The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are roughly 1 in 14,600, which is infinitely higher than winning the Powerball (1 in 292,000,000) but slightly less likely than getting a hole in one in a round of golf (1 in 12,000). If we had to guess though, the probability of two racecars, on the same run, matching all nine digits — elapsed time and speed — on the scoreboard would slide in somewhere between a lightning strike and striking it rich.
Amazingly, it happened at this weekend’s World Outlaw Nationals at the Orlando Speedworld Dragway in Florida.
Seasoned Pro Modified racers Jose Gonzalez and Signei Frigo, taking part in the NHRA/RPM Winter Warmup, advanced to the semifinals in their two very similarly-prepared racecars: both built by Jerry Bickel with ProLine Hemi engines, Precision 88mm turbos, and managed entirely by FuelTech ECU’s and electronics. Tuner Steve Petty calls the shots on the Gonzalez entry and is a consultant on Frigo’s Camaro that is primarily guided by Brandon Stroud.
Gonzalez gained an .024-second advantage out of the gate on Frigo, but that’s where the disparities ended. The two were .985 to .984 to 60-feet, 2.615 to 2.631 at 330-feet, 3.845 at 201.16 mph to 3.847 at 202.39 mph, and 4.887 to 4.889 to 1,000-feet.
While the margin of victory was .0242-seconds — decided entirely on the tree — the two crossed the stripe with identical 5.766-second elapsed times and both at 256.70 mph.
Matching elapsed times down to the third digit isn’t entirely uncommon, particularly in a heads-up category as tight as Pro Modified with two nearly identical cars, but the odds on any given run still aren’t particularly high. Obviously, the further to the right you go, the less probability there is of matching any single digit (because both cars were very likely going to run 5-something, and from there, that they would both run 5.7-something carries its own set of odds, and so on).
Likewise, that both cars could trap 256 mph is also highly possible, but moving to the right of the decimal point and matching those numbers, as well, is pure insanity. There are 99 possible numbers (.00 through .99), meaning between the two cars, there are 10,000 different possible number combinations. By the time you factor up the odds of matching all the digits of both the elapsed time and speed, you end up with a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that’s right there with the dead-heat Top Fuel race between J.R. Todd and Doug Kalitta in 2016 and the double perfect lights recorded by Erica Enders and Jonathan Gray in Pro Stock in 2014.
If anyone reading this is a mathematician and wants to give this a shot, we’d love to hear the calculations!
Editors note: Drag racing historian/statistician Bret Kepner sent us a note that he’d personally witnessed two such occurrences previously — one at an American Hot Rod Association event in 1982 and another at a United Drag Racers Association meet in 1989.