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Saying the U.S. Nationals is an important race doesn’t make it so

 

I chose not to attend the U.S. Nationals this year. That decision was both an economic and emotional decision on my part.  Instead of being there in person I stayed home and watched what was generally excellent ESPN2 broadcast coverage of the “Big Go.”

Aside from the fact the attending the race would drain a couple of grand out of DRO’s already stressed budget, for me the “Nationals” is just no longer the special race that compelled me to be attend for more than 30 years.

So instead, DRO’s Editor-at-Large Bret Kepner -- who hasn’t missed a U.S. Nationals in more than three decades and was going whether he had press credentials or not -- went in my place.
 
According to Bret, few of you shared my loss of interest in the race, and the historic old track was jammed with spectators on Friday and Saturday except in the premium seat sections. Sunday and Monday the attendance was way off compared to the first two days.  But by anyone’s standards the four days of nitro racing drew a great crowd that made NHRA a large payday.

There was some good, no, make that great racing at this year’s U.S. Nationals for the TV guys to work with. There were some first-time U.S. Nationals winners, but the prevailing storyline to the broadcast was that Indy was the greatest, most important race on the NHRA schedule. They kept pounding that theme into the viewers’ brains, but never explained why.

The only problem I have with the U.S. Nationals of 2010 is that it’s really no more special or important than the preceding sixteen races or the five that will follow it. The biggest claim to fame the U.S. Nationals had this year was that Indy was the first race in the six-race playoff. Whoopie!

At least last year’s Indy saw John Force and Tony Pedregon make news and drama in an incident involving getting a Force team member into the Countdown. The whole deal was entertaining, but certainly not anything historic.

For years Indy was an historic and important race. Some of my most memorable times as a drag racer, fan, and journalist have transpired on the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Raceway Park (yes, I still call it that).

I was inducted into the 1000-foot Club by lifelong friend Bret Kepner at the ‘75 or ‘76 Nationals.

I saw a 32-car Top Fuel field for possibly the only time in my lifetime, I saw Terry Vance and Bo O’Brocta straddling and riding really scary Top Fuel Bikes.

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