Volume IX, Issue 3, Page 155

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Notes on my napkin from Rudy’s Bar-B-Que in New Braunfels, TX


They buried Eric Medlen today. We ought to make sure as concerned drag racers, journalists, and manufacturers that a terrific young man’s death isn’t in vain. We should redouble our efforts to do everything possible and in a very transparent and public manner to make sure 200-330 mph race cars are as safe as humanly possible. The amount of time and expense required to do so should NOT be part of the solution. As a father I understand that no words can ease the Medlen family’s pain or loss. I can only say how sorry and saddened we all are and that we will not forget Eric nor rest until all that can be done to prevent this happening again is done.

This weekend’s un-planned eighth-mile IHRA national event at San Antonio certainly vindicated some of my stated opinions as to why eighth-mile racing is actually better than quarter-mile racing for racers and fans. Two things stood out about the race. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house and practically no one had to look up at the scoreboards for the win light. Spectators could see for themselves who went across the stripe first. And many of the professional racers agreed that it was a great race for them. They used up fewer consumable parts and as far as I know not one oil-down occurred during Sunday’s eliminations. The racers got paid the same as if they had raced a quarter mile.

One thing the race in San Antonio absolutely proved was that bracket racing is much more of a spectator sport when it is contested on the eighth mile than it is on the quarter mile. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that spectators can actually see and be entertained by the close racing at the finish line in eighth-mile racing as opposed to never being able to see the finish line drama when bracket racing is conducted on the quarter mile.

Just think about how much TIME and MONEY the tracks would save at national events if they just had to prepare, repair, or groom an eighth mile instead of a quarter mile. How nice would it be as a spectator if you never had to sit on a hard aluminum bleacher seat for an hour in the noonday sun watching machines spraying, scrubbing, sucking, and brooming various fluids off the race track. 

I’m going to get an official briefing from someone at Goodyear Tire and Rubber tomorrow but in the mean time let’s all give the Goodyear folks a little slack and some credit. I’ve been harder on Goodyear than anyone but after all in this month’s Innerview with Austin Coil he says that the tires they currently build are very good. His opinion is good enough for me.

Chassis builder Murf McKinney was at San Antonio, which is the first time I can remember seeing him at an IHRA race in a long time. He was there reportedly checking frame rails on Nitro Funny Cars that use chassis built in his shop. Obviously a lethal combination of horsepower, torque, down-force and 300-mph-plus speeds is stressing the current iteration of Funny Car chassis beyond what anyone imagined. The real question now is should NHRA/SFI make a rule that strengthens the chassis using bigger and heavier tubing, which in turn will probably make the cars heavier? Should the crew chiefs continue to be able to tweak the current engine/ignition/fuel system/down-force packages to keep delivering 330-mph speeds or should the sport finally admit that they are simply making too much horsepower, torque, and speed for the cars and tracks to safely handle.

After watching the bracket classes at San Antonio race on the eighth mile and remembering how entertained I was by the eighth-mile bracket racing I watch at George Howard’s “Million Dollar” race at Memphis a couple of years back, I’m convinced of a couple of things. All bracket racing should be on the eighth mile ‘cause bracket “racing” isn’t about speed or ET it about consistency and repeatability. Who cares how fast they go. I’d be in favor of the IHRA getting the bracket class completed on Saturday night, which is when they usually have their largest crowd, so that those racers with day jobs wouldn’t have to drive all night Sunday to get to work Monday morning. Let the Pros race on Sunday in front of small crowds since most of them don’t have to be somewhere Monday morning.

Interestingly, I did an informal poll of professional racers at the IHRA race in San Antonio asking what they thought NHRA/IHRA should do to make the racing safer and the answer I got the most frequently was shorten the distance to either a 1,000 ft or an eighth mile.

I don’t know about anyone else, but at least for me the fuel coupes at San Antonio that were running an eighth in 3.5 seconds at speeds over 250 and Top Fuel cars that ran low three-second laps at over 270 mph in the same distance bellowed just as loud, smelled just as good and entertained me just as much as they do on the quarter, and I didn’t have to watch the scoreboard to know who won. What’s bad about that?  


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