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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of January 4, 1999

Promised a "Year in Review" didn't I? It was supposed to be posted here before Christmas, then by Boxing Day, then, "trust me", NO later than New Year's Day. Three days after that final deadline it's still in progress. So here is what we've got so far. The finished product may still be a week in the making, so you'll just have to keep coming back (like in a serial) to see all the installments. Kinda sneaky way to build up the "hit" totals too, eh?

This NORTHERN THUNDER website was born on January 12, 1998. From a very humble beginning, it's grown and evolved to its present state. No telling where it'll be a year from now, but for the moment let's look back. This is what the original home page looked like....

Thunder January, 1998

That was virtually the entire site. No photo galleries (no scanner until months later), a very bare and basic "What's New" page that focused strictly on event results, no "Hot Links", no "Top Ten Lists", not an Aussie Drag Babe anywhere. Not much to encourage return visits, as even friends and relatives were reluctant to take a second look or express an honest opinion on what they'd seen here.

For the first few months things plodded along as I tried to learn how a website was put together and what should be on it. It should be pointed out now that until two weeks before this site was born, I had never owned a computer. Sure, I've been using computers at work for over ten years, but learning how to use one application to perform basic data entry and retrieval functions is an awfully long way from knowing anything about how computers really work.

Very gradually, the pages expanded, but without a scanner, the visual impact needed was always lacking. Time constraints, due to my regular job and the seemingly never-ending "NEW Race Car" project, kept the improvements to a minimum. Working without any web-page construction programs and writing the entire site in HTML code made any changes slow and cumbersome. I perservered though, studying other people's work and slowly coming to grips with the basics of webmastering.

Then I took a few weeks off and went to Australia for a well-deserved holiday in June. I don't know how it happened, but the trip served as a catalyst for the real Northern Thunder to come out of its shell. I returned with a new focus on what I wanted to create and what it should look like. Two weeks of intensive, nearly round-the-clock work in the second half of June saw the website grow dramatically and take on its current look.

Gradually, this page began to explore the boundaries of what could and should be said about the sport of drag racing. The "Thunder Downunder" section took shape, with "virtual" sites created for my Aussie friends: Ken Lowe, Sainty Speed Works, Dragster Australia and Scott Ferguson. The scanner received a real workout trying to keep up with all the new photo galleries and navigation "buttons" required. The whole thing just kept growing and growing and growing...

The month of July saw the publishing of my first major story, as what started as a contribution to the NHRA Rules Committee meetings, spun completely out of control like a freewheeling fuel motor and ended up as Money, Marketing & Nitro. Even now, six months later, the fallout still continues to drift in from that "tour de farce", with the latest blast coming from the NHRA Director of Field Marketing, Melvyn "Broken" Record. Funny thing is, he had to read it in Dragster Australia last month to get around to responding. Sometimes bad news doesn't travel fast enough, I guess.

Along the way a few mistakes were made. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, some nasty comments were made about people and institutions. Several libel and slander lawsuits were threatened, apologies and retractions were made and life carried on. Controversy sells though, and whenever things started to get hot and heavy, people began to finally pay attention to Northern Thunder. Early August saw the first really big shots with the heavy artillery, as my two day trip to the Northwest Nationals provided enough ammunition to last for the balance of the month. To see what all that noise was about, check out the What's Old page for August 4th.

September and October saw more of the same, as emboldened by my summer "successes" (aka: EX-cesses), the "editorials" increased in volume and the content got meaner. Finally, a few loud, very LOUD, wake-up calls brought me somewhere closer to earth in my thinking. I tried, believe me, I really, really tried to tone down the NHRA-bashing and tried to focus on all the good things that are happening in the "sport". It's up to you to decide if I've succeeded in my attempt. In my opinion, if someone wants to read what's "right" with drag racing, they have lots of choices, starting with NHRA's own website. However, there are a definite lack of alternative viewpoints in cyberspace as most racers don't want to rock the boat, most fans are too enthralled with the dog and p(h)ony show(s) and official association and track sites will never utter a discouraging word.

So that leaves a wide-open field for me to sit back and throw rocks at almost anyone who doesn't see things my way, doesn't it? Not quite. While I express strong views on a lot of topics, that's all they are, my views, and rebuttals, counterpoints and criticism are expected and invited. Hey, if everyone agreed about everything, or anything for that matter, this would be one very boring world to live in, wouldn't it?

As the first year of Northern Thunder drew to a close, the vision of what I wanted to create on the web had changed several times. To say that my focus had expanded somewhat from the original creation is putting it mildly. Sometimes I'm not sure whether I can continue to keep updating everything and get all the unfinished pages completed, but like everything in my life, I just keep picking away at it, bit by bit and eventually it will all come together. The next three months until we leave for Australia are going to be busier than I can even comprehend and all the good intentions I have for this website may get lost in the shuffle - temporarily - but if you can hang in there long enough, you will see this site finally get to where it wants to be. Only problem at the moment is, I really don't have a clue where that is.

Isn't that what life is really all about though? The journey is the fun part, choosing a route, taking detours, getting sidetracked sometimes. The destination is the end and that's not where I want to be... at least not for quite a few years yet. Heck, we've still got a race car to finish building and lots of races to run. And new challenges to meet.

In 89 days we'll be at the airport, getting ready to climb on a 747, bound for Australia. Then the real adventure will begin and if all the technical details can be handled, we'll be updating this page daily from downunder. So, keep tuning in to see what's happening as we prepare to leave, then follow us on our travels to Australia. I've got a feeling that 1999 will be a year that no one will forget !

Re-reading this piece, I noticed that I estimated up to a week to finish it. To some people it may have felt like a week went by wading through this latest "update" but I've pretty much told the story as it happened. To see all the previous updates, and there's been a lot of them, go to the What's Old index page for a complete, descriptive list. And as always, stay tuned to this page for all the Latest News from the world of drag racing.

LATEST FLASH FROM THE RUMOUR MILL: Supposedly there will be a "big" announcement or at least a news story tomorrow about a "small" problem that NHRA has with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). The newsgroups and Header Flames have been smouldering with the story all weekend and its supposed to "hit the fan" on Monday. The saying that "where there's smoke, there's fire" doesn't always hold true, but just in case, I'm heading to the store to get a pack of weiners and a bag of marshmallows. You never know, this could be the start of something big. By the way, the other big rumour of the weekend is the impending purchase of the NHRA by big-time speedway owner, Bruton Smith. Maybe he's waiting to buy the assets at a "fire-sale" price after the "revenuers" get finished with the association. Stay tuned, this one could get interesting.

Last words of the day: "If you're not living on the edge. . . . you're taking up too much space!"

Black Bar
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