in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of May 1, 1999
Yeah, I know that's an old, tired cliche, but at the rate things are re-gressing, it may almost come true one day in the not-too-distant future. For this "discussion" I'm referring to the "Sportsman" categories of Federal-Mogul Dragster and Funny Car -- or for the purists, like me, the Alcohol cars.
This weekend's NHRA national extravaganza at Dinwiddie, Virginia's, Virginia Motorsport Park has got some hurting fields to be sure. Eleven dragsters and nine funny cars. To make matters even worse (if that's possible) only nine dragsters showed up for the first round and only eight made it down the track. What the heck is going on?
Some of the cars are attending one of the three FMDRS meets being held in Division 3 (Indianapolis), Division 4 (Hallsville) and Division 5 (Topeka) this weekend. Some cars are recovering from last week's national event at Dallas and some others are surely on the disabled or bankrupt list already. And it's not going to get better any time soon.
While next weekend has no major events scheduled, other than Mission Raceway's Division 6 FMDRS meet, the following two weekends see back-to-back national events at Atlanta, Georgia and Englishtown, New Jersey. Throw in four divisional meets on those two weekends and three more on the following weekend.... and you've got some mighty tired cars and crews and we're nowhere near the heart of the season.
While the alcohol cars are the "showcase" eliminators at the divisional races -- despite not being compensated accordingly -- they are far down the pecking order at the national events -- and are compensated accordingly. Add in a large dose of uncertainty over the proposed rules changes for next season and we've got a potent recipe for impending disaster. Too many races in too short a time, not enough money and/or incentive, an unstable rules structure and it's no wonder why so many cars are staying home.
Any solutions, Bob? Are you kidding? If I had a clue what to do about it, I'd be talking about and doing something about it. It's going to take someone much smarter than me and more committed to the "cause" to solve these problems.
As regular readers of this page know (only too well) my solution is to pack everything up and move it to Australia. Obviously that's not a viable option for 99% of the people currently racing in North America, so let's just say it's not an option. Where can we look for some leadership on this issue? The association (NHRA)? Before we go any further, we can leave IHRA and the UDRA out of this as they currently have very healthy programs with a vastly different structure -- in the number of events, payouts and rules -- than the NHRA system.
The cynic in me might say, heck, I'll just say it, that the "Gurus in Glendora" are sitting back, watching and enjoying all this unfold, ready to say, "We told you so. The alcohol cars can't provide the numbers required to justify elevating their status or payouts. They aren't willing to put on a show for the paying customers and any chance they may have had to create a separate eliminator for injected nitro (dragsters) is just not going to fly. In fact, we are now seriously considering cutting back to 8-car fields next season. With the current entry levels we have no choice in the matter."
And then folks, we'll be on the slippery down-slope to virtual extinction of the alcohol cars, at least on a national event level. In fact, their future at the divisional races might even be re-considered, if the current hot (or soon to be hot all across the country) Top Comp eliminator takes off as expected.
Okay, Mr. Doom & Gloom, is there anything nice you can say? Well, how about the pre-entry list for next weekend's Mission, BC, Division Six race. Twelve dragsters and fourteen funny cars. Gee, a bunch more than are racing for all that "national glory" at Dinwiddie, Virginia this weekend. Hmm, makes you sort of wonder, doesn't it?
Other than reduced travelling costs and less time away from work, the cost per run is the same and the payout is lower. If anyone has some idea what's going on out there, please let me know. At the very least it will give me something to think about while I'm sitting around in the Australian (winter) sun waiting for the race car to arrive.
And that segues nicely into the final bit for today. 96 hours from now, Tom Mohan and I will be airborne, enroute to our big adventure. Years of dreaming, scheming, thinking, working, saving, spending and more spending have brought us to the brink of...... something. I'm not sure yet if it's going to be absolute success or abject failure; fame and fortune or infamy and bankruptcy; or something between those "poles", but rest assured, we'll give it our very best shot and nothing less. As Tom keeps reminding me... at least once a day lately it seems.... "we've gone way too far to turn back now".
I'll post a last update from Canada on Wednesday morning (May 5), just before I disassemble the computer to extract the Racepak download card. The next one (from Brisbane, Australia) will not come for several days -- or longer, if we run into technical problems. So, if you see some gaps in the information flow, be patient, check back regularly and you will be rewarded with a daily dose of the Dragster Diaries from the land downunder.
Some sections of the website won't be updated much, if at all, until I return to Canada in mid-June, but the "What's New" page will be your source of the latest drag racing news as usual. It will be mostly slanted towards the progress of our Northern Thunder Top Alcohol Dragster of course, but we will keep an eye open and an ear tuned into what's happening in the wide, wild world of drag racing.