The ground shakes and the air instantly fills with the familiar fumes of the alcohol-fed engines of the fan-favorite nostalgia Funny Car class.
A beautiful girl outfitted in a pair of tight-fitting shorts and a tank top that reads “Reaper” across the front runs out onto the track, guiding the ghoulish 1977 Firebird Funny Car back into position. In the background are a few additional girls, cheering loudly for their driver as he gets ready to make his run.
Also in the background is a truck. Sitting in the back of that truck is a homemade thrown sitting nearly six-feet tall outfitted with skulls, smoke machines and even a pair of flame-spouting pipes. And atop that thrown is a man dressed as the grim reaper himself, fitted with a silver racing helmet, a scythe and a long black robe.
It is just another day in the life of Funny Car driver David Brant.
Piloting the “Reaper” nostalgia Funny Car on the Rocky Mountain Nostalgia Funny Car circuit, Brant has made a name for himself looking at the sport of drag racing from a different perspective. In fact when talking with the veteran driver about the very sport he has dedicated his life too, it is easy to forget that there is even any actual racing involved.
For Brant, it is truly all about the fans.
“The sport of drag racing has such a rich history in entertainment. The cars we race have always been the real ‘wow’ factor in this sport, but for years people have taken that to another level with backup girls, incredible burnouts, show elements – all stuff we try to incorporate into what we do. After all, it really is all about the fans and making them identify with you and really get excited when you come to the line,” Brant said. “This is such an exciting sport already, but when you throw in elements that helps fans identify with the car, with the driver, and establish a bit of a storyline, that only adds to the entertainment value. When I come to the line I want people to know ‘that is the Reaper and he is going to put on a great show’. In the end it is still a race, but there is nothing wrong with adding a little extra excitement before each run.”
Brant and his band of nostalgia Funny Car compatriots have become an exciting addition at many drag racing events throughout western Canada and the United States. Based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Brant spends most of his time coming up with new and exciting ways to spice up the “Reaper” Funny Car team and make it more memorable for the fans.
Backup girls? Check. Men dressed in costume? Check. An elaborate design on the side of the car tying it all together? Double check.
And now he has even outfitted his setup with a flame-shooting, neon-lit throne for his grim reaper to sit atop. It would appear there is truly no limit in the name of entertainment.
“Over the winter we built a throne for our grim reaper to sit on. Throughout the day he will be resting in his chair so that the kids can come over and get their picture taken with him,” Brant said. “It’s all in the name of fun which is really what this is all about.”
The highlight of the Canadian-based nostalgia Funny Car group's schedule is the crown jewel of the International Hot Rod Association's professional drag racing series, the MOPAR Rocky Mountain Nitro Jam Nationals at Castrol Raceway slated this year for July 5-7. What began as an exhibition class at the event years ago has grown into an integral and very popular part of Canada’s biggest drag race and Brant certainly enjoys that added excitement at the very event where he got his start in drag racing a few years ago.
“The MOPAR Rocky Mountain Nationals is where it all started two years ago for Brant Family racing. We had never even been down the track before 2011,” Brant said. “I can’t say enough to my family, crew and all of the fellow members of the club for the help they gave us. Now in our third year we are ready to battle it out and see if we can’t come away with a trophy we really want to add to our collection.”
But just because Brant is all about the show doesn’t mean that he doesn’t take the racing portion very seriously. While he spends a great deal of time coming up with ways to entertain the fans, he spends just as much time working on the car and getting it ready for passes approaching 200 miles per hour down the quarter-mile.
After all what is a great race team without a fast racecar?
Last year Brant qualified No. 1 in the 6.99 dial class, but he bowed out in the semifinals to eventual winner Shane Reykdal when he ran seven thousandths off the numbers, a run he would most definitely like to have back.
“We have a tough road ahead this year as last year at the Rocky’s we pulled a rabbit out of a hat and qualified first so we will have to see if we can do it again,” Brant said. “There will be many talented drivers and crews there and it will be a very, very tough field so we will definitely need to have some luck on our side. We were out testing this past weekend and the crew and I feel confident that we have a strong running car. It will all be up to me to turn the win light on at the other end.”
Still, even with a competitive car and a proven track record at the Rocky Mountain event, in the end it all comes down to putting on a show, which is something Brant can’t wait to do when the IHRA returns to Castrol Raceway July 5-7.
“We plan on keeping spectators on their toes with awesome burnouts and lots of great side-by-side racing,” Brant said. “We want to see everyone come and visit us in the pits as that is what it is all about – fan interaction. Our pit areas have all sorts of great things going on all weekend so we encourage fans to not be a stranger and to come visit all of us. We look forward to meeting each and every one of you.
“Without the fans, or the tracks, we would have no place to go to do what we love and that is ultimately the sport of drag racing.”
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