POMONA, Calif. (KABC) -- At this year's NHRA Winternationals, the sound of drag racing ringing out at the Pomona Fairplex is also the sound of money coming into the area surrounding one of the most famous drag strips in the world.
"There are people here from the East Coast that have come all the way from Maine, and Massachusetts, and Virginia. Hauled their cars a couple thousand miles just to say that they competed at this event. We got fans coming in from around the world so it has a measurable impact on this area," said Brian Lohnes, the NHRA's main broadcast announcer.
And the event would seem to have good timing, as the L.A. County Health Department just this week lifted its mask and vaccination restrictions for large outdoor events.
"It feels kind of nostalgic, going back to our usual routine of coming out here annually," said Michelle Tamburro of La Puente, who was there with her young son to take in the action.
"It's very good seeing people without masks on. I like seeing the actual faces, than just the eyes without seeing smiles," said Rylie Jenkins of Lompoc. It was her first time attending the event, but she was there with several friends who had been before.
The Winternationals weekend marks the beginning of the long drag racing season, and this year starting on time. For the pros, it's like a new season in any sport.
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"Coming out to the Winternationals, it's a little like the first day of school. You know, you've got some new teams, and everybody's got new apparel and new vinyl on the side of their cars," said Shawn Langdon, who drives a Top Fuel dragster. He has memories of attending the Winternationals as a child.
"This signifies our return to whatever kind of normalcy we can have now," noted NHRA broadcaster Brian Lohnes. "For our fan base it's the same thing. It's been wonderful to be in the pits and be thankful we're here, and thankful the fans are back, at the right time of the year."
And -- pandemic or not -- some things never change at all in drag racing.
"It's really loud," said Martin Bautista of Loma Linda. "I can tell you that. It is."