in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of November 1, 1998
Can you say REALLY BIG . . .
Can you say 326.44 ???
That was the speed recorded by Gary Scelzi in the Team WINSTON Top Fuel car at the MATCO Tools Supernationals at Houston Raceway Park earlier this afternoon. The E.T. was "only" 4.530, however. So what are the performance limits? The only limitations now are the 3.20 gear rule, the tires (18" wide, 118" circumference), the track surface, atmospheric conditions and the ability of the engine to remain in one piece long enough to reach the finish line (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).
Once again, the ultimate speed record is held by a dragster. It's been more than a little galling for the digger guys to see a "plastic coffin" holding the all-time best speed mark for the last six months. (Some ex-truck driver from California, in case you've forgotten). The big question now is, "when do we see the 4.40's?" If it doesn't happen during the finish of eliminations at Houston . . . tomorrow, next Saturday, next Sunday, or whenever the track dries out long enough to hold them, then it probably won't happen until 1999. The conditions at Pomona are just not quite good enough to see it happen, in my opinion.
What rainout?? Yes, another rainout for NHRA. While the racers keep trying to "push the performance envelope", the association keeps pushing the "scheduling envelope". The past month has seen some chaotic conditions at Topeka and Dallas, and now Houston has joined the "chaos club".
Trying to group too many races in too short a time-span this late in the year is really rolling the dice, and it looks like NHRA has come up "snake-eyes" again. (Hey, sounds like a natural marketing opportunity with a casino in the offing. Hmm, and they've got this brand-new track at Las Vegas, just itching to host a major event). Unfortunately, of all the motorsport disciplines, drag racing is the one that is most dependent on dry weather conditions. While the Indycar and Formula One cars have rain tires, and NASCAR runs mainly in drier climates, the NHRA Travelling Acceleration Circus continues to fight the weather gods.
LATE FLASH: The track is dry and the racing has resumed at Houston. It's nearly 11 pm. down there and the finals should be starting at about 2 am. A real "bonus" for the spectators and racers, eh? Another night race for no additional charge. Stay tuned for updated results.
LATER FLASH: The MATCO Tools Supernationals has been offcially postponed until tomorrow (Monday) November 2. Seems the dew was starting to come in and there was just no way the high-powered cars could have safely attempted to race. Sanity prevails (for once). Check back tomorrow night for the full results (we hope).
So, what's the answer? Shorter season, human sacrifices (to appease the gods), indoor dragstrips? The schedule is dictated more by financial necessity (NHRA's, not the racers), human sacrifices are outlawed in (most) jurisdictions and indoor dragstrips would be prohibitively expensive to build and operate. Not to mention the "total loss of hearing" lawsuits that would be generated by the thousand at the first event.
The bottom line is that the schedule will not shrink and in the next few years we can only look forward to even more events. Only when the dollars coming through the gate and the proliferating event title marketing agreements start dropping will NHRA look at the scheduling problem they've created. Just in case there is any doubt on this matter: NHRA is an entertainment corporation, NOT a racers' association. Their decision-making process is bottom-line oriented, NOT racer oriented.
To see all the big numbers, until the rain stopped the party, go to our MATCO Tools Supernationals results page. Then click over to the Points Standings index and see the updated numbers (to the point at which eliminations stopped). As soon as the race is completed we'll have the final results and points updated almost instantly. And as soon as we have the rescheduled date available, it will be posted here.
Yesterday we announced a new local website put together by Super GAS racer Bill Evans. A good looking entry page and when it's all together, should put this lame effort to shame. Additionally, Bill has promised to hold the "flaming torch" high. That's not the only "new" local drag site, as the long awaited (you were all holding your breath, weren't you?) The "official" Mission Raceway site is now up . . . Sort of. Just click on the link and you'll see what I mean. (Interestingly, even though the announcement was put up on October 13th, the new site is not yet up - and we're already 20 hours into November). Maybe tomorrow, eh?
Last night we received news of another new drag racing site put up by fellow alky (alcohol funny car) racer Lyle Greenberg of New Mexico. I've been corresponding by e-mail with Lyle for a few months now, and have been very impressed with his "low-buck" efforts to compete on the NHRA circuit. And he's just as worried as me about the current rules and stature situation for the alcohol racers.
The big difference is, Lyle has actually qualified at national and divisional events and come close to knocking off more than one well-sponsored car. Like me, he has seen the benefits of having a website to reach a wider audience than his race and display appearances can provide. For a first effort, Lyle's site is very well done and is well worth visiting on a regular basis.
From the far side - definitely the FAR side, not just in distance, but in all respects, check out Sharkman's Drag Racing page from Santa Pod, England. This guy is definitely a "one-off" type and has amply demonstrated his loose grasp of reality by linking to Northern Thunder. The best parallel to linking to this site that I can think of is "inviting the black plague home for dinner". One of these days I'll put together a links page with all the sites linking to mine listed, just so you can see who is crazy(?) enough to "spread the disease".
Sorry to have to close on a somber note, but real life has a bad habit of getting in the way of the fun sometimes. Earlier this week, a good friend of drag racing, Max Fox passed away. For many years Max was in charge of the final turn-off at Mission Raceway Park. Many of us had the pleasure to meet him down there and were always reassured that everything was still in one piece and felt secure in the knowledge that getting you safely off the track was his primary concern.
Although my visits to his domain were all too few unfortunately, I always looked forward to seeing him waving me around the corner and giving the thumbs-up. Everyone in the BCCCA and the local racing community will miss you Max. And I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family and many friends. There will be a memorial service held (fittingly) at the top end of Mission Raceway this coming Saturday, November 7 at Noon. (A service for family and close friends will take place earlier in the week).