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Sleeping in the Grandstand

I drove into the parking lot of the Pomona NHRA World Finals on the first day with a different point of view.  I opted out of the standard media-centric coverage of the event -- besides, the Pomona Raceway Shav Glick Media Center was way overbooked, again.  Outside, I found that the drag racing I used to know is, in fact, gone. 

The days are gone when my friends and I would wait in our cars outside of the Fairplex gate until 2 a.m.  When the gates opened we’d race down the hill in the dark to park behind the wooden grandstands near 1,000 feet to stake out a section of the grandstand for Sunday’s eliminations.  If you wait until 2 a.m. at the same location now there’s a good chance that a Sheriff’s helicopters with spotlights will soon show up overhead.

For the 2010 World Finals I sat in the Pomona grandstands at around 900 feet and basically saw a continuation of the show-killing oildown festival that made for endless delays despite NHRA’s re-implementation of penalties and fines for the Pro cars, after the Vegas II “Oildown Nationals”.  On the positive side, nearly thirty Top Fuelers and twenty Funny Cars tried their hardest to make a tough, 1,000-foot field with four or five dragsters from outside the USA. 

There is no doubt that drag racing fans love to see “cover shot” fireballs in the top end lights, but when that also involves coating the racing surface with oil, the resulting cleanup time boredom would make anyone restless.  In the early rounds of qualifying on Thursday and Friday it seemed that every other pair of nitro cars left something to clean off of the track.  By the end of Thursday, the World Finals had already had a couple of Super Stockers rollover and plenty of leakage from both fuel coupes and top fuel dragsters.

After sitting through so much carnage and so many delays, I was really surprised to see the continuation of the local ET Bracket final rounds.  While I understand the reason for this kind of competition, ET bracket racing should have been contested at nearby Auto Club Dragway at Fontana with the last pair being loaded on Auto Club roll-backs and trucked to the race and run their final rounds at hallowed Pomona Raceway while being heralded for their successful rounds of competition.  The same could be done for a couple of other Super categories to speed up the elimination process, holding the final rounds at the same venue as the big boys on Sunday – not round after round of bracket cars when the Big Show is already way late and clearly under curfew restrictions.