Bakersfield: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

First off it’s a New Year with new hopes and dreams for a lot of people, racers and fans alike.  I hope with all sincerity that everybody had a merry Christmas (yes I use that non politically correct term) and a happy New Year.

Just before the beginning of the holiday season, I received an email from Rich Roberts who campaigns a AA/Gas car out of Central California. Rich appeared to be up on the chip a bit. He informed me that he had received an email from the promoter at Auto Club Speedway Famosa, Blake Bowser.  This email was to inform them that the AA/Gas Supercharged cars, along with the remainder of Group 1 which includes Junior Fuel, A/Fuel and 7.0 Pro,  would be removed from the event lineup at the 2011 March Meet and that they would have to run at another event at the Speedworld facility just northwest of Phoenix’s track. Rich cited the fact the Gassers have been a mainstay at the March Meet, and have been the cornerstone of the Nostalgia movement. He couldn’t figure out why Mr. Bowser would do such a thing. So the next morning I called and left a message with Mr. Bowser to get his side of the story.

Now Mr. Bowser did in fact call in to the Editor-in-Chief of Drag Racing Online, Jeff Burk, and gave Jeff a brief rundown on what went on. However,  Mr. Bowser failed to return my original phone call along with two others I made to the track.  I was going to ask other questions not covered in his press release in order  to get information for this article.  Not returning calls is Mr. Bowser’s prerogative; however this leaves me with only the information on the press release issued and the information given to me from outside sources to formulate this article.

Now I maybe understand why Mr. Bowser did what he did. Of course if he had returned my phone calls, I could get an actual understanding, however this didn’t happen; therefore one can only make an educated guess that his decision was based on the fact he didn’t want or need another “maintenance“ class at this event. Meaning a class where between-rounds maintenance is something more than checking the oil, cooling down, adding fuel, and checking air pressure. With the events at Bakersfield lately running into either Monday or the following weeks as his DRO press release stated, he needed to cut down on classes in order to get the event in on time, and apparently keep the cost of running the event down. Understandable, and I can also understand the possible underlying unsaid reason for this change. Nitro sells. The more fuel cars in the pits, the better it is for Mr. Bowser and the track's bottom line. This can be a very smart business decision. There is, however,  a very old saying, which goes “you dance with the one who brought you.”  The Group 1 cars have been very loyal to this particular facility in the past according to some. I can see how the people who make up Group 1 would feel like they've been shunned.  It's a part of the way business is conducted these days; loyalty has nothing to do with anything. 'What have you done for me lately' seems to be the attitude. I feel it is the attitude coming from the people at Bakersfield. The racers in Group 1, it can be argued, have been loyal to the track for many years. Now all of a sudden, since there are a plethora of nitro funny cars (such as there were Top Fuel cars a few years ago), there is no real need for the competitors in Group 1.  They are being told in a sense that they are slowing down the show and that having them there is pushing the finish time beyond dark and into the next day or next weekend.  Or that the payout of these classes is affecting the bottom line.  Interestingly enough, there was nothing stated in the press release related to maybe putting a moratorium on allowing nitro cars to run Test 'n Tune laps during downtimes on Sunday. These Test 'n Tune laps have, in the past, resulted in starting line to finish line guardrail to guardrail oildowns that take nearly an hour and a half to clean up. This couldn't possibly have figured into the delay of the event. (Wink wink, nudge nudge ) Or the fact that weather sometimes plays into those delays either, with the occasional sandstorm of biblical proportions enveloping the facility. (Say no more.)