Volume X, Issue 8, Page 7

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Racing news and notes acquired while not attending the U.S. Nationals

Say what? I found out over the weekend from the folks at Jegs that they told the participants of the Jegs-backed NHRA Pro Mod series in a meeting in no uncertain terms that Jegs would not be back as the main sponsor for the series without financial help from other backers. In other words don’t expect Jegs to carry the load by themselves next year.  Then I heard that one of the major players in the Pro Mod series, Roger Burgess, then went to the NHRA brass to inquire about bringing a multi-year sponsorship to the NHRA for the Pro Mod class and reportedly was told that the NHRA is “unable to make multi-year commitments at this time.”
I believe that the NHRA has always just done single-year deals for the Pro Mod class, but, still, the fact that they won’t make multi-year commitments makes you wonder if a pending sale might be part of the issue.

The Tuesday after the U.S. Nationals marks the beginning of the NHRA’s “Silly Season” where the rumors start flying about drivers, tuners, and sponsors coming and going.

Of course, as the lead story there is the official announcement that current Army Top Fuel and occasional Funny Car tuner Alan Johnson is taking his act (and his tune-up) to the desert camp of the Al-Anabi group. The rumor I’m hearing is that Gary Scelzi will go with AJ and return to the seat of a dragster and that Jerry Toliver will join as driver of the Funny Car operation.

The real issue may be how many of Don Schumacher’s core crewmembers will follow AJ to the Al-Anabi camp and will the salaries for them escalate on the level of AJ’s, which in turn will further drive up the cost of professional nitro racing? What will the deep pockets of the sponsor do to the rest of the drag racing teams?

I hear that Don Schumacher has already made a run at hiring Tim Richards away from Kenny Bernstein to replace Johnson. Rumor also has Bernstein talking to Wayne Dupuy, but my sources say no deal has been made

Mike Kloeber has a one-race (so far) deal to tune Bob Gilbertson’s fuel coupe at Charlotte. Could Bob Gilberston ’s one-race deal with NASCAR sponsor Rianni Tankless hot water heaters (who are on Cup racer Matt Kenseth’s quarter-panel) become long-term? The cost of a quarter-panel on a good Cup car is generally in the millions of dollars, enough to be the major sponsor on an NHRA Top Fuel or Funny Car.

Speaking of sponsors, supposedly the NHRA’s Full Throttle energy drink program will make it impossible for energy drinks like Rockstar and Monster to play on the NHRA field. As in no sampling or Rockstar girls! If that is true, how long will those brands stay in NHRA?

O’Reilly Auto Parts, which earlier this year acquired the CSK stores, has pulled the plug on the Del Worsham sponsorship after this year. That is no surprise to me. O’Reilly has always been a series or event sponsor but not a single team/car sponsor.
Do you suppose there will be a major corporate sponsor for the Al-Anabi teams? Can you say Exxon, Pennzoil, Texaco or any other oil company doing business in that part of the world?

Talking television. Did you see where ABC/ESPN and the Versus channel are going to pay the Indy Racing League around $11,000,000 for the rights to broadcast their series? Of course, this includes the broadcast rights to the Indy 500, but if the NHRA is the second largest draw behind NASCAR in motorsports, why does NHRA have to buy TV time and NASCAR and the Indy Racing League get paid for the broadcast rights to their races?

I heard from one producer who was trying to pitch another drag racing series to ESPN/ESPN2 that he was told they wanted no more drag racing shows and would like to drop some shows they currently have off of the schedule.

I think Paul Page is a nice man and a drag racing fan, but he made so many obvious errors during the broadcast of the U.S. Nationals that it was embarrassing. I used to laugh at his gaffs, but now it is just embarrassing. Uhhh Paul, Brandon Bernstein never drove a sprint car in competition that I know of.

Not for publication: NHRA officials are saying privately that attendance is down overall between 10-15 percent this year. Considering that almost every major sport that charges spectators for a ticket from baseball to NASCAR is experiencing the same problem, that should come at no surprise to anyone.

In some of the overhead and panning shots of the U.S. Nationals there were obviously plenty of seats available. Do you suppose that with so many national events close to Indianapolis (Norwalk, Chicago, and St. Louis) that maybe there are just too many NHRA races in the Midwest to keep the U.S. Nationals a must-attend for the average fan?

If driver Rickie Jones isn’t a candidate for the NHRA Rookie of the Year then the selectors simply aren’t paying attention to what this young man has accomplished in his rookie year as a Pro Stock driver.

Speaking of Pro Stock, I hear that the Ford Motor Company is going to trim back their NASCAR program and may consider a return to the NHRA Pro Stock wars. Billy Glidden driving a Mustang Pro Stocker with Bob Glidden assisting…sounds like a Ford “dream team” to me.

Last thoughts. If the NHRA is going to run fuel cars to 1,000 feet, why not just make every class do it? It would offer the same advantages to all the rest of the classes it does for the fuel classes and would actually make things a lot less complicated.

Also, when is some smart company going to start the “3-Second Club” and the “300-mph Club” for nitro Funny Cars. There’s nothing like those kinds of clubs to stir up a little excitement.