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The contract for the Al-Anabi Top Fuel Team is up at the end of the 2013 season and there are some pretty nervous people on that team (probably not Alan Johnson though) wondering what the future of the team is. I damn sure don’t know and I don’t think anyone but KH himself actually knows what he will do. My guess is that unless Khalid al Balooshi goes on to win the NHRA Top Fuel title the odds are the team is history. Sheikh Khalid “KH” Al Thani spends almost no time with the team any longer. His teams have won two World Championships with different drivers. The idea of nitro racing becoming a big deal on the Arabian Peninsula has never materialized. KH Al-Thani has the only teams and he is taking a much more active role in soccer’s World Cup coming to Qatar, especially since the retirement of his father in favor of one of his brothers. So basically he has nothing left to prove as an absentee Top Fuel team owner.
The only way I see the Al-Anabi Top Fuel team coming back in 2014 is so al Balooshi could defend the Top Fuel title. I’m betting Alan Johnson and the team are going to do whatever it takes to get that Championship for al Balooshi and hope that convinces KH Al Thani to fund the team for at least one more year.
Last weekend’s NHRA national event at the Bader family’s gorgeous Norwalk, Ohio, track was one of the best in my recent memory from a drag racing entertainment point of view. I truly wish I had been at that race. In my opinion it was as entertaining as NHRA drag racing can be. Octogenarian Chris Karamesines not only qualified for the Top Fuel field but put Tony Schumacher on the trailer in the first round; John Force continued to turn the clock back and continues at 64 years of age to be the hottest nitro driver and car on the circuit; an unbelievable win streak was broken in Pro Stock during eliminations on Sunday; the father and son team of Rickie and Matt Smith both won professional eliminators; and Khalid al Balooshi joined an elite group of non-American racers that won a pro nitro class at an NHRA national event.
So the question remains, where were the fans? I have never -- even with a bad weather forecast -- seen so many empty seats at Norwalk when John Force and 15 more nitro funny cars were racing. The NHRA and the tracks can’t keep using bad weather for the drop in attendance at their national events.
Was I the only one who noticed that one of the main stories at Norwalk on the ESPN broadcast wasn’t John Force, Chris Karamesines, Matt Smith, Johnny Gray, Khalid al Balooshi or even the weather? No, my friends, the ESPN broadcast opened one of the two shows with Mike Dunn and Dave Reiff ice cream in hand in front of Norwalk’s famous pound of ice cream for a dollar booth. My point is that in today’s economy the cost of entertainment, whether it is the cost of a ticket or a tub of ice cream, is the most critical component for the spectator. To paraphrase a famous political statement, “It’s the money, stupid!”
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