Pulling the Chutes
This may be the most difficult column I’ve ever written for DRO, but this time not because I’m trying to find the right words to take to task someone who desperately needs it, or not because I’m writing about another regrettable racer death, or not because I’m under deadline and just have to find something—anything!—to commit to print. No, this is most difficult because it’s so hard to say so long.
I’m leaving DRO after eight years in the trenches with the Agent and the rest of his (or is it her?) cohorts to join the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) as its new vice president of communications. A lofty title no doubt, but essentially it translates to handling the public relations, media needs and publications for the country’s fastest growing motorsports sanctioning body. It can’t be too big of a job, I’m sure.
To say I’m excited about the opportunity that ADRL President Kenny Nowling offered doesn’t even scratch the surface. But even still it can’t match the gratitude I have for Drag Racing Online publisher Jeff Burk, his wife, Kay, and everyone else at DRO who have given me the latitude and support to cover what I consider are the greatest racers in the world. And I don’t mean only the John Forces and Tony Schumachers of the sport, but also the competitors I’ve met at events staged by IHRA, ORSCA, NMCA, NMRA, DHRA and so many other letter-filled outlets, including, of course, ADRL.
Thanks to DRO, I’ve been very fortunate to witness a few monumental moments of the sport, including Mitch Stott becoming the first doorslammer driver to break into the fives on a brisk spring day at Darlington. And “Big Daddy’s” return to Indy with his career-first four-second and 300-mph runs. And Tim Lynch making the first 4.30s pass in Outlaw 10.5 trim over the eighth mile at Jackson, SC. And of course just a few months ago when Jason Scruggs laid down an unbelievable 3.70-second pass at more than 205 mph at the ADRL event in Rockingham, where earlier in the day he also became the first doorslammer pilot to exceed 200 mph over an eighth mile from a standing start. I wrote about every one of those moments only because DRO allowed me to be there.
Simply put, Drag Racing Online made my race coverage career. It was kind of awkward at times in the beginning, having to explain the concept of an online magazine to many racers who hadn’t even joined the computer age. But what a difference eight years makes! Now, rarely do I meet anyone at the track who isn’t at least aware of DRO and most tell me it’s one of their daily “go to” online destinations.
I’m proud of whatever contribution I’ve made to building DRO into the respected publication it’s become. I’m proud of being associated with a publication that doesn’t pull punches and gave me a forum to spout my views—ill-conceived or not. Did I get it wrong sometimes? Probably, but through Jeff’s mentoring I came to realize that racers and readers respect honest opinion and desperately want to learn “the truth” as I saw it.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m going to a far-off land, never to be heard from again, because I’ll be attending all the ADRL events this year and may even take in a little straightline action elsewhere if I have an “off” weekend. I do still have the addiction, you know. But I want to specifically thank all those drivers, crew members, officials and track operators that I may not see so often in the future. I was constantly, consistently impressed by how open and (usually) honest everyone always was when I asked my questions—especially when I knew they didn’t really want to talk about it.
But for now, on DRO at least, Tocher won’t be talking so much. Some of you may think that’s a good thing, but to the others (you know who you are) many, many thanks for taking the time to read my stuff on DRO. And thanks again, Jeff, I learned a lot.
PS. My long-suffering wife, Sue, also deserves kudos for putting up with my DRO schedule. She as much as anyone allowed me to work here. I’m afraid to even estimate the number of days and nights I’ve spent away from home chasing drag racing stories, not to mention all those long nights in front of the computer. In my eyes, she’s as much a racer’s wife as if I were strapping in or spinning wrenches when I got to the track. Thanks, Sue, I love you.