Ahead of us, the runway stretches seemingly into eternity, its physical dimensions masked by a shimmering heat haze. In the nearer distance, two giant red flags delineate the quarter- and half-mile posts of this makeshift drag strip. And to the right, as we stage on one of Luke Air Force Base's two runways, there's a menacing, flat gray F-16 Viper of the U.S. Air Force's 56th Fighter Wing. Cool or what?That's right: We're racing a $20 million fighter plane. The chosen weapon is a Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, the racing version of the V-10 supercar. Strapped in tight, open exhausts blaring, I'm waiting for the countdown from the Luke tower to race the fighter, which is going to blast off using its afterburner for added impetus. Me? I have 520 hp against 25,000 pounds of thrust. It's like sending out a peashooter against an Uzi.
As the tower radios, "Viper two, ready?" my pulse elevates and my breathing deepens. The Comp Coupe has a trick carbon-carbon clutch, and it requires a deft touch to get the car off the line without lighting up the slick tires or bogging down. If I get this wrong, there's ridicule from the Dodge and USAF guys and humiliation in front of more than 100,000 people at the Luke Days air show.... Read full article