What's New What's Old What's New - December 28, 1999 What's New - December 26, 1999 What's New - December 17, 1999 What's New - December 16, 1999 What's New - December 11, 1999 What's New - December 9, 1999 What's New - December 4, 1999 What's New - December 3, 1999 E-MAIL to NORTHERN THUNDER Home Page  

in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of December 13, 1999

Jim Grant

We've got some news from Australia today; Langley's Jim Grant has provided us with a first-hand "in car" report on his weekend at Melbourne's Calder Park. Jim made his downunder debut at Calder's Victorian Championships and qualified in the Competition Eliminator field with his '68 Dart blown alky doorslammer. Running against a very tough AA/AP (Altered Production) index of 6.95, Jim only made the 12th spot in a tough 16-car field. Then he ran into some bad luck in the first round, and despite the strongest pass of his life, received no time slip for his and his hard-working crew's efforts. Read the entire story on the Backfire! page.

As the Victorian Champs' was the second round of the ADRS (Australian Drag Racing Series), Jim earned 20 points towards the national Comp championship for his efforts. With planned appearances at two more of the seven ADRS events before the season-ending Winternationals, Jim could be in a position for a good finish in the points standings. NOTE: No more than 200 points can be gained prior to the Winternats (no matter how many events you attend), so with some success at the Australian Nationals and Nightfire Championships, Jim could be in a contending position at the Winternationals.

Stay tuned for more news from "Jim's (mostly) Excellent Adventures in OZ", including some photos, if he can find access to a scanner, over the coming months. And congratulations to Jim and his crew on getting over that first hurdle. That's the first time a Canadian racer has run a blown alcohol car in Australia since 1990 . . . but it surely won't be the last, will it?

Unfortunately, the fans at Calder were denied the oppportunity to see the race to its conclusion on Saturday night when the rains came and forced the event to be abandoned at curfew time. And it was shaping up to be a record-breaking night, if the early performances of the headlining Top Fuellers were any indication. Low qualifier (at 4.88 - 289) was Darren DiFilippo. Almost stealing his thunder in the first round was veteran Jim Read, who broke the blower belt at 700 feet and coasted across the finish line at "only" 5.22. Observers were certain that they were going to witness Australia's first 4.70 - 300+ mph pass until the belt came off. The next opportunity for the T/F'ers is at the Nationals in February. It will most assuredly be a very long wait for the Read team, as they know how close they were to making history on Saturday night.

The next bit of news concerns the recently announced NHRA rules revision concerning T/F and T/A dragster chassis for 2000. The relevant SFI spec has been updated from 2.3H to 2.3J. The only change required to current cars to meet the updated spec is the addition of a set of "helmet" bars, midway between the shoulder hoop and the top of the cage. (Previously this was required ONLY if the driver's helmet could physically fit between the bars of the cage, leaving them vulnerable to an outside impact). Also, the bars only had to be formed of small (1/2") diameter tube. The new specs and some revisions to slower open-wheel cars are contained in the Specs 2000 article at the NHRA website.

The new rule requires the bars to be fitted to ALL cars and the minimum size has been increased to 1-inch (by .058" wall thickness). My first reaction to the announcement was not entirely positive, but I've just been informed (indirectly) by Bob Meyer, a member of NHRA's Chassis Committee, of the reasoning behind the change. Here's what "Uncle Bob" has to say on the matter:

"Please don't think of this new head hoop rule as a conspiracy against racers. I sit on that committee for one reason........safety!

At the Indy meeting, we discussed the loss of Suzie Wells just a week before the meeting, Carrie Neal, Mike Bell, etc., and some survivors such as Pat Dakin's blowover last year, and we found in each case the problem was the same failure. A lot of times, you just write one off as "one in a million", but as names started popping up, we realized the odds had changed, and we didn't like 'em!

Arnie (Kuhns - SFI) looked around the room, and everyone of us had the same look on his face. He said, "Do you guys think it's time for a change?" We all started to nod our heads slowly because we all knew we would be letting down the next person to get in this predicament. The problem is the second hoop twisting off the shoulder hoop, creating a huge hole for the second impact. Adding these tubes will give greater integrity to the entire structure.

I can supply the two bends and enough short pieces of tube to properly do the job for $60.00, including one extra piece just in case of a miss; $200 installed; probably considerably less than the alternative."

After reading that, there's not much I can add, other than AMEN, and Ken Lowe, how soon can you get my car in the shop and put the bars in?

Sticking with NHRA dragster news, I've also come across (again, indirectly) a piece written by long-time racer, tuner and chassis builder, Ken Sitko, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I've known Ken for a long time, even raced against him once, at North Central Raceways (Prince George, BC), and have always had the utmost respect for his opinions. (Especially when he agrees with me). Seriously though, he virtually echoes my sentiments when it comes to that long-running soap opera: "Blown or Injected - Who's Right?". Read on to see what he's got to say on the subject.

NHRA has decided to leave the Federal-Mogul Dragster rules alone for now, which suits me fine. They had proposed a major overhaul to the class, including new maximum engine sizes, blower overdrives, ignition configurations and so on. They had even proposed the complete elimination of the A-fuel class, which I'm sure brought on a flood of protests by those affected.

It is easy to criticize those in charge, and I will admit to putting in my two cents worth on the situation. First of all, I think the A-fuel cars are fun to watch; they have the noise and the smell of a Top Fuel car. I still don't think they belong in the same class as blown alcohol dragsters though.

It is hard to match their elapsed times on most days, as a handful of them can run 5.40's at will. These cars are pretty intimidating on the starting line too. I never imagined that another car could drown out the noise of my TA/D during staging, but you honestly cannot tell if your own motor is running when the fuel car is popping and banging in the other lane. You also have to contend with their staging procedure, as most A-fuel drivers tend to want to stage last.

I don't mind going in first, but when you do that you are always in danger of getting "burned down" while you sit and wait at 6000 rpm. Consistency used to be a problem with these cars, but the operators of these machines have learned a lot over the last few years. One advantage that the blown cars have is in reaction time. This is mostly because the fuel cars have to leave at an idle, so the clutch takes about a tenth of a second more to engage than their blown counterparts.

Despite the above comments, I was opposed to NHRA's proposed elimination of the A-Fuel class, and am glad that they have changed their minds. The A-fuel guys aren't doing themselves any favors, though, by proving once again that they are capable of dominating our class whenever they feel like it. Shortly after NHRA made the announcement of no rules changes, a few of these guys went out and clicked off consistent 5.30's and low 5.40's, winning a number of National and Divisional events. Were they laying back while the NHRA brass were deciding their fate? If these guys keep showing that they have unlimited potential, I can see NHRA re-thinking things again next year.

Again, there's not much more I can add to that . . . at the moment. Ken has addressed many of the concerns I have on the matter and his last paragraph is, I feel, the key to the issue for the coming season. The performance of Mark Woods and David Hirata, at the Pomona finals: 5.30 at 269, respectively, if you didn't know, could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Mark and David have never been terribly successful in the past and unless their finals' performances were a fluke, which I doubt, could be the harbinger of even more astounding numbers in 2000. To see how the "power" shifted back and forth, from injected to blown cars during the 1999 season, check out the chart: Best of 1999. You'll definitely notice the trend that Ken was referring to developing right after the US Nationals.

Last item for the day is the TV schedule for NHRA in 2000. There has still been no firm announcement from the association about how the broadcasts will be allocated, but I've come across a media release from TNN, detailing which events they will be covering next season. Note to Canadians: Unless you've got a big satellite dish, TNN will be the only game in town next year. They've announced they will be broadcasting the following eight events, either live, or on a same-day (tape delay) basis:

  •    Las Vegas Nationals - Las Vegas, NV - April 9
  •    O'Reilly Nationals - Houston, TX - April 16
  •    Pennzoil Nationals - Richmond, VA - April 30
  •    Advance Auto Parts Nationals - Atlanta, GA - May 7
  •    Castrol Nationals - Dallas, TX - May 28
  •    Colonel's Accessories Nationals - Brainerd, MN - August 20
  •    US Nationals - Indianapolis, IN - September 4
  •    Advance Auto Parts Nationals - Topeka, KS - October 1

Looks like a lot of events early in the season, doesn't it?, including four in a six week period. The bad news contained in the TNN release concerns the announcers/presenters being used: You guessed it . . . Eli Gold is back. Oh my God, not another year of listening to that useless excuse for an announcer. What has he got on the networks? Incriminating pictures, nuclear capability, or does he pay them for the right to inflict his stupidity on the masses?

Another dark spot on the screen is the lack of news concerning the semi-weekly magazine-style show promised for next season. Which means it will probably go to ESPN2. The show, in case you haven't heard, is to be broadcast 24 times in 2000, in the week preceding each national event. To my cynical mind, it sounds more like a 30-minute NHRA info-mercial than a real news and highlights program. Want to bet that the sponsors receive heavy play on the show, "adding value" to their marketing agreements with NHRA? One more caveat about the TV broadcast schedule, and the national event schedule itself, is that the titles of the events may be changing. At this time, the Las Vegas event doesn't have a title rights sponsor; and several more of the existing sponsors may be changed before the season starts.

That's all the news for today . . . Oh, oh, incoming. Just heard/read that Bandimere Raceway, outside of Denver, has been sold for redevelopment (housing and shopping centres). John Bandimere, Jr., owner of the facility, said "it was time to strike while the iron was hot." AKA: They offered me lots of money and I just couldn't refuse. The good news is that he is actively searching for an alternate site to build a new track on, but it just won't have the ambience of Bandimere, carved out of the side of a mountain.

To many racers and fans, this will be a sad loss to the sport, even if Bandimere does open at a new site, which is currently rumoured to be near the new Denver International Airport. Can you say flat, sterile, etc.? By the way, the Mile-High Nationals and all other events will be run for the next two seasons at the current site, with the handover of the property not occurring until the end of the 2001 season.

Now that really is all the news for today; but remember, stay tuned to Northern Thunder's "What's New" page for all the latest news from the world of drag racing. Next update? Let's aim for Wednesday . . . or Thursday. It's shaping up to be another busy week at work (the "real" job - that is), so it might even be as late as Friday. You'll just have to keep coming back to see, won't you?

Black Bar
More news as it happens, and if you wish to provide us with any news or information to upgrade or correct any errors at this site: