Words and photos by Jonathan Salmi
Over the weekend of May 20-21, about 200 performance cars descended on the small town of Rantoul, IL, about 2 hours south of Chicago. They came for one reason: Omega Motorsports’ own brand of half-mile drag racing action on an airport taxiway. If you’re not familiar with the format, the races are about as regulated as those you’ll see in “Mexico.” There are no classes so racers can challenge their friends or anyone else who’s paid their entry fee. With about 500 feet of runway available before the official start of the half mile, it’s easy to give a few lengths to a more powerful car or to start races from a 30- or 50-mph roll. Of course, plenty of racers chose to start from a dig.
Even the rules for photographers were lenient. After I checked in as media, I signed a waiver that advised I knew I could get hurt or die as a result of shooting the event. Then I was given a safety vest and told “The only rule is don’t get hit. Have fun!” I succeeded fully on both counts.
Unlike traditional quarter-mile drag racing, there is no timing provided. Instead, radar units record each vehicle’s top speed at the end of the half mile. Bragging rights are doled out accordingly, especially to anyone clocking over 160mph. Race coordinator Tony Lopez told me that the top speed for a car went to a Nissan GT-R which managed 196mph.
NoFlyZone drew performance cars of every ilk. Of course you expect an event like this to bring out the Corvettes and Supras, but many of the more unexpected cars were a pleasant surprise. From high-dollar race cars like the Factory 5 to a highly modified Ford Fiesta ST, there was definitely something for every enthusiast.
Of course, such a diverse group of cars means that there will be some very interesting match-ups. Some of these fights would be deemed downright unfair in any other venue, but that of course is the fun of NoFlyZone.
Walking the pits was a treat for any car enthusiast. Spectators brought out their rides and parked mingling with the racers, making the lot feel as much like a Saturday night meet as much as a race weekend.
It was obvious how much blood and sweat had gone into many of these rides. When you see a Dodge Charger Hellcat, you already know it’s serious. When it’s got a parachute on the back and some of the fattest drag radials this side of a funny car, you’re in full-on ludicrous territory. Owner Glen Watson told me this Charger’s build and tune had only just been finished hours before leaving for Rantoul. On a 300 shot of nitrous, it was pushing 1460hp to the wheels and managed a 190mph run.
No less work went into Hassan Hazer Saddiq’s Pontiac G8. This car began life as a humble V6 model but now sports a 6.1L V8 with an LSA supercharger. Hassan piloted his Aussie hero to a top speed of 164.9mph by the end of the day.
New this year was the addition of bikes to the line-up. On Sunday only, motorcycles were allowed to line up against each other, against cars of their choice, or just go solo for top speed. Several, bikes, notably a Hayabusa and a Kawasaki Ninja, pulled multiple 180+ mph runs. Despite that, several cars managed to give those crotch rockets a run for their money.
Omega Motorsports is scheduled to bring NoFlyZone Midwest back in the fall of 2017, so look for coverage of that event around October. You can check them out on Facebook to find out the exact dates and purchase your spectator or race tickets. This is one party that is not to be missed.