Everything old is new again
here's an old saying that goes something like, "if you wait long enough, everything comes back into style." Granted, someone who is in the fashion industry is usually the person uttering this old saw. But it can apply to drag racing as well. If you doubt it, let's take a gander at the present day Nitro Nostalgia Funny Car scene.
But before we do that, maybe we ought to hop aboard the old Wayback Machine and dial up a trip to the late 1960's and early 1970's. At the heights of the match race mania period, there were roughly two hundred or so nitro funny cars making laps at drag strips around the country. There were enough cars on tour that many tracks put on separate shows on Wednesday night, Friday and Saturday nights, with a Sunday afternoon special thrown in for good measure.
Now it might have been a two-car match race all four shows, but so what? For a decent priced ticket, you could travel a fairly short distance and see nitro funny cars in action. Gee, if only we could get back to that kind of scene. Two years ago, to that notion I would have simply said, “It ain't the old days, and it ain't gonna happen!" Looking around as of late, I'm not so sure anymore.
No doubt about it, right now we are a long way away from two hundred cars and hot and cold running funny cars at your local strip. But, by my unofficial and unscientific reckoning, there are currently about sixty or so AA/FC's currently available for duty. Two years ago I doubt if there were half that many. Most of the action is on the West Coast, but there is an ever increasing number of cars, and events for them to appear here in the Midwest, and things are picking up on the East Coast as well.
Admittedly, a lot of the rumored developments of the last two years have not come to pass, like the rebirth of the Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Funny Car Stars, for instance. Hey, these things take time, so I'm not disparaging anyone here. I'm more interested in how we are going to get things back to the way they used to be, when there was a chicken in every pot, and a funny car in every garage. Or so it seemed. So let's take a look at some factors I believe will move us forward to a constant state of "Sunday, Sunday!" or nirvana if you prefer.
You do remember NHRA rendering a goodly number of current-era funny car chassis obsolete with their new spec requirements, don't you? Not to worry, folks. The old spec cars will make perfectly bitchin' (now there's a word from the Seventies) nostalgia funny cars. If you're looking for one, Grant Downing has two - see the photos in the pages of DRO's Agent 1320. There's a couple chassis on the electronic pages of RacingJunk.com, and Skuza racing had a couple of units in the shop, last time I checked the classifieds.
In short, more supply might spark more demand, and more cars and more dates. I don't think that's a textbook explanation of supply-side economics, but it might prove to be a positive element in bolstering the present day funny car match race scene. The car count is going up faster than most observers had any reason to hope for, even as recently as last year.
With established names like Paul Romine, Doc Halladay and others unveiling new or revamped cars, things are looking up. I even heard someone is building a recreation of the old Chi-Town Hustler, the one with the funky offset driver and engine position. I'll pay to see it run. I'll even buy a T-shirt!
The absolute best thing about the Internet is the connectivity of it all and the speed with which all the connecting gets accomplished. If a track throws together a funny car match race, the mechanism is in place to quickly and reasonably cheaply get the word out to the fans. If a racer gets his car ready for action, that too will be speedily revealed to the Nitro Nation.
In the Old Days, you might hear about a match race two months after it happens, if you knew where to bag a copy of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine. Same thing regarding cars coming into or exiting the match race wars. Not a problem anymore, as long as somebody tells US what's happening. The Internet will handle it!
A large percentage of racers are just that -- racers first, last and always. They race their car and that's about all there is to it for them. But a sizeable segment of today's racers do pay attention to the world around them and are aware of how media can be used to advance their racing efforts. With the proliferation of Internet, cable and satellite media outlets, there are any number of opportunities for today's budding AA/FC stars to publicize themselves. One would probably be surprised if one knew how little spade work was required to produce real results, were one to indulge is such activities. Having indulged in such spade work myself, I know it to be true. You all are welcome to try to prove me wrong. If you don't prove me wrong, you may end with a better publicized race team, and even a marketing partner or two!
MORE SOUP FOR YOU
I wasn't going to do this, but I just can't help myself. Rumors persist concerning the "rebirth" of an AHRA-styled racing organization, rising like the phoenix from the ashes of post-modern nostalgia racing. Considering some of the attempts that have gone down, I never feel entirely comfortable discussing any imagined run at making this thing a reality. But since I'm not overtly endorsing the creation of a new organization, maybe I can offer an opinion or two, in the abstract.
The old AHRA Grand American tour was anchored by Don Garlits. After Him, it was pretty much driven by the funny car field. Acknowledging the presence of an increasing number of nostalgia Top Fuelers here in the Midwest and Texas, the increase in quality AA/FC's in the heartland and the ever more established core group of outlaw fuel altereds running under various banners, all constitute a pretty interesting group of race cars fans could buy tickets to watch. Sooner or later, all these guys running match races in Texas and the rest of the Midwest are going to get the itch to be champions of something.
Forget towing to California -- the price of gas has taken care of that option for all but a few hardy souls. So maybe it's an idea whose time has come again. Time to get it on here in the Midwest, on our own turf and our own terms. Tell me what you think.