Life's a drag — in a good way — for drag racer Scott Holbrook

Scott Holbrook has been drag racing for seven years and sits at fifth in the season standings.

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Drag racer Scott Holbrook with his car in a state of being fine tuned at his shop in June.

WALLA WALLA - Scott Holbrook races quite a horse.

It covers 60 feet in less than 1.40 seconds and 660 feet in the 6.50s. This year, Holbrook has even managed to coax a little more out of his metal Mustang, when it recorded sub-6.50 seconds time in a test run.

And what does Holbrook say about those times?

"It's decent," he said. "It's what you do. You go as fast as you want to take it."

Holbrook isn't trying to be modest. He is simply summarizing what he has done on a drag strip with his 1987 Ford Mustang and the 550-horsepower engine beneath its hood.

The soft-spoken 32-year-old may not say it, but he's also the defending Walla Walla Drag Strip point series champion.

Last year, the Walla Walla Drag Strip held its first NAPA Point Series for the three competing classes of sportsman, pro, and super-pro.

Holbrook won the super-pro class, which allows drivers to shift and burst off the line electronically.

"It was fun and rewarding," said Holbrook, who was the series' only local winner. "You put in all that time and effort for six or seven years and finally it all comes together. It was a good, solid year where we had a car that ran all year and did what we needed it to do."

But last year's victory doesn't guarantee a repeat for the Walla Walla native or his Mustang. Now it's a new racing season, when every racer has to earn or re-earn his hardware.

Holbrook plans to keep his.

"You always want to win and be on top," said Holbrook, who currently sits at fifth in this season's standings.

Despite the success, Holbrook acknowledges placing isn't everything.

"It happens and you can't get too discouraged with it (losing) because in the overall scheme, we're there to have fun," he said. "It's a time for my family, my wife and Kort (his son), my dad and mom, and everybody to come out and spend time with us."

Burning down the strip wasn't always Holbrook's passion. Like many local kids, Holbrook grew up preferring the dirt trails of the Blue Mountains and careening around in his lifted 1979 Toyota pick-up.

Holbrook's interest in drag strip racing sparked after the renovated track reopened in the early 2000s.

A few race attempts in, then 25, Holbrook was fast enamored with the sport's combined emphasis on speed and quickness, the heady reactions of the driver and the time and effort needed to build a competitive dragster. He discovered those - and another part of the sport - addicting.

"Just like any sport, the adrenaline," Holbrook said of the lure. "You get those butterflies in your stomach. And being able to put something together that works good and is fun to race and comfortable to race. It makes it even better knowing that your car is going to go straight."

His new passion eventually took him away from home track to other Pacific Northwest cities, such as Spokane, Seattle, and Woodburn and Madras, Ore.

In 2007, he even headed to Las Vegas, where he was among 16 selected racers, from about 400 contestants, to be featured on racing network Speed's show, PINKS All Out.

Unfortunately, the head-to-head race didn't favor Holbrook and his ‘Dark Horse.' The auto jockey and his ride became victims of sport's favorite truth-teller, instant replay.

"I lost by a bumper," said a disappointed Holbrook, viewing recordings of the race.

The loss was just one of many early losses for Holbrook and his Mustang, which he found for sale in 2003 in a Walla Walla plumbing store parking lot. But his fortunes changed last year when the experiences, finances and hours of work put into his passion came to fruition.

He won the first three races of 2009, one in Spokane and two on Walla Walla's National Hot Rod Association-sanctioned strip.

Winning the super-pro points title was not easy. Entering the final race of the season, Holbrook sat in second place behind leader Jerry Odman.

"When we started that race I was two points behind," Holbrook said. "I ended up winning by two or three points so it was really close."

On top of winning the points title, Holbrook was also the top overall super-pro driver for that weekend.

"It was just icing on the cake," he said. "For a good day, it was a good deal."

Now, Holbrook's hope is keeping his title, but his quest of repeating did not begin at the series' first race April 17. Instead, it started on Jan. 1, in the shop.

For four straight months, Holbrook and his father, Randy - who, he said, has put in "95 percent of the work and effort" - spent countless hours cutting, sanding, welding, rewiring and rebuilding their prized racer. Though it was a proven winner, the Mustang was far from perfect.

One major issue they addressed was the reduced traction during poor track conditions.

"When the track looked good, we would run like a 1.40-1.42 seconds in the 60-foot starts," Holbrook explained. "When the track got slippery it went from 1.42s to 1.46s. Well, then you're adding four-hundredths of a second to your overall time."

Such details may seem minor, but they're important for Holbrook.

In Walla Walla's bracket racing, where dragsters of differing speed capabilities can compete against each other, such minor details can greatly affect the dragster's burst off the line and its ‘dialed time,' the car's predicted time to cover the 1/8-mile expanse. More importantly, it could be the slightest difference between first place and runner-up.

However, traction issues and other problems won't keep the racer off the track. Walla Walla track manager Jim Denoyer said Holbrook's success as a competitor is because of his desire to race.

"When Scott is focused, his reaction times are as good as they come," Denoyer said, after a year of observing Holbrook. "On a race track that is even a little bit loose and or a little bit slick, I don't know of anyone that will stay on as long as he will. He is fearless. I think he would drive a car on an ice rink."

Success in drag-racing is can be a simple formula, said Holbrook.

"They say cut a light, run a number and you'll win every time," he said. "It's kind of the heart of it when it comes right down to it. If you cut a good light and run what you're supposed to be, you're real hard to beat. That's the whole aspect of the game."

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