Just Like Being There…

Since the NHRA is celebrating their 60th Anniversary this year and I’m entering my 46th year involved  in the sport it got me to thinking about how much technology has changed for not only the racers but also the fans.  This fact was proven to me Sunday thanks to www.ESPN3.com.

Let’s go back a few years.  In the 70s, 80s and even into the early 90s the only way drag racing fans across the country could get results from the NHRA races was to wait a few weeks for National DRAGSTER or Drag News to show up their mailbox or you could call up somebody who was at the race to find out what happened.

Then the folks at Castrol got smart and set up a phone line with a results re-cap of the race voiced by Dave McClelland, it cost something like $2.99 a minute but for the fans who just had to know who won what it was bitchin’ 

Then a few years later the internet started to take off and a guy by the name of Joel Hollander came up with a little drag racing group on the old Compuserve network where members could access information from the drag races on their computers (if you had one).  Then in the early 90s the internet exploded and spawned quite a few drag racing only sites including www.nhra.com. In the years since, computer technology has allowed NHRA to offer live audiocasts from the track PA, live timing and scoring and almost instantaneous results right to your home PC.

For the past few years, when there was a race that I couldn’t get to, I always listened to both qualifying and eliminations on the audiocast if I was near my computer and I was happy with that.  But the one thing that was missing was a live video feed from the track as I hated watching the TV broadcasts Sunday nights knowing beforehand who won.  Another thing that bothers me (and a whole lot of other fans as evidenced by the remarks on the message boards when a woman’s basketball game runs over and pushes back the start time of the NHRA broadcast) is that you couldn’t even set your DVR to record the race without adding an hour or two to the timer to make sure you got to see everything. 

Well that all changed on Sunday for your old pal Bob. 

I’ve known about  www.espn3.com for a while but it wasn’t available here in Charlotte until this year.  Basically it’s a free service offered by ESPN and your local cable company  that broadcasts various sporting events from the ESPN family of networks live over the internet, including this year final eliminations from every NHRA national event.  So I went to my local cable provider’s website, set up an account and yesterday afternoon logged in and low and behold there it was, a live feed from the ESPN2 truck with audio and video of every run that went down the dragstrip.  I was in Heaven, here I was watching the Winternationals live, 2,400 miles away from Pomona in the comfort of my own home.  You have to remember now that this service is a live feed from the production truck and there are some bloopers and intermissions for commercial breaks but I rate it a 10 for the hard-core drag racing fan.  Speaking of bloopers Mike Dunn burped yesterday, it was pretty funny.

Best part is that I got to park for free (in my own driveway) no outrageous concession prices (plenty of food and adult beverages in the refrigerator), didn’t have to fight  the crowds and I had the best seat in the house. 

The only bad thing is that it’s not offered everywhere or on the satellite services, only through local cable companies who team up with ESPN to offer it.  I suggest that you go to the ESPN3 site, punch in your zip code and see if it’s available in your area.  If not hound your local cable provider and nag them until they sign up.  Trust me on this, this is just what you’ve been waiting for…