How to Win a Drag Race, Even in a Minivan. The Secret is Synthetic Oil

Ron Capps, Nhra Funny Car Driver, Pennzoil Synthetic Oil
Ron Capps, NHRA Funny Car driver, along with the Pennzoil/Shell Research team and journalists attending the drag race.

I used to think that a drag racing was for muscle head guys.

I really didn’t think it would be a place I’d ever want to go. Drag racing was certainly not something I thought I’d want to do.

Then, I went to a drag race and saw I was wrong on both counts. First, it turns out that there are a lot of women out there. Drag racing isn’t just for the guys. When you walk into a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing event, it’s a pretty diverse crowd of people.

No mistake, there were plenty of muscle head guys. But the women are just as knowledgeable and part of the drag racing car culture as the guys. It might be because there are some pretty amazing women drivers out there like Pennzoil spokesperson Leah Pritchett. Can I tell you that just standing next to her I could feel all the “Girl Power! radiating from her? She’s smart, driven and just a total #GirlCrush.

Related: Do you know which oil is right for your car? Read this before your next oil change

Meeting Such An Amazing Driver Like Leah Pritchett Was The Best Way To Visit My First Drag Race. Photo Credit: Kendra Pierson

Meeting such an amazing driver like Leah Pritchett was the highlight of my first drag race. Photo: Kendra Pierson

The Four Seconds of a Race…And Decades of Research to Get There

What made my visit to NHRA event so interesting was that I learned this isn’t just about driving fast. Behind the scenes are years of science, technology and research. Yes, start to finish a race is less than four seconds of skill, power and speed along with a perfectly tuned engine. But it’s the research, technology and innovation that gets a car to number one.

Then, there are factors that I wouldn’t have imagined as having a huge impact on the race, which include fuel, even the humidity of the day and altitude of the track. The best racing teams are monitoring and adjusting for all these in real time. Luckily, the average driver (me, you) doesn’t have to do this to get the optimal performance from our cars.

Related: What it’s like to go 660 MPH. In a car. On a drag strip (OK, not really, but almost).

Drivers Like Leah Pritchett Are Editing And Adjusting The Needs On The Track. Photo Credit: Kendra Pierson

Drivers like Leah Pritchett are editing and adjusting their needs based on the track. Photo: Kendra Pierson

What the Heck is Synthetic Oil, and What Does It Mean to Me?  

The day before attending the drag race event I was a guest of Pennzoil at the Shell Technology Center in Houston. During the tour I learned more of how the technology impacts not just race cars, but also the car in my driveway.

I went in knowing oil is one of those things that runs your car. It’s important for keeping your engine running smooth. I thought that all motor oils came from crude oil and were generally the same. Technically, there are several different types of lubricants and they’re rated at different levels. Long story short, the biggest difference is the purity of the motor oil, its additives and how they treat your engine.

Most traditional motor oils come from crude oils (the sludge that comes out of the ground) and it has to go through a significant refining process. The oil goes through a process that creates oil that’s about 90% pure. Each manufacturer has their own refining process and adds their own additives to create their own blend.

Then, there’s conventional oil and synthetic oil. Conventional oil is less expensive and is less refined. Synthetic oil can be made from a variety of compounds and is designed to last longer in your engine. What makes Pennzoil Synthetic stand out is that they’ve spent more than 40 years working on the technology to create the first natural gas-to-liquid process to convert natural gas into motor oil.

Related: Girls, Welcome to the Car Club: Car Culture Isn’t Just for the Boys

Seeing Is Believing. The Color Difffernce Between A Traditional Motor Oil And The Pennzoil Synthetic Measured Over Time In The Lab. The Pennzoil (Back Row) Stays Clear Longer. Photo Credit: Kendra Pierson

Seeing is believing. The color difffernce between a traditional motor oil and the Pennzoil synthetic measured over time in the lab. The Pennzoil (back row) stays clear longer. Photo: Kendra Pierson

I asked Sean Nguyen, the chemist and lubricant scientist who took the lead in giving us the tour of the Shell Technology Center test labs, what makes the Pennzoil Synthetic so much better for me as a regular car driver. He explained, “As a synthetic, you should get better cold temperature protection, lower volatility and more stable oxidation, meaning it won’t age or degrade over time.” Pennzoil Synthetic comes from a natural gas that 99.5% pure to start with. Because oil made from natural gas starts with fewer impurities, there aren’t as many different compounds in the oil that will burn off and cause wear on my engine.

When I asked Sean about how the natural gas-to-liquid compares to standard oils through the refining process, he explained to me that the synthetic oil is more environmentally friendly because it’s a natural byproduct of oil fields. The natural gas is being captured as opposed to just being burned off with a traditional refining process.

Lessons In How To Win A Drag Race...even In A Minivan | #Poweredbypennzoil |

OK, not a minivan, but a more traditional drag racer, which is essentially the research and development lab for how our cars perform every day. Photo: Penzoil

How to Win A Drag Race in Your Car, Even if it’s a Minivan

Pennzoil tests their motor oils in not only in the lab and in high performance race cars.  The team is continuously working in partnership with auto manufacturers like Chrysler and even in taxi cabs in cities like Las Vegas and New York. All of the research goes to work for normal drivers like us.

On the track the day after visiting the Shell Technology Center, all the discussions made a lot more sense. I saw firsthand that teams were checking their oil, gas and adjusting real time to account for any differences.  The cars in our driveways aren’t being checked and adjusted after every trip but that may even be more of a reason that we should consider synthetic oils. Just this year alone, my car has been from cold, snowy Minnesota to sunny, humid Florida. Using a quality oil is going to protect my car much better from these changes in temperature.

At the end of the day,  I learned that while I might not have the skill, speed and power to win a drag race, one of the factors that I can control to win a drag race is going to be a quality motor oil.

What The Heck Is Synthetic Oil? Can It Help Your Minivan Perform More Like A Drag Strip Star? Yes! Here'S What We Learned And What You Need To Know.

Disclosure: I was Pennzoil’s guest for this event and tour; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

Kendra Pierson is a freelance writer, lifestyle blogger, wife and mother of two homeschooled boys based in the Atlanta... More about Kendra Pierson