Farmington drag racer looks forward to driving slow at Dew Days Car Cruise
It may be an understatement to say Derek Hurd lives to drive fast.
"It is an adrenaline rush and it is kind of an addiction," Hurd said.
Geared for fast driving behind the wheel of his hot rod — a maroon red 1967 Pontiac Firebird — he reports last year he competed in a drag race and reached a top speed of 156 mph.
"When I got this car it was the fastest car I ever had, you are rated in quarter-mile times and that is standard for drag racing because I do drag racing," he said. "You start from a dead stop and you accelerate for a quarter mile and it is how long it takes you to get there."
Competing as a drag racer for five years, Hurd installed a turbo charger on his Firebird and he wears a helmet and fire suit when racing on a drag strip.
"The turbo charger makes it run faster because he was running slower, and I put some more safety equipment inside and I changed the roll bar in case you roll the car over, it will protect you," Hurd said. "I have always been a Pontiac guy — probably because of 'Smokey and the Bandit' ... I saw that movie as a kid and I wanted a Trans Am in the worst way."
His first car was a 1974 Pontiac Firebird.
"I hopped it up but it was not a nice car and was rusty and the frame was coming apart," he said.
Then his friend was selling his Pontiac GTO and he bought it and put in his own new drive line. The next car he owned was a 1976 Trans Am. He cut out the back end and took out the back seat to install bigger tires on the car to allow for greater traction performance.
Hurd, 48, stumbled upon his Pontiac Firebird online. He admitted he has invested in many upgrades for his love on wheels.
As a true drag racer, Hurd explains there may have been a mix-up at the hospital because he does not have any direct relatives who got him into cars. Although his great grandfather, who he never met, was a town mechanic.
This year he looks forward to driving his hotrod in the 10th annual Farmington Dew Days Car Cruise that will take to the streets at 7 p.m. Friday, June 14.
Guests can show up early to hang out at the Dakota County Fairgrounds prior to the cruise and enjoy music and giveaways while cars are parked under the shaded tree canopy on the vast green space. All kinds of hot rods, antique and muscle cars cover the lawn. Guests can peruse parked cars and ask owners to share their own personal car back stories.
As a Farmington resident for 13 years, Hurd attended the first Dew Days Car Cruise seven years ago and was sorry he missed the first years due to rainy weather.
"We had a ton of fun and we ended up going back every year and we kind of promote Dew Days because that is my favorite event and our group does not like to sit at a show too long because we think driving our cars is more fun," Hurd said.
The Pontiac Firebird had a good year last year and won a first-place trophy at the Pellicci Ace Hardware car show and third place in a race series in Brainerd, Minn. The car won for the fastest time in the One Guy's Drag Weekend race that covers three states.
Putting the work in
Sharing the back story about his hot rod race car, Hurd bought his car when it was considered a bracket car that was just used for racing and was not street drivable.
"When I looked everything over, I knew I could make it streetable ... I could put some mufflers on it and some tires because the car had slicks or racing wheels, and I got it so I could drive in on the street," Hurd said.
But then the car needed racing gas, a high-octane gasoline that aids race cars to reach high-speed performance.
Hurd purchased racing gas at the McStop in Lakeville until the racing gas went up to $8 a gallon. Now he uses E85 ethanol after he installed an E85 carburetor.
His beloved Firebird does not carry a nickname, but at one time his roommate fondly referred to their cars as ketchup and mustard because his roommate's car was yellow.
Hurd took high school auto vocational classes at Dakota County Technical College to learn about cars and how to fix them.
"I never wanted to be a mechanic but the money was too good," he said. After working for 15 years doing mechanical work, he realized his work was ruining his hobby.
"I sold my GTO because I never wanted to work on it and I should have kept the car and changed jobs," Hurd said.
Sharing his love of driving fast with his true love, girlfriend Melissa Carlson, Hurd won the hearts of her two children on the couple's first date when the two met at a friend's house to watch Lakeville's Pan O' Prog car cruise.
Since his hot rod car is designed for one additional passenger, Hurd gave each of her two children a ride they will not forget.
"They put on the five-point harness racing seatbelt and I said we will not go very fast, and I started out slow and then I stepped on it and they kept saying make it go faster," Hurd said.
Riding in a fast car can turn anyone into a speed racer, he said, kind of like the joy a child feels on an amusement park ride.
Today Melissa said she still holds her breath when the couple drives fast but she is always smiling on the thrilling fast car ride.