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s the first in my series of columns about Nostalgia Drag Racing for DRO, I am nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I was torn between a couple of different subjects that I wanted to write about, however, I thought I would talk about the duality in popularity of Nostalgia fuel car racing. I had a couple of thoughts on why especially the funny cars have become so popular right now. Secondly, why there might be a decline in the number of front motored top fuelers, and what might be a way to bring out more cars.
Funny cars are coming out of the woodwork. It is awesome, and the more the merrier. It seems as though almost every week another new funny car is making its debut. This is awesome. Why is this, what is the reason for this mass popularity? Is it the same reason that funny cars have always been popular, because they look (well sorta) like the cars people (used to) drive on the street? Yesteryear’s funny cars were even more like the Plymouth Arrows, the Pontiac Firebirds, and the Chevrolet Camaros that populated the streets at that time, unlike the late model cars of today that look just like a NASCAR COT, only in the style of a wedge. If the NHRA wants to slow down the funny cars, make the bodies look like the street versions of the cars, like back in the day. No greenhouses, no wedges. But that is an argument for another day.
I can see two reasons for the popularity, and the escalated building rates of funny cars. First, there are more mature race fans out there, and those people who used to be involved in the professional side of the sport back in the day are getting their second wind and wanting one more chance at the excitement that is top fuel and nitro funny car racing. Nostalgia racing allows them to relive those days.
The second is that we remember and love some of the great names and paint schemes associated with funny cars, and to see some of these famous cars come back to life is exciting. To see the Pizza Haven of Twig Ziegler, The Blue Max, Candies and Hughes, the Mongoose Coors Corvette, and the number of Jungle Jim cars around the country, just to name a few, is reliving our youth for a lot of us. It appears that for the most part the competitors and promoters are attempting to keep the cost in check by implementation of rules packages designed to do just that.
Conversely I feel there has been a decline in the number of nostalgia top fuel cars that are coming out and it alarms me. For example, there were only seven cars that showed up to run at the Heritage event in Boise. Those who did show up, I will have to admit, did have some minor issues with weather. However, those seven did get all the planned qualifying sessions in. The conditions on the track and atmospherically were excellent, and as always the new family treat the racers with a great deal of respect. Most importantly, those guys put on one helluva good show. 5.80 E.T.s and good side by side racing. A job well done by all.
So, is the problem the economy, or is the anomaly more centrally located, in the fact that the top fuel guys have positioned themselves as running nostalgia cars in late model fashion by having ten crew guys to service the car, putting on a fresh set of heads and a new set of rods and pistons in every lap? Going from the points-type mags to the state-of-the-art late model 44-amp mags escalates the cost, possibly making it cost-prohibitive to run long cars anymore. I feel comfortable in saying that I, along with a lotl of Nostalgia drag racing fans, feel the need to have top fuel in its original format (front motored) and it’s not a total event without having both top fuel and funny cars at it.
What I would like to see is the top fuel guys getting on the bandwagon with the funny car guys, possibly making more tribute type cars. For example, the Kansas John Wiebe car, Tony Nancy, The Bounty Hunter, Snake and Mongoose (in Mattel livery), just to name a couple off the top of my head.
Secondly, going back to an engine rules package similar to the funny cars should keep the cars in the 5.80 range according to some experts, and keep the cost down. Doing this would expand even more the fan base of the nostalgia series and bring out more cars.
I realize that I’m doing this on what the legendary Chris Economaki terms 'OPM' (Other People’s Money), but nevertheless it might be exactly what it takes to bring out more top fuel cars to the major events. Can you imagine a 32-car top fuel and funny car field at Bakersfield, Bowling Green, or Boise? I can.
Top fuel and funny car are like milk and Oreos. Individually both are good and very enjoyable, but it is like nirvana when they're put together. This wraps up my first attempt at this column, just to see if anybody notices. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.