BRING ON THE NEW YEAR
t's that time of year here in the Midwest. The weather is turning chilly, and if you are working the nine-to-five drill, Daylight Savings Time keeps you in the dark coming and going. A real cheery setup, right? So it's only natural to turn one's thoughts to the coming 2007 drag racing season, and what it might hold in store for us. Let's start with NHRA's new "Chase" program.
If you added up all the collective hand-wringing that has taken place since NHRA went public with their points chase change, nobody would have a hand left to wring! Quite a lot of the complaining has centered on the belief that NHRA was merely copying, in a knee jerk sorta way, what NASCAR has done. To that I say, "so what?" Last time I checked, NASCAR was enjoying some level of success, to say the least. And even the most vocal of the new program's critics cannot deny the move has generated new interest in the sport, in media outlets that usually ignore drag racing totally. And what's wrong with that?
More importantly, the NHRA Chase may just result in a return to real racing, as opposed to “infomercial racing” as some have suggested is the reality on the current NHRA tour. Think about it. How many times have the cameras gone to interview the loser of a given round, who wears the "right" sponsor logos, while more or less ignoring the winner, an independent or "lesser light" on the tour? Do the NFL cameras seek out the losing quarterback, while the winners skulk off to their locker room? No, they do not! Frankly, drag racing's relevance as a legitimate sport slips a bit every time this happens, when a racer's corporate profile outstrips what he has or hasn't just put down the track.
As the 2007 season unfolds, the spotlight should shift to those in the hunt for the pro category championships, regardless of what they display on the flanks of their race cars. Now, reality being what it is, the high dollar teams will most likely be the players, come Chase time. But at least the carrot is out there to be dangled, so to speak. I for one would love to see an independent or two make the cut, and maybe see some decal switching, dollar swapping, back room dealing action take place as a result. Hey, maybe the Chase can bring new meaning to the term, "Silly Season."
Staying with the NHRA scene, my favorite NHRA sportsman division, Div. 5, will have a new look in 2007. Personal favorite track Cordova, Illinois, and its sister track Eddyville, Iowa, are among several IHRA tracks to switch over to the NHRA ledger. I have nothing against IHRA, and I don't know if this will prove to be a good move. Only the passage of time and ebb and flow of the back gate reveal that. At worst, it gives the racers in Division Five some new quality tracks to race on, and some new racers for the fans at the tracks involved to cheer on. And there is nothing bad about that!
Thank God IHRA (and Evan Knoll) saw fit to finally do what virtually everyone in the sport thought they should do -- bring back the nitro funny cars! I did not have the pleasure to attend any IHRA events in 2006, an error I plan to correct in 2007. Congrats to 2006 points champ Dale Creasy Jr, and additional kudos to three-event winner Jack Wyatt, a good and personal friend. And most especially, many thanks to Evan Knoll, of whom drag racing as a whole should be very appreciative. No fooling around, what would drag racing look like if EK should suddenly come to his senses and turn off the tap? One shudders to think! But he comes across as a guy who truly loves drag racing, so hopefully it's all good for 2007. The 2007 IHRA nitro funny car scene should be a "must see" proposition.
I hope I will like what I see in the 2007 nostalgia funny car scene. With the Goodguys’ exit from race promotion, it does cast some doubt on when and where nostalgia funny car action will take place, beyond the fabled March Meet. But the scene has made enough progress in the last couple of years to survive the upheaval, provided someone with the proper promotional skills is involved. No doubt, car counts are up, with more being built. And the fans love 'em, especially with old vets like Randy Walls involved, and crossover artists like Del Worsham and Ron Capps taking the occasional star turn. So, things should shake out right on the West coast nostalgia scene, with or without the Goodguys.
I think the jury is still out, here on the Midwest nostalgia funny car scene, though. For every new car I hear of being built, I see a different one for sale. There is still no real cohesive match race scene or any concerted effort to get advance PR out regarding upcoming events. Maybe it's just too soon to expect all of that to be in place. The Nostalgia Pro Comp Association, which just completed its debut season, is a step in the right direction, as far as being an organizing factor goes. But I would sorely like to see all those with a nostalgia flopper do more to publicize their own efforts, schedules and general team news. If you want to get paid to race, someone out there needs to know you exist. What have you got to lose?
I spend a small amount of time on the Internet reading Will Hanna's excellent site regarding Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car racing. I really wish NHRA would overhaul the way these guys are dealt with. As the premier developing ground for further Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car drivers, these two eliminators deserve a fairer shake. I guess I get my attitude on this subject from my days around the old AHRA Grand American Tour scene. The AHRA at least paid lip service to the notion that these racers were professionals, including them in the advance PR activities for circuit races. They may not have paid then any better, but that's an old nit to pick with a dead organization. Mr. Hanna has some fine ideas on how to improve Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car racing. The powers that be could do worse than consider what he has to say on the matter.
Here's a wish for 2007. I wish the so-called 10.5 Wide scene could come to its senses, before it kills itself off! No good has come from the ever-widening rear tire size that people are passing off as 10.5 W. A few have profited, at the expense of those who stay true to the original concept. For what, a few dollars more, a "King of the Northwest" kind of notoriety? I suggest that those who use the 10.5 W arena as a fulfillment of their own egos find a better dumping ground for their wallets -- one populated by racers whose wallet size more closely matches that of the Ego Kings. Take on a challenge among equals, and let 10.5 Wide be 10.5 Wide. And that's that name of that tune! Later!