Brian Murphy: Drag racing also in the Harsin family's bloodlines

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comJune 22, 2014 

Dale Harsin, father of Boise State football coach Bryan, fires up his Chevy funny car with driver Greg Borgens on Saturday at the 37th Annual Fox Hunt at Firebird Raceway.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

— This wasn't Dale Harsin's fastest trip down the familiar quarter-mile at Firebird Raceway. But it felt nearly as good.

"I've probably done 100,000 miles on this thing, a quarter-mile at a time," Harsin says as we drive to pick up "The Outlaw," his 1957 Chevrolet Funny Car after its first run Saturday night. "I love it. This is my home track. I love it here."

We're not hitting 200 mph. Heck, we're barely cracking 40, but the stands are crowded and the track officials are waving and the track is open. Add 150 mph, and it's not hard to imagine how addictive that adrenaline rush must be.

It's been a few years since Harsin, slowed after surgeries on both legs in recent years, has made it out to Firebird and its annual Fox Hunt.

He's not racing anymore, turning over "The Outlaw" to Greg Borgens, who has worked with Harsin for more than 25 years. Borgens covered the quarter-mile in 6.92 seconds Saturday night, reaching 206.23 mph. Borgens emerged from the car - its green flames bursting from a black background - with a huge smile.

It matched Harsin's grin. Surrounded by family, including Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin, his son, Dale Harsin went to work on the car. Pulling out the spark plugs. Checking the valves. Cooling the engine. Restoring the parachute.

Just like old times. Just like the days when it was Bryan behind the wheel. He still holds the car record, reaching 232 mph back in 2006, his final racing season before family and football pushed him out of the driver's seat.

"Every second. It's hard to be out here," Bryan says when asked whether he missed racing.

It didn't look hard. Bryan Harsin looked happy. Happy to be back at a place where he has such good memories. Happy to see his dad happy.

Dale Harsin injured his leg three years ago, when he was pinned under his car at a racetrack. It led to several surgeries. He spent most of 2012 recuperating. His wife, Janet, was battling breast cancer at the same time.

Bryan was across the country coaching.

Saturday night they were all together, all healthy, father and son telling stories.

About their travels. "A lot of trips, a lot of different places," Dale says. "It cost me a lot of quarters for video games."

About that time Bryan set his record. "Dad had it tuned pretty good for him that day," Dale says.

About the time former Boise State coach Pokey Allen wanted to know how fast the cars go. Well, Dale told him, it can go from the goal post to the 20-yard line in one second and cover the entire field in about 2.5 seconds. Allen nodded. "Can it catch?" Allen joked.

All these years later, father and son laugh at the story, one they've probably told hundreds of times.

Bryan Harsin says his racing days aren't done. He's just not sure when he'll be able to get back in the car. (His wife, Kes, hopes they are. "Done that already.") Dale says Bryan would race professionally if it paid as well as coaching and the younger Harsin breaks down a car with the same intensity that he breaks down a defense.

Dale Harsin sounds like he could be done.

"Maybe I will. Maybe I won't," he says.

Bryan wants to see his dad race again. Just like old times. Then sell off the whole "Dale Harsin Racing" operation - the funny car, the double-decker hauler that can hold four cars and act as a motor home.

But not yet. Not on this night. Not when there are stories to tell. And hands to shake. And a few more memories to make.

"It used to be Bryan was my son," Dale says. "Now I'm Bryan's dad."

It's a title he wears proudly.

But a title that might not fit here, one of the few places in the Treasure Valley where just as many folks want to say hello to Dale.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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