Step aside Fire Dragon! Lagoon has a new, even faster ride than thes looped metal roller coaster. It's called Top Eliminator Dragster.

Although the ride was some three months late opening, Lagoon finally got its newest ride online at the end of August, and participants still have time on weekends to reach speeds up to 75 mph in 2.8 seconds (some 20 mph faster than the Fire Dragon).Lagoon is only the second theme park in the nation to receive the $1.2 million Top Eliminator, where riders get to simulate a dragster race down a four-lane strip - complete with "Christmas Tree" countdown lights. (Kentucky Kingdom was the first.)

Like the Sky Coaster (Lagoon's 150-foot-high drop/swing) the Eliminator costs $15 beyond the regular park admission, which enables participants to ride it twice down the track. The new attraction also has Lagoon's strictest height requirement - riders also must be at least 54 inches tall, probably meaning ages 8 or 9 and up. (That's stricter than the Fire Dragon, speed water slides and Jet Star 2, where riders must be at least 50 inches tall.)

It also has another restriction park officials didn't anticipate until they got the ride working - anyone over 6-foot-3 can't ride it because their legs are too long to fit in the driver's compartment.

Indeed, Lagoon's director marketing, Dick Andrew, who stands 6-foot-5, said he can't drive the dragster. He also believes even people shorter than 6-foot-3 with unusually long legs could have problems fitting on the ride.

"We've tried to simulate a drag strip environment," Andrew said.

The dragsters are powered by a 300-horsepower Chevy stock engine, fueled by propane. Young Chevrolet is the corporate sponsor. The cars were designed by a Canadian Company and built by International Armoring Corp. in Ogden.

Andrew said it's exciting to have Lagoon on the cutting edge of a new attraction, although some computer software problems with the sensor system delayed its intended late-spring opening.

Jimmy Sunlight, Lagoon's assistant manager for the dragster ride, said it seems to be attracting - not surprisingly - mostly men in the 30-40 age range. Still, young teens of both sexes and women are riding it, too.

Andrew said the ride will operate weekends through the end of September and also during UEA school break, Sept. 26-27. He also said the Eliminator will be on hand for Frightmares, which opens Oct. 3 and runs evenings on Thursdays through Saturdays until Halloween and also specially on Oct. 28-30.

As with the Sky Coaster, riders sign up for an appointment to do the dragsters, and the new ride has been busy. Riders are also briefly instructed in a special teaching room with a video presentation. Approximately 60 guests per hour can ride the Eliminator.

Lagoon is also completing a special shop where dragster-related items can be purchased. A place for riders to pay for photographs of themselves indoors, next to a sample dragster, is also being readied.

The ride is located on the north end of the park, west of the Paratrooper ride and just north of the old Lagoon stadium.

Riders race down four lanes against the clock. Signs will indicate if they foul (jump the gun) or not. Speeds are not indicated, but elapsed time from start to finish in hundreds of a second is.

The fastest race times Lagoon employees have seen on the ride are around 3.9 seconds, a second less than what the designers predicted. Many drivers average 4.1 or 4.2 seconds.

Drivers control the speed with a gas pedal. They also have to shift once with a push button on the steering wheel, optimally one-quarter the way down the 195-foot track.

Braking is automatic after the finish line on 140 feet of additional track. Steering is not needed since a metal fin imbedded in a track guides the car.