Photos: Power tools hit the drag strip

It's a bizarro world version of Nascar when belt sanders and chain saws burn rubber.
1 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Two single-engine power tools

Riders on two custom fabricated machines compete in the "Funny Car" class at San Francisco's fifth annual Power Tool Drag Races. Races were held Sunday afternoon at the Ace International Speedway, better known as Ace Auto Dismantling, a junkyard where dilapidated cars, tractors and tires are piled high in an industrial no-man's-land at the southern edge of the city. The races allow only handheld power tools such as belt sanders, angle grinders, circular saws, drills, chainsaws, weed whackers and vibrators. Machines that are on rollers are barred from the event.

2 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Mistress of ceremonies

While contestants gear up for a race, the mistress of ceremonies is the center of attention on the track. She waves green plastic flags to start each race, but is also known to do cartwheels in her platform shoes when a favored team is winning.

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Race car with stuffed-bear mascot

A large power-tool race car with its signature talisman, a white stuffed bear. Earlier, another stuffed animal in the race caught fire and organizers struggled to extinguish the smoky bear.

4 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Shannon O'Hare

Shannon O'Hare astride "Neverwas," a steam-powered tool that raced in a San Francisco junkyard on Sunday. The power tool was constructed from the engine of a 75-year-old air compressor that O'Hare found for $5 at a garage sale; the boiler of a steam cleaner; the front end of a motorcycle; a tire; and a 100-year-old carriage. Its top speed is 12 mph.

O'Hare, also known as "Major Catastrophe," said the steam engine is the pride of a Jules Verne-inspired group called the Neverwas, which plans to take the vehicle to "Burningham" (Burning Man) for quick trips for ice when needed at the desert camp. O'Hare said Sunday that the vehicle was racing against "life itself."

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Sparking flames

Two power-tool cars spark flames during their start on the wooden rails. On Sunday, there were at least two big fires on the track.

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DJ booth

The DJ at races played "Hair of the Dog" by Scottish rocker Nazareth and then changed things up a bit by playing ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid."

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A "jackal" from the back of the junkyard launched a dozen or so banana cream pies into the crowd midday at the races. Not to be wasted, the pie offered a few spectators a taste of something sweet.

8 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

The menu

Keg beer, sliced watermelon and ironed hot dogs were on the menu at the Power Tools Drag Races, which started at noon on a pristine Sunday in San Francisco and ended at sunset.

9 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Red Rooster

The "Red Rooster," a makeshift bike with a lawn mower motor, won a manned race down the track. It smoked out the crowd afterward because of burning rubber on the bike. General guidelines of the race were to "finish your machine before you arrive. Stay away from the liquor. Go faster than everyone else. Don't crash. Win money."

10 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Todd Lappin

Todd Lappin acts as the "safety clown" on the track, handing out yellow crime-scene tape bearing the words "do not cross." The race's proprietors--who are fully insured--make every attendee sign a liability waver before entering the track.

11 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Susan and Psycho Saw

Susan in the pink "Where the Wild Things Are" T-shirt said she decorated the power-saw race car that her dad built to compete in the races. Their tool was called "Psycho Saw."

12 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet


Spectators sit on tiers of tires, tractors and cars at Ace Auto Dismantling, a junkyard in an indusrial zone of San Francisco.

13 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Spider 8

Teams "Spider 8" and "Pigs in Wonderland" race down the wooden tracks. Spider 8 stalled on the track and gave up the win to Pigs.

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Steve Peace

Steve Peace, in his third year of competition at the Power Tool Drag Races, fiddles with his racer, "Lady of St. Ludicrous." The tool is a Black & Decker aluminum sander fashioned with a nun puppet and a bong pipe. The racer lost two of its three races, but Peace said he "crushed some hapless sucker" in the third race. Peace, a marketing consultant in San Francisco, said, "Everyone in this city is simply trying to amuse themselves and we do this."

15 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Big Bird

Big Bird from "Sesame Street" adorns a steel power-saw that looks ready to race in the derby.

16 of 16 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Pigs in Wonderland

"Pigs in Wonderland" wins its racing class, and a fan takes a sip of beer from its minifloat to celebrate.

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