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HILL FINDS FAST DRIVING IS BIG THRILL

Eddie Hill is among the few people who has made a living by driving almost 300 mph in a Top Fuel Dragster.

The Wichita Falls, Texas, driver, who will compete in this weekend's International Hot Rod Association's Tosti Asti Spumante Empire Nationals at New York International Raceway Park in Leicester, is the first man to break the five-second barrier for quarter-mile drag racing.

Hill hit a speed of 288.55 mph for an elapsed time (ET) of 4.990 seconds at the Texas Motorplex in April 1988. The speed still is an IHRA record, although Gene Snow since has topped Hill's ET with a record 4.947.

Later that year, Hill made the first official National Hod Rod Association sub five-second run with an identical 4.990. He went as fast as 291.82 mph early last year.

What is it like to go that fast?

"It feels absolutely terrific," said the 54-year-old driver. "It's a mental, physical and emotional high each run. If more people knew how good it felt to go fast, more people would be doing it."

The Empire Nationals currently is the only race on Hill's 1990 IHRA agenda as he concentrates on winning the NHRA world championship.

"The IHRA races are a lot of fun," Hill said. "There are good people in the IHRA and they present top-notch drag racing. My contract with my sponsors, however, has me committed to the NHRA mainly because of more television coverage of that circuit."

Hill's career hasn't always been so upbeat. In the first race of 1989 season in Pomona, Calif., he flipped his record-breaking dragster at 230 mph. He wasn't injured ("I was back racing 24 hours later") but the car had to be rebuilt and was out of action the rest of last season. It will be the dragster he'll race in Leicester.

"I never thought after the accident we would ever get that car back together," Hill said. "My heart is the cockpit of that car. I am just tickled to have the car racing again."

Hill began his career racing motor scooters at age 11. He also is in the Guinness Book of World Records for making the fastest run ever in a propeller-driven motor boat, hitting 229 mph.

"That record was made in 1982," says Hill. "A few guys, in fact, have died trying to break that mark."

Hill estimates his dragster, with a 500-cubic inch, nitro-burning engine, cost about $100,000. Add in $250,000 for a tractor trailer rig to get to races and a rolling shop within and one can see Top Fuel drag racing is not in everyone's budget.

"At my age," stresses Hill, "I am not ready to retire. My goal still is to win the NHRA world championship and regain some of my Top Fuel records that have been broken by others."

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