Drag racing grandma

Published 11:07 am Friday, March 30, 2012

Anna Bryant, 65, of Ivor with her drag-racing 1966 Barracuda. MERLE MONAHAN/TIDEWATER NEWS



IVOR—Collis Bryant and his wife, Anna, who have drag raced semi-professionally since 1994, know all about throwing caution to the wind.

The Ivor couple has raced some of the largest tracks across the nation. Collis Bryant until recently drove a 1972 Plymouth Duster, while his wife’s car is a 1966 red Plymouth Barracuda known as “Grandma’s Racer.”

The Bryants, both 65, estimate they have won close to 30 percent of their races.

“When Collis won his biggest, first-place trophy at the Virginia Motor Sports Park in Dinwiddie, Va., I told him that I’d be next,” Anna Bryant said. “Sure enough, I was! I won the very next year. Now we have twin trophies.”

Racing since they were 47, the Bryants regularly bring home trophies, cash and first-place honors. Anna Bryant has even been featured in national magazines Mopar Muscle and High Performance Mopar.

“She’s so good, when we arrive at the track, the first thing the other racers want to know is which one of us they’ll be racing against. They’re not thrilled with Anna,” Collis Bryant said.

The Bryants, the grandparents of 11, started racing after their four children finished school.

“They were all on their own when Anna and I got into the competition, although I wasn’t sure Anna would go along with it,” Collis Bryant said. “She just kept saying ‘she didn’t like it.’ But then I took her down to the racetrack with me and let her ride in my car.

Five months later, she was driving.

“The only thing is, she’s so short, just 4-foot-9,” Collis Bryant said. “I had to build up the accelerator so she could push the pedal all the way down.”

He noted that many people don’t understand drag racing.

It is an acceleration contest from a standing-start between two vehicles over a measured distance at a specifically designed drag race facility, Collis Bryant said. “These contests are started by means of an electronic device commonly called a Christmas Tree,” he said. “Upon leaving the starting line, each contestant activates a timer that is stopped when the same vehicle reaches the finish line.”

The start-to-finish clocking is the vehicle’s elapsed time, which measures performance and often serves to determine handicaps during competition.

Collis Bryant said elapsed time bracket racing is by far the most popular form of drag racing, which is what they do.

“It is a handicapped form of competition where two vehicles of unequal performance can race on a somewhat even basis,” he said. “This is when the average times of each car after three practice runs on the one-quarter-mile track are compared, and the difference in seconds is given to the slower car, giving it this much of a head start.”

“With this system, virtually any two vehicles can be paired in a competitive drag race,” Collis Bryant added.

Ivor drag racers Collis and Anne Bryants will offer free classes in the sport starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Beamon and Johnson NAPA Auto Parts at 1211 Armory Drive.

The class is open to anyone old enough to drive with a state-inspected vehicle.

“We’ll take novices — teenagers, their parents and friends,” Collis Bryant said. “They’ll learn how to race and will know every inch of their car before they finish the class.”

Once students have a basic knowledge and can handle their car, they will practice at the one-eighth-mile Northeast Dragway in Elizabeth City, N.C.
To sign up and for more information, call Anna Bryant at 334-6267.