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There has been a lot of Internet chatter about new safety rules. From Top Dragster/Top Sportsman all the way through Sportsman racing into the local ET Brackets. I have been watching and following these rules for 40 years, trusting that the changes had my best interest in mind, and a little later in life realizing the safety rules also protect the spectators from injury and the sanctioning body and tracks from possible legal actions.
After having taken a good hard look at the many rule changes in the last few years, however, and especially the "marriage" of a lot of these rules to the SEMA Foundation (you know, the SFI stickers on everything we buy), I doubt that my original trust of these changes was warranted.
I now feel it is actually a method to grow the power of the SEMA Foundation, collect fees from manufacturers for testing their products and “certifying” them, and drive racers to spend more money with the manufacturers that have the money to pay for the SFI-certification stickers for their products.
The latest fiasco was a 2012 NHRA rule that required window nets to be replaced every two years. I agree it was an error, but that rule was out there for months before NHRA caught it and corrected it. Do you think NHRA should pay those racers back the money they spent on new window nets when they had been told their old ones were no longer legal? How many thousands of dollars did racers spend getting ready for the new season on window nets they did not even need to replace because they wanted to be in compliance with the NHRA 2012 rules?
I am all for safe race cars and safe racing facilities. I have every piece of equipment I feel I need to be safe in the event of an accident, and always have had. Usually I go the overkill route. Roll cage in an 11-second car, aftermarket seats for better support, trans shields before they were popular or required, the best helmet I could buy, and harnesses as tight as I could stand.
Some of this came from growing up watching my dad's stock car drivers crash every other week and always getting some important information to make the car better from the crash. At that time there were basically no safety rules and it was the racer’s responsibility to protect himself. It's an OLD IDEA: personal responsibility -- but I still like it.
This is not a great conspiracy or malicious act by the sanctioning bodies. I think the original idea of having SFI-certified parts was a good thing and it enhanced safety a lot. Things like SFI-certified flywheels, bellhousings, and harmonic balancers are good things. But they got carried away. They started dating certain items as if they became unsafe by the calendar and requiring replacement of those items long before their useful time was up. This is where I do think there is a form of a conspiracy or whatever name you want to give it.
I feel the NHRA (and IHRA followed them like a herd of sheep) have taken it way too far. I have a few pet peeves and number one is: I have asked the national event tech guys about some of the rules and I have NEVER gotten an answer from any of them other than "It's in the rulebook. If you can afford this race car and a fancy motor home why bitch about a couple hundred bucks in safety equipment?"
Any of you guys ever heard that response before? My bet is you have. They think the racers must have money because we pay for memberships, car numbers, etc just to race with these guys. I just didn't know it was any of their business to think racers have “extra” money.