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The 2013 NHRA Winternationals appears to have been a success on every level, from good racing for the racers and fans to being profitable for the NHRA. The attendance for the race - which had the best weather its had in years - was good but not great. There were a plenty of empty seats visible in the Top Eliminator Club and in the reserved seat sections but the General Admission (relatively cheap seats) appeared to be at 95% of capacity. Regardless of the propaganda the politicians are feeding us, people and businesses still are watching every dollar they spend, and race fans have less money to spend on tickets especially since they can stay home and watch the qualifying and race on TV (and soon they will be able to watch it live on TV). I would suggest that the NHRA and its track operator “partners” add more GA seating at their national events because apparently those are the seats the majority of drag racing fans can afford to purchase..
Don Schumacher gets his share of criticism regarding how he runs his massive NHRA race organization (some deserved, some not), but one thing is nearly certain. His driver Antron Brown almost certainly owes his life to the new canopy program.
Schumacher spent his own money to develop that system (absolutely 100% different than the Garlits canopy, which was only designed to get the driver out of the airstream and was very lightweight using plexiglass instead of 5/8 “ thick perspex). Schumacher should get recognition and credit for DSR developing this safety system. I believe the canopy system ought to be considered by the NHRA as a mandatory safety item for Top Fuel cars just as a head and neck restraint device is. I anticipate some blowback about another expense added to the cost of racing but I heard that same argument when DRO argued that a HANS-type device should be mandatory. I’ll bet Antron is glad he had both of those safety systems when he backed his fuel car into a concrete wall at nearly 300 mph... and so is his family.
For the first time in my memory -- and I’d bet in the recent history of professional drag racing -- every professional class winner at an NHRA national event was under 30 years of age, and way under 30 at that. That’s great news for professional drag racing where for a long time the major stars of the sport have been “greybeards” that younger fans couldn’t relate to. I’ll bet the management for Coca-Cola Company’s Mello Yello brand were thrilled to see twenty-something Gen Y drivers chugging a Mello Yello during the top-end interviews and later in the winner’s circle. I think this is a watershed moment for professional drag racing.
Since February is Black History Month and professional drag racing is the first major motorsports to crown an African-American World Champ, I wonder if the ESPN or NHRA folks have thought about doing a segment during the upcoming Phoenix race on some of the African-American drivers who raced and won in the NHRA before Antron won the championship.
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