time,” said Flores.To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.