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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of February 11, 1999


Another famous sports name has disappeared. The legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway, long known for its NASCAR racing innovations, became the circuit's first track to sell its name. The track will be renamed Lowe's Motor Speedway for the second-largest home improvement retailer in the U.S. The deal is worth $35 million over 10 years. "This opens the floodgates," said Humpy Wheeler, whose company also operates Atlanta, Bristol, Las Vegas, Texas and Sears Point circuits.

This news item appeared in my daily paper yesterday and signals what must be the start of the latest marketing trend in motorsports. Wonder why it took so long to happen though? The selling of facility names has been going over for nearly twenty years in other sports, so why did auto racing take so long to get on the bandwagon? Lack of stature, lack of the right demographics, lack of marketing savvy? In NASCAR's case, it has moved into the "mainstream" of American sports in the last few years and definitely has the highest profile of any auto racing organization.

Can you guess which dragstrip will be the first to embrace this new trend? That's a slightly trick question though, as it's already happened in the frozen wasteland of the Canadian north. Edmonton, Alberta's drag strip is currently known as Labatt Raceway and for those not familiar with the Canadian brewing industry, it's one of the two major breweries in the country. Obviously a natural tie-in with drag racing, isn't it? Not sure of the details in the agreement, but somehow I doubt it's anywhere near the $35 million in 10 years that Charlotte will receive.

So who's next to sign away their track name? After all, virtually every major event has sold their title rights already, and NHRA drag racing has long been known as NHRA Winston Drag Racing and laterly, Federal-Mogul Drag Racing for the Divisional meets. And we've already seen the sale of two eliminator bracket titles to that same corporation. With the risk of igniting a cerebral hemorrhage, I'll leave that subject alone tonight.


Tomorrow night, Friday, February 12, the Board of Directors of the B.C. Custom Car Association will be meeting with the representatives elected by the racer's meeting held last month at Cruiser's. The issues to be discussed center around the operation of the track this season and how much control of the facility can and will be exercised by Track Manager Aubrey Holmes. Other items of concern to the racers include safety aspects and personnel in the critical areas of staging and the starting line.

For more information on the meeting and the prognosis for results from it, check out the report on Bill Evans' Grapevine page. He's also hoping to bring some news from the meeting as soon as possible afterwards. Stay tuned for what will hopefully be a productive gathering and not just a "smooth the ruffled feathers" public relations exercise.


Belated congratulations to two members of the Vancouver-area drag racing community. Last week it was announced that Ron Farmer, long-time president of the BCCCA and Manager of Mission Raceway will be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame (in Toronto) later this year. This is quite an honour for Ron personally and the local drag racing community as well. It's very well deserved and recognizes all the time and effort over his many, many years of involvement with the sport. Congratulations Ron!

Also receiving an award last week was Terry McHardy, long time drag racer in a variety of cars. His award was being named Police Officer of The Year for 1998 by the Vancouver Police Department where he has served for nearly 25 years. The award was made in recognition of the public service work he has done with his Racers Against Drugs program, which grew directly from his drag racing "hobby".

In a long career which began in the early 70's with (late) partner Mas Hikida in a blown gas '33 Willys coupe, to his own blown alcohol '23-T Altered, to Bill Visser's "OldTimer" blown alky '68 Barracuda and now with his '27 Ford Roadster Super Comp car. Quite a career, both on and off the track. For the full story, check out the Officer makes friends fast story in our Press Clippings index. Congratulations on the award Terry, and next time we meet, let's hope its at the track, and not at the curb (with the lights flashing, siren wailing, etc.)


Lots of rumours are floating around (as usual) and these are the latest ones that we've heard about. The source (a well-placed and usually reliable one) indicates that they are more than just rumours and will soon be seen to be fact. Read on, enjoy and form your own conclusions.

One of the NHRA Division Directors (gee, only seven to choose from, guess which one it is) has been promoted to the position of NHRA Director of National Event Marketing. The person will replace Steve Velliman who has already announced that he will be working as Sports Marketing Director for VISA, starting March 1st. (VISA has a Sports Marketing Department... you mean all those interest charges I've been paying over the years are going to SPONSOR someone else????).

An announcement will be made soon and there will be an extensive search for a replacement division director. Any takers? Remember, there's lots of "perks" to the job: Endless days and nights, All the poop and abuse you could ever want -- and more, Low pay, Lousy food, Cheap airline seats and never a chance to enjoy a drag race. The line forms on the left....

A member of the NHRA Competition Department is retiring after many years on the road to begin a new career at an NHRA track. The grind of 22 weeks a year living out of a suitcase plus endless hours at the office have led to this development. The change should take place on March 1st also.

A member of the NHRA Technical Department has also resigned to take over the family business that has been growing rapidly. The person will still be involved with NHRA on a part-time basis. (No guesses from me as to who these last two individuals might be, as I'm still trying to figure out which DD is moving up to the Marketing job. Whoever he is, he should insist on a guaranteed no-cut contract, as the current life expectancy of NHRA marketing people can be measured with your watch instead of a calendar.)

The "Alcohol Committee" met at the Winternationals to draw up plans for the year 2000 season. The suspicions, and unfortunately that's all they are at this time, is that people currently without superchargers will not be happy with the outcome. Hmmm.... Hmmmmm...... VERY interesting... Stay tuned, I know I will.

According to an insider (on the Santos crew) they are capable of going quicker than the 5.39 turned at Phoenix in pre-season testing. (Their best at the Winternationals last weekend was "only" a 5.45, but the track and weather were not at their best). They are apparently making minor adjustments one step at a time. A run in the 5.20's may be on the boards very soon, possibly as early as, say... May 7th (or 8th or 9th) at Mission Raceway Park. (Damn! We've got plane tickets booked for May 1 to fly to Brisbane; Now what's the number of Pacesetter Travel?).

Following up on the developments from the Santos/O'Bannon camp is the prediction from a person on the inside that a... hold on to your seats for this... that a FOUR SECOND run may be in the offing next year. Four seconds? Believe it. And remember that you read it here first. It seems the A/Fuelers are adding "fuel to the flames" of alcohol ingenuity and are pushing the envelope. Envelope? It's starting to look more like a shopping bag all the time. And you know what happens when you inflate a bag further than it can handle... BOOM!!!


New sign seen at the border crossing (upon returning from Pomona): Welcome (Bienvenu) to (au) Canada! Please turn your clocks back 50 Years when you cross the border - if you're a drag racing fan, that is. Last weekend was the first in quite a few years that Canadians couldn't watch the Winternationals on TV. No live show, no tape delay show, not even a package of highlights six months from now.

Unless we have a friend with a big satellite dish or friends south of the border willing to tape and pass along the show(s). (Of course that's probably a federal offence on both sides of the border.) And we're going to have to get used to it, until and unless NHRA comes up with a TV package that uses more than ESPN and ESPN2 to get their message out. The "double whammy" has hit us with first, the loss of NHRA Today, and now, the loss of the vast majority of national event broadcasts.

But we do have an option, at least temporarily. We can turn back the clock and huddle in front of our computers and pretend we're listening to the radio. The Winternationals was available through radio on the internet (come to think of it, that's a very weird marriage of technologies, isn't it?) in the form of Broadcoast-dot-com. Already the news of how much it's costing NHRA is circulating, so the schedule listing every national event for 1999 may be very soon either cut back, or..... no longer free.

"Welcome to Broadcast-dot-com. Enter your major credit-card number, expiry date and cardholder name and then enjoy our broadcast of the XYZ Nationals coming to you LIVE from East Buttwadd, Missouri". Think it won't happen? Why don't you ask the "powers" in Glendora and see how "reassuring" they are about the continuation of the free broadcasts. Pay per listen?? Pay per view was bad enough.

Well, it's 9:00 AM, and I've been up all night at work, so this update will have to be cut a little short today. Besides, I've suffered a major personal loss overnight: My faithful coffee maker torched itself last night. Life without coffee??? Not a chance. So it's off to the Discount SuperStore this morning for a new one and then off to bed. More news after I regain consciousness. And get that first pot of coffee in me.

Black Bar
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