LaDon Sams knows all the movies and remembers the days of “American Graffiti” very well, but if anyone today feels the need for speed, Sams says there only place to do it — on the track.
And that’s where you’ll find Sams just about every weekend. He races regularly at the Humboldt Dragway, Eddyville Raceway Park and in parks and dragways at Eddyville and Cedar Falls.
Racing is in blood and in his heart.
“I’ve been racing something since I was 11 years old,” Sams says.
His dad, the late Maylan Sams, taught him young how to work on engines and passed on his own love of racing.
“I think he enjoyed the competition of it — and the speed,” recalls Sams.
Growing up, Sams started out racing motorcycles. He made the switch to dragsters about 20 years ago and hasn’t looked back. Of course, looking back isn’t something a drag racer has time for anyway.
At speeds approaching 200 mph, driving a dragster takes an incredible amount of concentration.
Once the car is in motion — doing about 180 mph on the quarter mile — Sams says the driving comes automatic. It’s the pre-staging and staging of the car, and then waiting for the light that takes the concentration.
“Once the car starts going, you just do it… You focus so hard for about five seconds that it’s unbelievable.”
But to Sams, the speed just seems natural.
“I’ve been doing it for so long that 180 miles an hour doesn’t bother me anymore,” he says.
Sams purchased his current dragster out of Omaha and completed much of the work on it himself. The wheelbase measures 255 inches, while it stretches to a length of nearly 25 feet. With that much power, you bet it can pop a wheelie, but that’s not a problem for Sams.
“This one doesn’t really pull high wheelies, maybe 6 inches off the ground for 10 to 15 seconds.” Just enough, he adds, “to really slam you back into the seat hard.”
While he grins when asked about racing on the back roads as a kid, Sams emphasizes that the track is always the best place to run.
“Go to the track and learn as much as you can; find someone who can give you some good help and some good advice,” he concludes.Contact Darren at 515-953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”