THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE
'm not sure which Sage of the Ages coined that phrase originally, but he (or she) produced a heavy bit of truth when they came up with that one. It's a saying that is applicable to all lines of work, and all walks of life. As recent events have shown, the "constant change" thing is currently in play in the world of drag racing in a big way.
Take NHRA for starters. The Glendora Gang has redone a big chunk of the schedule, moving six races off their 2006 dates, with two of the switches making for a genuine improvement, for different reasons. The Topeka Memorial Day experiment is over, with that event moving to the first part of June. I always hated to go to that race on Sunday, consequently missing the telecast of the Indy 500. There's just something about listening to Jim Nabors singing "Back Home Again In Indiana" with the Purdue Marching Band blowing in the background -- it all reminds me of how I got interested in big-time auto racing in the first place. Besides, I've always felt that the Indy 500 is the wellspring from which all American motor sports have flowed, and as such, should be the primary focus of racing fans on Memorial Day. A single NHRA national event comes in a poor third behind The 500 and the NASCAR race at Charlotte, so why not make the date change?
The second NHRA schedule move that pleases me is the moving of the St. Louis event to an early May time slot. The closest several times I have almost died at a drag strip have all come at St. Louis, courtesy of the heat. It was bad enough at the original Swamp, back in the old AHRA Grand American days. At least back then, there was a spot or two of grass and a little shade here and there. Not so once the joint became the New Swamp, featuring pavement from drainage ditch to access roads. Death Valley looks good by comparison! Maybe, just maybe, I can survive a trip to The Swamp in 2007, thanks to the cooler climes of Missouri in May.
But the schedule news pales in comparison to other doings in NHRA Land. In a major departure from the status quo, NHRA has adopted a NASCAR-like "Chase," with a season-ending elimination of sorts to determine their Professional category champions. Since the details of the "Countdown" have been detailed elsewhere in DRO, I won't bother with that. But I think we should all embrace the change. With the exception of the overhaul of the basic elimination ladder in the early 1990s, not much has changed in how a drag race is conducted since the days of the flag start. To a certain extent, the change invalidates the "regular season” of the NHRA national event trail. But it does add a playoff element to the sport, something that seems to work well in the stick-and-ball sports. I even like the adjusting of points, although they could have gone with a five-point differential, instead of a ten-point adjustment in my book. But hey, it's a start. If The Countdown can interest a few more paying customers and TV viewers in drag racing, all the better.
And now we come to Ohio. Columbus has become Norwalk, and Norwalk has become Columbus. Don't call Rand-McNally, and for that matter, don't call NHRA or IHRA, the Bader family or anybody else involved. The money's down, the lime pit's dug, the guns, the lawyers ... oh, sorry, that's a great line from a great Al Pacino movie, Carlito's Way. In the real world, Norwalk's bottom line looked better as an NHRA track than it did as an IHRA venue. Time will tell if it works out at the pay window. And Columbus gets Bader's annual funny car extravaganza, so what the hey! Columbus has been on borrowed time for decades, as a national event venue. it's a blow to Columbus area race fans to lose "their" race, as people do tend to adopt an ownership mind set regarding events. It just killed me when the Topeka NHRA race eventually killed off the annual Summer nationals race at Kansas City International race Way, but life goes on, and so it will in Ohio. And when Mansfield gets their IHRA sanctioned drag strip built and on the Schedule, the new era in Ohio drag racing will be fully underway. Be patient, and enjoy.
And now an entry from the "When Will They Ever Learn" category. Nostalgia plays a big role in the exercising of the American Psyche, even in Detroit. The automobile industry seems to be on a never-ending mission to revive certain elements of the 1960s Muscle Car period. All well and good, if only they could remember what a muscle car actually was. I won't detail every failed effort / new model that the Big Three has reintroduced, and there have been a few successes, to be honest. The new Mustang stands as a prime example. On the other side of the coin stands the GTO. At almost exactly the same time as Pro Stock and Pro Mod teams began to take delivery of newly constructed GTO race cars, Pontiac announced the discontinuation of the GTO as a production model. Poor sales was the given reason, and this for a product that at least came close to evoking the spirit of the original model. At least it seemed so to me. Given the price of a new Pro Mod / Pro Stocker, it's a good bet the GTO nameplate will live on a good while longer at the nation's drag strips, even if Detroit has given the GTO the proverbial gaspipe! And that's a good thing. And that's all for now, folks! later!