in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of October 11, 1998
Results are now posted from the PENNZOIL Nationals on our Results Menu. This latest stop on the NHRA Travelling Acceleration Circus and Sideshow tour was completed on schedule in Memphis, unlike last weekend's rained-out (after qualifying) PARTS AMERICA Nationals at Topeka's Heartland Park Raceway.
Now that this weekend's show is over, the carnies have to fold up the tents and load the elephants in their trailers, then hustle west to Topeka for the completion of eliminations this coming weekend. Then its off to Texas for two events at Dallas and Houston on consecutive weekends. Then an entire week off (barring any further rainouts) and its on to the "end of the rainbow" at the Pomona parking lot WINSTON Finals. When the trek (death march?) finally ends on November 15 in California, there will be some mighty tired circus beasts.
This year's NHRA national event schedule of 22 events (23 if you include the Winston Invitational) has seen some seemingly never-ending stretches of races week after week after week. With mostly good weather at each stop on the tour, the schedule has allowed barely enough time for the pro teams to make each event. But what would happen with several (or more) rainouts at inconvenient times on the schedule? Tired cars, crews and drivers would definitely show the strain with more breakage, decreased performances and lesser quality "shows".
Now let's add 2 or 3 more events to an already packed schedule and see what happens. Think we've reached (or gone past) the limit already? Just ask the bean-counters in Glendora whether they need the increased income from more events. With all the personnel layoffs earlier this year, and a general decline in income per event, the natural reaction will be to push for more national events in the coming years. While the 1999 schedule remains at 22 events, I'd be very surprised to see it remain at that number for the year 2000.
Do you really think Dale Coyne (Route 66 Raceway) and Bruton Smith (Bristol Dragway) will be satisfied with a single national event in the future? What about several new "supertracks" that are either in the final planning stages or under serious consideration for near-term construction? The pressure to increase the schedule will be too much for NHRA to bear, with the only options being to increase the schedule or start dropping current events from the schedule.
What, NHRA walk away from "free" money? Not likely, buddy. Eventually the saturation point will be reached, but the racers will always be secondary in the thoughts of the schedule makers. The cliche "if you hold it - they will come" has become NHRA's scheduling motto. And if some racers fall by the wayside, they'll just create a vacuum that will suck (great word choice, eh?) more racers into the "big top".
The driving forces of today's world have truly taken hold: bigger, better, faster, louder. Where will it end? Well, you'll just have to hang on (tight) and see. My guess is that within five years the whole circus will come to a grinding halt and implode and then we can start over with lowered expectations and a new appreciation for many things we've taken for granted over the years.
When a well-known Top Alcohol Dragster team can spend $65,000 per year on valve springs alone . . . in a "Sportsman" category . . . haven't we gone just a "little" beyond the original intent of the class. With an annual budget of over $500,000 for this same car, versus a realistic maximum return of approximately $100,000, then isn't it past time when something has to be done? It really is time to STOP THE INSANITY!, isn't it?!? For most of the other few hundred "competitors" in the alcohol classes, the prospects of actually competing with such cubic money grows more remote by the day. For those who remember Top Gas Eliminator and think that a class can't suddenly evaporate with a few keystrokes on a word-processor in Glendora, well think again, it can and most likely WILL happen. And much sooner than you might think.
Alternatives to extinction? Try asking the dinosaurs what alternatives they had ? Some of those beasts eventually grew so large that their brains could hardly tell whether they were even alive. When the end came, they never even saw it coming . . . Possible parallel in the making? Wait and see? Well, in my mind there are two options: Give up and die . . . or, fight for the changes needed to save the "beasts" from the tar pits. By the way, weren't they in Southern California too?
The need for the alcohol racers to unite as a group and force the NHRA to make the necessary changes to save the class has never been greater than it is today. They had an opportunity last month to enact some of those changes and what happened? . . . Absolutely nothing, save for previously announced cubic inch and ballast limits. Big move, eh?
While the top cars get quicker, the fields shrink, the fans get up and head for the concession stands and still the NHRA "Neros" fiddle away as the class burns to the ground. Pessimistic? YES, I'm damn pessimistic about the future of alcohol racing. The racers are too deep into their own situations to look past the end of their pit spaces at the bigger picture. And many attempts at uniting groups of racers over the years have all ultimately failed.
My personal attempt to get the ball rolling, with the Money, Marketing and Nitro story has for the most part fallen on deaf ears. While it was (allegedly) presented to the NHRA Rules Committee meetings at Indianapolis, along with some other well thought out, well written presentations by other concerned racers, the decisions had already been made in advance. No changes for 1999, with a "promise" (and you know how much they are worth) for a review in time for 2000. The cynic in me would suggest that they (NHRA) are just waiting and hoping that all the alky cars will just go away and then the problem will be solved.
Of course they do acknowledge the need for alcohol cars at the F----- M---- series events (aka: the divisional points meets) as the headliners for those "shows", but at the national events . . . they've already got Pro Stock Trucks, Bikes, etc. to keep the masses entertained. And when they (inevitably) get bored with that, then its time to bring out the clowns: riding bicycles, shooting advertising specialities (aka: t-shirts) into the mob, skydivers, over promoted musicians, and whatever else they feel the rabble (aka: customers) can be pacified with.
I've received some (classified?) information about NHRA's plans for the F-M series events, namely in the area of alcohol purses. They do acknowledge the "headliner" status for the alky cars at these races and do want to increase the purses and participation by the racers. I guess they have to do something to justify all the money they are receiving from F-M for the series title rights. At the same time as they increase the alcohol cars "status" at these events, they must surely hope it will further defuse the arguments for increased status and purses at the national events. Gee, a real "win-win" situation for everybody except the racers (in my "humble" opinion).
So Bob, where is all this heading? . . . Well, in my case the path leads directly to Australia. With all I've said about NHRA and certain drag racing facilities in Division Six, my chances of being allowed to compete at any of their events is about the same as Don Garlits making another comeback. So now that I've started enough bonfires to burn every bridge in a 200-mile radius, it's time to pack up my gear and slink out of the country on the first ship to the South Seas.
Oh great, he starts the fire and then runs away and leaves it for someone else to put out. NO, not quite, but with the current structure of alcohol racing in North America, there really is no viable option left open for me. With all the money I've put into the new car, there is no way that I want to blow up my life savings (and all the credit I could find) for $250 a lap - on a good day.
And that's what it would take to compete, even on the divisional level. With competitors like Dale Carlson, Mark Hentges, John Shoemaker, Darren Nicholson, etc.etc.etc. in Division Six, the cost to run heads-up with those cars/drivers on a regular basis is far more than I could handle. The off the trailer tuneup required to outrun those guys is just short of "burn it to the ground" status. And Bobby "The Bomb" is not my first choice of nicknames.
Now, as promised in the headline, here is the scoop on our latest new part. Nine months and far too many dollars later, the PSI blower finally arrived three days ago. After excavating it from its shipping coffin, the "beast" has now taken up residence in my living room. It's just flat scary to even look at, despite having seen dozens of them in action, and the implications of its potential are just now starting to sink in.
The potential for either "nuclear" performance or just plain "nuclear meltdown" is literally staring me in the face. The monster I've been creating for the past year is now nearing completion, and the butterflies are already swarming in my gut. We're still nearly seven months from the first burnout and already my palms are starting to sweat.
I keep telling myself: "Bob, you've done this before, the cockpit is the same, the chassis is only 10 inches longer, the horsepower is only doubled - doubled ???" What have I got myself into? And I did this willingly??? What the hell was I thinking??? As Tom (crewchief) Mohan keeps reminding me (so "reassuringly"): "Bob, you're gonna DIE!!" Not much to add to that is there? Stay tuned for the obituary.
Seriously though, we aren't going to set it on kill, but will make as many quarter and half-track passes as it takes to get everything (driver included) sorted out before we try to set the world (and myself?) on fire.
Last bit of dirt for tonight concerns the actions of someone (no, not an official) at Mission Raceway Park earlier today, and the possible repurcussions resulting from same. Sorry to be a tease, but I can't release any names (to protect the guilty) until the dust settles - which will be very soon I'm told. It seems that this website has gained attention in many "official" circles, and strangely (?) enough isn't always well received. Was it something I wrote?? Or is it just my bad breath or bad attitude?? For all the news about this situation, stay tuned to this station for the next episode of "Is that a GUN in your pocket . . . OR are you just happy to see me??? ".