Clearing out my cluttered reporter's notebook

"I know this idea will go nowhere but here goes anyway. NHRA national events now regularly get just about the minimum number of entries for a qualified 16-car field in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock. (The Pro Mod and Pro Stock Bike classes on the other hand get plenty of entries at every race when they are on the card.) So, for NHRA fans and racers, the four qualifying laps over the two days of qualifying are basically for practice. For the well-financed team it's a good thing, but for budget racers it is just two days of added expense and parts attrition they cannot afford. The TV broadcast of qualifying has little drama and horrible ratings.

So, for those three classes only I have a plan that could be good for everyone. The problem is how to keep the teams that are currently supporting the series coming but make the qualifying and racing more entertaining for the spectators and TV viewers.

My solution is to: 1) Reduce the qualified fields to eight cars. Reducing the field will make Friday and Saturday relevant again since there will be a lot of bumping and "banzai" passes. 2) Pay the numbers 9-16 non-qualifiers first round loser money and qualifying points.

I think this solution could be a win-win for everyone involved. Qualifying eight cars and paying eight more won't increase NHRA's purse budget. Qualifying days would once again be entertaining and important enough to make the TV broadcast a must-see. This program might sell more tickets on Friday and Saturday. One thing is sure: when there is no need to qualify, racers will make the minimum number of laps to get into the race.

My belief is that whatever slight chance the NHRA Board of Directors, under the guidance of Peter Clifford, had of selling off the professional categories to a third party, they are now zero. The unexplained absence of President Tom Compton will probably force any large company, investment group or individual to put any purchase on hold until his current position is explained. I also believe the apparent declining ticket sales -- not only for NHRA drag racing but for all major professional sports series -- makes getting a return on the investment in buying the NHRA pro series problematic at best.

Why hasn't the NHRA addressed Compton's extended absence and instead chosen to send their critics and supporters into a frenzy of speculation and misinformation by basically ignoring the issue? The NHRA management team seems to have decided that what they need to do instead of telling the truth is to "stonewall" the press, their racers, sponsors and fans. I have to ask, "What could go wrong?"

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