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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of September 15, 1998

It's been kind of quiet around here lately, hasn't it? No blasts, no fires, no news at all. Well, we've been busy moving everything over to this new website address, so in case you haven't already done so, please bookmark our new http://www.northernthunder.com address. It's not quite as much as work as moving all my top alcohol stuff to Australia, but modifying and uploading over 1000 files takes more than a few minutes, believe me !

Last weekend was busy on the racing scene, with the IHRA North American Nationals running at Epping, New Hampshire and the "World" Finals taking place at Santa Pod Raceway in England. Standout performance of the weekend was by England's Barry Sheavills in his Top Fuel car, with a new European record of 297.19 and consecutive elapsed times of 4.97, 4.95 and 4.94. He not only set the speed record and posted the best string of e.t.'s ever seen in Europe, but won the race and took the 1998 F.I.A. European Top Fuel Championship as well. Quite a weekend for Barry, and quite a show for British drag racing fans. Since this was the last race of the European championship season, the final points standings are now available on our Points Standings page.

The show at Epping was also quite spectacular in performance terms, with Doug Herbert resetting the IHRA speed record to 310.91 and taking the E.T. record with back to back 4.74's. Everyone present agreed that New England Dragway was the smoothest track they'd run on all season. Despite losing two motors, the second of which damaged the chassis and prevented him from contesting the final round against Herbert, Tommy Johnson, Jr. increased his points lead over first-round loser Paul Romine. For the complete updated points standings, visit our IHRA Top Fuel Points page.

As an interesting rules sidelight, following the IHRA World Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio on August 30th, a very quick rules change came into effect for the "Alcohol" Funny Cars. Scott Weis obviously rocked the foundations with an off-the-trailer 5.74 in his new injected nitro funny car. Within 48 hours of the conclusion of the race, the IHRA technical department changed the rear axle ratio limit to "no lower (numerically) than a 2.90 ratio".

Hmmm. . . I guess there still are some of those 2.60 gear sets that Gene Snow had manufactured many years ago still floating around. Or was it even less than that?!? By the way, Scott was at the North American Nationals and after smoking the tires on his first three qualifying attempts, finally managed to get down the track with a 6.01 e.t. I'll bet he just "loves" the new rules; his "competitive advantage" literally disapeared overnight. Gee, I wonder how long it will until the NHRA allows injected nitro funny cars in their F------ M---- class?!? I'm not holding my breath. . .

By now I had hoped to be able to post more information about the NHRA Rules Committee meetings, held at Indianapolis nearly two weeks ago. However, the promised info has not arrived yet. We do have some unofficial "rumblings", provided by an anonymous source, so, in the absence of any official word, I'm posting them in the next few paragraphs.

Please remember that the following is totally unofficial. It was received in the infamous "plain brown wrapper" (kinda tough to do with e-mail, but it came through that way). It is not a figment of my (over)active imagination, but let me stress again, before anyone jumps to conclusions (or off a bridge), that it is UNOFFICIAL.

It is proposed (by one member of the rules committee) that Alcohol would do like Pro Stock Bike and Truck and only compete in half of the events. For example, if funny cars ran in Seattle in 1999 (they're not going back to that s---hole again, are they ?!?) the dragsters would stay home. In the year 2000, the dragsters would run and the funny cars would stay home. Only events such as Pomona, Indy, Columbus would run both classes in the same year. NHRA would take the prize money that wasn't distributed at those events for those classes (several hundred thousand per year) and subsidize the purses at the division events. (Rob Peter to pay Paul, in other words). This way the promoters would get the big show without going broke (or spending a dollar more than they have to - and aren't the alcohol classes "part" of the "big show" ?!?). Extra money would also be added at the National events in which the classes compete. (Oh yeah, at least 50 bucks a round...).

The same proposal calls for a "Winners Circle Program" of approximately $5000 for each F----- M---- series race. Under this program the top ten in each class would be guaranteed approximately $250 to make a qualifying pass. (Can't you just see the racers breaking down the gates to come in and scoop up all that money ?!?). It might not seem like a lot but it would cover some of the travel costs (if you live 5 miles from the track) and would provide "incentive" to get to the races. This same program set-up has worked in other forms of racing and a potential sponsor has discussed funding the program with $250,000. It's not likely for 1999, but something might come along by 2000.

NHRA's dilemna is that so many people have so much money invested in the "sport", that if they try some "quick fix" there will be millions of dollars worth of race cars just sitting at home. One item discussed was that if there are to be drastic changes made to the class(es) that adequate lead time be given before the new rules go into effect. (No argument with that).

NHRA could throw a lot of money at the class(es) and see if that works but they believe the only way to approach the problem is to look at every angle. They feel that the A-Fuel cars aren't setting the world on fire so some may be parked. (Yeah, and for every one parked, two more will pop up to take their place, and the ones running now are getting closer to finding the combination all the time). Dallas Gardner (NHRA President) firmly believes in the alcohol dragster and funny car classes and sees possibilities for a new television package (including live events) built around the class. He envisions it as being NHRA's equivalent of NASCAR's Busch Grand National Series, and plans for it to include highlights and coverage from non-national event tracks that have never seen a TV crew.

The letter went on to state that NHRA sees the alcohol classes as the "headliners" at the Divisional races, and have no plans to change their status for those races. However, the handwriting seems to be on the wall as far as the National events are concerned. Less status, fewer opportunities to perform on the "big stage" and hardly any more money available when the alcohol cars do get to perform in front of a large audience. The only really positive sign is the "possible" television package.

That is really the key to sponsorship and marketing currently, as without television an event doesn't really "exist" in the minds of the general public. And let's face it, the general public is our market/audience; the hard-core drag fans are such a small slice of the whole market that reaching out to them alone is simply a waste of money for any company looking to invest their marketing dollars.

I tried to contact the "anonymous" contributor, but the return e-mail address attached to the "package" was a phony, probably for a good reason. So if the person who sent me the low-down on NHRA's thoughts on the alcohol class(es) reads this "What's New" update, could they please send any more information they have on what's happening/not happening/going to happen. I promise that all sources will remain confidential, unless they specifically state that they do not wish to be. As always, more news as it happens. . .

Black Bar
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