Volume X, Issue 11, Page 20

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New notes scribbled on the lid of my bucket of KFC fried chicken

Bouquets and brickbats for the IHRA

Watching yet another IHRA crisis unfold in front of my eyes like a slow-motion train wreck reminds me that since the Carrier family first sold the sanctioning body to NHRA track owner/operator and Funny Car racer Billy Meyer who lost a ton of money and then sold it to a paving contractor and Pro Stock racer Jim Ruth some 20 years ago the IHRA has never really been as stable, profitable or successful as it was under Larry Carrier’s guidance.  It is a tribute to the racers and fans of IHRA drag racing that they have continued to support the sanctioning body no matter who owned or managed it. My only question is, how much more can they stand?

I’ve read Skooter Peaco’s letter regarding yet another IHRA plan for their sportsman racers several times through. It’s a long and complicated letter, in my opinion, but what I took away from it in the end is that with this plan about half the serious IHRA sportsman racers could win one race early in the season and sit out the rest of the year until the World Finals and just have to win that race to be the World Champ. Or they could spend the time and money to run all of the year’s divisional races, finish in the top three in points just to qualify for a chance to compete in a one-race tournament for  the Championship of their class at the last race of the season. A racer could race at two IHRA races and win the World Championship.

Kudos to Aaron Polburn and Skooter Peaco for at least trying to deal with the IHRA’s sportsman racers’ issues and doing it so soon after this season is over. How the plan will affect racers’ attendance of IHRA national and divisional events -- where the back-gate money is often the difference between a successful race and a financial disaster -- is anyone’s guess. 

As we predicted earlier (once correctly and once only semi-correctly) three IHRA tracks, San Antonio, Milan and Toronto, have left the national-event track fold. They are replaced in 2009 by Dallas Raceway in Crandall, Texas, and State Capital Raceway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

To be honest, this move by the IHRA makes no sense to me. Historically, no IHRA race in Texas, not the two at Billy Meyer’s Motorplex or the four held in San Antonio, has ever made any money to speak of.

According to reliable sources in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, the track at Crandall has been sitting vacant and half-finished for two years. They will need a lot of good weather to finish that track for a late May race. 

IHRA’s core racers have demonstrated over and over that they hate to travel all the way to Texas, so why keep beating that horse and continue putting a national event in Texas? Not even NHRA premier F/C racers racing at San Antonio the last two years or Eddie Hill’s “First in the Fours” at Dallas could get the IHRA racers, crowds or sponsors to really support IHRA races in Texas. What makes President Polburn or the Texas track operator believe that a national event held at a track just 15 miles from the Motorplex will succeed where all the other recent IHRA Texas events have failed?

Then there is the opening IHRA race of the season at Baton Rouge (the second time the IHRA has come to this track).  No one since Moose Pearah has made money with a professional national event in Louisiana. Louisiana has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the U.S. and one of the smallest populations. The state has suffered through two major hurricanes and they are still trying to revive New Orleans. And, by the way, doesn’t anyone remember the IHRA Red River Dragway years ago?

Oh well. Putting tracks on the national event schedule that never open and having races where none have ever succeeded before is nothing new for the IHRA or their current management team.

NHRA’s new ‘official vehicle’ is a what?

File this under the “are you kidding me?” category.  I had three people call me from the NHRA event at Pomona to tell me the next official NHRA car would be the Kia!

I hope this is just a bad rumor. I haven’t asked anyone at the NHRA about this -- they are so loath to tell me anything on the record I don’t bother with that effort much anymore. Surely even the current NHRA management couldn’t be so ungrateful to the “Big Three” from Detroit who have supported drag racing faithfully for 50 years that they would kick ‘em to the curb when they are down and make a deal with a Korean car manufacturer.

As I said, I really hope this is just a bad rumor or a joke!

Putting their money where their mouth is

I’ll bet before it’s all said and done that the NHRA will find a way to do business with the Al-Anabi folks. Those gentlemen are SERIOUS businessmen and drag racers with the resources to participate in drag racing at any level. I feel they want to get involved with drag racing with commitments more serious that just investing in teams and racing them.

I have heard that members of the royal family from Qatar tried to deal with the NHRA management regarding sponsoring the Pro Mod series and got nowhere, and left with a bad taste in their mouths. I’m betting the next time the NHRA is approached by any businessmen from the Middle East they will probably be more open to doing business … and if they aren’t, shame on them!

A thousand feet

I saw in the announcement saying NHRA would open the 2009 season with nitro cars continuing to race to the 1,000-foot mark that the NHRA is going to do testing of various engine combinations that would slow down the cars enough to, perhaps, allow a return to the quarter mile. I’m wondering who is going to foot the bills for that very expensive testing program?

I’m thinking no current pro team will foot that kind of R&D bill, so the NHRA is going to have to. I’m betting it will be a long time before that happens! 

Speaking of the 2009 season, I didn’t see a mention of setting 1,000-foot records. For me, setting or breaking records is as important as going 1320 feet is to some of you.

A few parting shots

Ray Alley is a nice guy and has earned respect as a racer and crew chief, but he is also an NHRA sycophant to the soles of his feet, always has been and has never hidden that fact. So his election or appointment to the presidency of the PRO and the six-figure salary that goes with the job seems to indicate that organization’s members no longer wish to challenge the NHRA management or have a real influence on the sport.  With fewer and fewer professional teams extant, that organization is slowly dying.

Here we go again. Instead of the desperately needed paving that would bring Indy up to the standards of what is expected of a track that hosts the NHRA premier race, they’re going to spend money on a building to house the track offices and meeting rooms. I’m not saying the NHRA shouldn’t have a better office at Indy but I am saying that at NHRA’s own track the pro teams shouldn’t have to park on gravel, mud pits or dirt roads, and that ought to be addressed first.

Remember when there were three or four beer-sponsored pro cars? Now there is one! I figure that soon you’ll be able to substitute “hand tool” or “energy drink” in place of “beer” in the same sentence and be right. The NHRA ought to open the door to any sponsor and let the brands compete. Some of the most exciting duels were when two beers cars raced each other.

One last thought. Evidently the NHRA policy of not allowing a company to be an “official” NHRA anything without sponsoring a pro team is over. I’m told that neither UPS nor Oakley will be required to sponsor a car even though they will retain “official” status.