Volume X, Issue 2, Page 32

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DRAG RACING Online will be published on the 8th of each month and will be updated throughout the month.

DRAG RACING Online owes allegiance to no sanctioning body and will call 'em as we see 'em. We strive for truth,integrity, irreverence and the betterment of drag racing. We have no agenda other than providing the drag racing public with unbiased information and view points they can't get in any other drag racing publication.

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Kay Burk
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Right? There Is No Right To Drag Race, Is There?

A while back NHRA President Tom Compton was saying a few prepared words at the official announcement for Bruton Smith’s new Charlotte drag strip. In that speech he used the words “your right to drag race”. Interestingly I hear that phrase a lot these days from racers. Excuse me but there is no “right” to drag race. In my opinion racing is a privilege that all racers have to earn and work to keep.

Competition is the heart and soul of all racing and there is something wrong when we start guaranteeing racers, no matter how lame they are on the track, just because they used to be good or have a sponsor with a lot of clout they will be able to race.

NASCAR, in my opinion, has bastardized their sport with “provisional” starting spots for former champs and high point finishers by taking starting positions away from racers who qualify faster and should be racing. Long ago the pro teams lobbied the NHRA to change the race ladders from 1 vs 8 to 1 vs 16 to give the bigger teams better odds of advancing. Let’s hope that the “right to race” attitude that permeates NASCAR racing doesn’t become part of the NHRA/IHRA scene. I say again racing is a privilege to be earned, not a “right.”

For the first time since I started publishing this magazine in late 1999 I had an advertiser leave us because they thought the editorial package was too negative about the NHRA. The person who owns the company is someone who I’ve known for years and respect, so when they decided to pull their ad budget because of DRO’s editorial policy it caused me to reflect and lose a little sleep over it. I asked myself if DRO was perhaps treating the NHRA unfairly.

I’ve come to the decision that we do not treat any sanctioning body, especially the NHRA, unfairly. We send photographers and writers to nearly every one of NHRA’s national events at some considerable cost to us. Over the years DRO has interviewed and featured most of the NHRA’s premier teams. NHRA races and competitors probably get more editorial space in this magazine than anyone else.

Do we take the NHRA management to task when we think they are wrong? Damn right we do. If not DRO, who then? Do we praise the management when we think they do good? Again, the answer is damn right, and we can prove that claim if we need to.

DRO’s mission is and always will be to serve the sport, the racers and the readers first and you can rest assured that no advertiser nor sanctioning body will EVER dictate the editorial policy at this magazine. We don’t serve them, we serve the readers and the sport first and always. Any questions?

I swear the NHRA tech department must just love to create controversy. We received an email yesterday dated the 20th of this month announcing that the NHRA has apparently RETROACTIVELY approved a new Alan Johnson Hemi cylinder head for Top Fuel and Funny Car as of February 1. Although the tech department release states that the new design heads had no changes to the intake, exhaust ports or runners and the combustion chamber wasn’t changed, this kind of thing -- especially when it involves anything to do with Alan Johnson -- gets the AJ conspiracy theorists way up on the tire.

Are racers supposed to believe that Mr. Johnson couldn’t get the new head done in time for the tech department to approve it before the Winternationals? Then two AJ heads-equipped cars make the final round in Top Fuel. We’re already getting angry emails.

The question here is, if the NHRA tech department knew about those heads, why would they wait ten days after the race and retroactively make them legal effective a week before the race? What were they thinking? Was the tech department still considering that the heads might be illegal?  Is it any wonder other racers and fans are suspicious of AJ and the NHRA tech department? 


All of the cars that I have driven in competition and many of the cars I’ve crewed have been of the Sportsman variety, so I can relate to Sportsman racers’ problems and concerns. I especially remember sitting in the staging lanes at an NHRA event for five hours only to have one of the track crew come by and tell us that the pros have to run and we should take our car back to the trailer.

With that in mind, I just can’t understand the willingness of the NHRA Pro Mod professional teams and the series backers to pay for the privilege of racing in a series where they: 1) are referred to as exhibition cars, 2) never know if they are going to be allowed to make a qualifying pass on any given day, and 3) are not included in the NHRA’s race reports or given any TV time on either their Pro or Sportsman TV programs. 

Obviously the attraction of racing under the NHRA umbrella, at NHRA national events and on quarter-mile tracks has an attraction and offers benefits to the NHRA Pro Mod racers beyond anything that I can understand. Those racers owe a large debt to the racers who stepped up to the plate to fund the NHRA series after long-time backer Dave Wood departed.

And now for some good NHRA news: Apparently drag racing is the only motorsport with documented growth of its TV audience, according to data in a Darr Hawthorne story you can currently see in the News and Analysis section of this magazine. The NHRA TV audience has shown steady growth since its low-water mark of 2003.

Now that is something that the NHRA should be shouting to the roof tops. Mind you, the increase is small, but it is undeniable, while NASCAR, CART and every other motorsport broadcast on TV except PINKS have lost market share. Hey a win is a win.

Why isn’t the NHRA PR department making a big deal out of this? They ought to be running a full page ad in the trades and USA Today telling this story. But congratulations are definitely due Tom Compton and his team.

It’s been a strange week for me. As I said above, I had a good customer fire us for being too hard on the NHRA on Monday, then on Wednesday we put up a story by Darr Hawthorne in DRO that basically showed that NHRA TV viewership was on a steady four-year increase.

Unfortunately NHRA’s Anthony Vestal and Jerry Archambeault took issue with the figures we had attained because they didn’t match their own. Nevermind that we were trying to promote  the fact that NHRA viewership versus every other motorsport was up. That wasn’t good enough news for them.

So, they got busy and caused me and some of the people that help us some serious heartburn. In an attempt to understand their objections to the story, I asked both men if, indeed, the TV viewership was on the increase, why didn’t they publish those numbers? After all, isn’t the fact that TV viewership is steadily increasing about the best news a sanctioning body could have? I was told that information was proprietary to ESPN and couldn’t or wouldn’t be released. Mr. Archambeault did say that if pressed by an advertiser or a team seeking a sponsor NHRA would give them the TV numbers. 

I’m sorry, but I just can’t understand why the NHRA and ESPN won’t release the viewership numbers to the press -- unless they are something they don’t want us to see. And I can’t figure out why they would want to quash or diminish a story in this publication that basically praises their efforts.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, No good deed goes unpunished -- especially when it comes to working with the PR staff at the NHRA. And then to wrap up the week, the mailman brought my NHRA membership renewal notice today.