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While watching the Heritage Series Race a couple weeks ago at Firebird Raceway in Eagle, Idaho, I got to thinking. Where is the next crop of NHRA drivers and crew chiefs going to come from? Will the sport depend on how many kids the current crop of drivers and crew chiefs have? Will the current management team run Wally Parks’ dream straight into the ground, leaving teams struggling to find places to run, or forcing them to the “Nitro-tainment” of the IHRA? Or will divine intervention take place and some business and racing savvy person or investment group do us all a favor and purchase the NHRA and turn it back into a legitimate motorsports series? HELLO, Bruton Smith!
So where will the new crop of drivers and crew chiefs come from? I think the Heritage Series would be the perfect place. The Heritage Series not only offers a chance for some of the legends of the sport to come out six to ten times a year and relive those glory days and play with the nitro, it would also give young up-and-comers a perfect chance to hone their skills, either as a driver, crew chief, or crew member that could find a place on a Big Show. With so many legendary tuners and drivers in the Heritage Series right now, it’s the perfect place for new talent to be groomed for the next step to the big time.
Drivers such as Jason Rupert, Brett Harris, James Day, Adam Sorokin, Tim Boychuk, Steven Densham, and Sean Bellemeur, just to name a few, would be perfect candidates for the next seat in a Big Show ride. First off, every one of these young men has either the pedigree or the experience, along with the heart and desire, to do big things at the next level. All have had success at the Heritage Series, and I feel could bring new life to the Big Show.
But drivers aren’t enough. There are also plenty of young crew chiefs who could make waves in the Big Show if given the chance.Brett Harris, Steve Watson, and Steve Tyrell are all young guns to watch. Jake Sanders keeps his father’s Mr. Explosive car in top shape, and Rayce Muchmore has tuned Jack Harris’ cars to numerous wins and World Championships. Then there are guys like Brett Johansen, Cory Lee, or John Wertz, who are very talented tuners who have wonderful track records, and lots of success who deserve a shot at the big show, where they would have a chance to shine.
I know that this next statement might just hack some of the Heritage Series guys off so I will apologize for it right up front. Sorry! Would it not make sense for the larger Big Show teams to align themselves with some of the Heritage Series teams, much the way NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have their own organic Nationwide Series team or development contracts with specific Nationwide teams, to develop talent and drivers? Now I can see some of the teams and owners rolling their eyes or flat out giving me the bird, saying, “If that Big Show money comes down here it will ruin our little slice of heaven even more than the NHRA has already!” I can respect the fear that having an influx of money from what some people call the “Evil Empire” may have an adverse effect on the Heritage Series. Would it create a class of haves and have nots? I would hope not, but I don’t know for sure.
However, before any of this could happen, the NHRA would need to get their own house in order. Implement an engine rule package that would enable the front motored Top Fuel dragsters to start coming out and racing again. I will stand on my soap box and scream this to the top of my lungs: we need both nitro classes, cause it doesn’t do the series any damn bit of good if we have eighteen to twenty funny cars and only nine top fuelers showing up for sixteen car fields. If that can be accomplished, it would benefit the sport and the series as a whole.
For all seventeen of you who read this every month, thank you. And if you are in the Salt Lake City or Las Vegas areas over Memorial Day, check out the nostalgia action at Rocky Mountain Raceway or The Strip at Las Vegas.