in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of August 28, 1999
What the heck is going on here?... three updates in four days; that almost equals my total for the last two months. Well, now that things have calmed down to a dull roar (back to work, "money hose" starting to flow again, lots of housekeeping done on the website) it's time to get back with it and bringing all the news as it happens, instead of a month late like it's been lately. (Or not at all, as the case may be).
TV NOTE: For viewers in British Columbia who receive "Speedvision" (on the Rogers cable network), you've got another chance to see the recent Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals (nee: Northstar Nationals) on Monday, August 30th. The times are (Pacific Daylight) 6:00 - 8:00 pm (the semi-finals and finals) and a repeat showing at 10:00 pm - Midnight. Write these times down now, or better still, program the VCR NOW, before you do like me and forget about it until half an hour after the show ends....
I haven't logged on yet today, so there's no further news about what's happening at the four major drag racing events being contested this weekend, but we'll try to bring you all the news and results as soon as possible. In the meantime, why not check out these latest bits of "Hot News" gathered off the web last night, courtesy of Drag Racing Online's "Agent 1320".
"Silly Season" starting early
The success of John Force's two-car Ford team has spawned a frenzy of real and imagined alliances. First, Jerry Toliver announced that he was expanding his WWF team to include Jim Epler. Now it is reported that Jim Head and Del Worsham, already loosely aligned under the CSK banner, are negotiating a deal that would put them both in CSK Pontiacs next season. Also in the two-car rumor mix: Chuck Etchells, Alan Johnson (who reportedly would like to add a Funny Car team to the mix) and Al Hofmann.Penthouse gone... Mooneyes back...
Another sponsor bites the dust although it is unlikely that the NHRA will lament the departure of Penthouse Magazine and its Pet Parade next season. With the magazine gone, it's rumored that "Big Jim" Dunn will be back in yellow next year with Mooneyes sponsorship. No word on whether that means the return of Kenji Okazaki. (That's more than rumour, the Mooneyes sponsorship is a done deal, according to NHRA Online)Brainerd Bits
Don Williamson, the Colonel as in "the Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals" and "the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway" reportedly is committed to spending $14 million on improvements at BIR over the next several years including at least one 125-room hotel on site. Already in place this year were a new and impressive main entryway and a new office building. Now, the Colonel is rumored also to be building a convenience store, reportedly because of a dispute, real or imagined, with the Tom Thumb facility outside his front gate. Williamson, who bought the controlling shares in the facility from former Top Fuel and Funny Car driver Gene Snow, reportedly gave NHRA a good faith check for $1.3 million BEFORE this year's event to cover the sanctioning body's share of the split and expenses. Of course, the Colonel isn't going to pay all of that tab out of his own pocket. Parking at this year's race was $20 per car, per day PLUS the admission ticket. (Ouch!)"Concrete" developments
Despite pressure from the PRO, the NHRA likely will not adopt a 700 foot standard for concrete launch pads. Privately, the sanctioning body is playing the safety card, claiming that while the concrete is great for the pros, it is a detriment to sportsman and bracket racing which provides the tracks with their income on all but one weekend a year. Referenced as the prime example is the Texas Motorplex which has a reputation, deserved or not, for being a dangerous track for sportsman cars. NHRA likely will adopt a standard closer to 500 feet and will bring its company-owned facilities up to specs by next season. Already scheduled is a concrete pad makeover at Atlanta. Still, expect the new Las Vegas track to provide 700 feet of launch pad, the same as Bristol.
Speaking of makeovers, NHRA apparently has done a lot of work at Indianapolis Raceway Park, site of the 45th annual U.S. Nationals, but very little of it on the drag strip. The new grandstands, track repaving and other improvements to the IRP oval track reportedly ran in excess of $3 million though.
Improvements or not, IRP isn't in danger of losing its national event. The same isn't true of a couple of other NHRA locales, however. With next year's addition of Las Vegas and the likelihood that Bristol will eventually come on board as a full-blown national event track, NHRA reportedly is looking at places to trim the schedule since its pro teams already are maxed out on appearances. On the bubble? Memphis, Seattle and Houston, though not necessarily in that order.NHRA media watch
The NHRA has recently retained the services of both an ad agency and a public relations firm. Certainly both are needed, but it appears that the PR firm is perhaps needed the most. In a recent edition of the respected motorsports weekly "AutoWeek" that featured a section devoted to the midseason review of all motorsports, every major sanctioning body -- with the exception of drag racing -- got a report. Drag racing got the donut, zero, zip, nada. In fact, the only mention drag racing got was a couple of lines that followed a paragraph on the World of Outlaws. Same deal in a recent issue of "Sports Illustrated" which had a motorsports update section that neglected to even mention drag racing while once again the World of Outlaw sprint cars at least got a mention. Hope the folks at Hill & Knowlton Sports can help.Winston out of NHRA by 2001?
Sources tell Agent 1320 that Winston will be around for one more year as the major sponsor for NHRA drag racing and then will ankle off into the sunset in 2001. It will be interesting to see whom the Glendora Gang romances to replace them.Bill Bader & Bruton Smith
IHRA president Bill Bader is a busy man this week. His flagship racetrack, Norwalk Raceway Park, is hosting the IHRA Mopar Parts World Nationals presented by Ethanol Performs and he reportedly has a scheduled meeting with Fred Wagenhals of Action Performance Companies, the conglomerate which now includes GoRacing.com. Also rumored to be headed to Norwalk: Bruton Smith.Bruton Smith Hot Rod Association ?
Motorsports Tycoon Bruton Smith is taking more than a casual interest in drag racing. He has given his staff at his Fort Worth (Texas) NASCAR plant the go-ahead to build a dragstrip on the premises. You can bet Billy Meyer doesn't welcome that news. When the track at Fort Worth is complete he will then have four National Event sites to run drag races on: Sonoma, Las Vegas, Bristol, and Fort Worth. One rumor that has been floated is that Mr. Smith may look into the possibilities of fronting an eight race circuit of his own. It is well known that Smith at one time looked into buying NHRA and has talked to people in the industry about having his own sanctioning body. A Smith-backed sanctioning body is just a rumor but a very intriguing one and just the thought of Bruton Smith doing this could make the boys in Glendora very nervous.IHRA gets TNN television deal for 2000
Evidently Bill Bader and IHRA are having better success putting together a television package than NHRA is. Reliable IHRA sources indicate that Bader has inked a deal with TNN that for the 2000 season will be putting IHRA races on the tube at least 13 times on Sunday nights at 10:30 Eastern and 7:30 on the left coast. Several reliable sources confirmed that part of the reason that IHRA got such a good package from TNN was that TNN found dealing with IHRA much easier than dealing with the NHRA.
Well, is that enough news for one day? Heavens know what will happen tomorrow or next week, eh? As always, stay tuned to Northern Thunder for all the latest drag racing news, views, results and reports.