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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of December 26, 1999

While some folks have a "Christmas Day Special" on their websites, over here at Northern Thunder it seemed more appropriate to go with a BOXING DAY feature. While that term is unfamiliar to most Americans, it's a long tradition in England, Canada, Australia and other former British colonies. At the moment I can't quite remember the origin of Boxing Day, but it's certainly got nothing to do with fighting, even if today's update throws a punch or two... or three.

From the Chain of Fools Dept: For the last two weeks I've painstakingly (trust me, there was a lot of pain involved) gone through the HOT LINKS section, checking every one of them; deleting the dead ones, updating changes of web addresses and inserting new ones. The process was tedious, to say the least, but the results were worth it. We now have more than 930 links and within the next month I expect that total will surpass the thousand mark. But, if you've ever put together a website, or are even considering it, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT ever attempt to put that many links on your site. It's almost guaranteed to be a one-way trip to the loony bin.

When you get more than, say, 20 or 30 links up, maintaining them becomes a major job. Or you could do like many sites and never update them, and after a year or so, visitors will find that more than 50 percent of them no longer work. And it's not just the small businesses or sportsman racers that seem to change addresses or simply shut down their sites. Even the pros do it on an all-too-regular basis, leaving would-be visitors in the lurch.

Another thing that struck me as I checked out the links: The number of sites that had gone stale, very stale, with no updates for a year or more. So that leads to another warning to would-be webmasters: Either do it right or don't even bother. Putting up a page, no matter how nice it looks, then just leaving it to gather dust is doing nobody a service. There are a few sites that have daily updates, but that isn't required; regular updates are. For instance, if you start posting a monthly newsletter, or race reports, then keeping doing it. Someone checking out your site for the "latest" news and finding it six months (or more) out of date won't be too impressed, to say the least.

Last website "whinge" for the moment: While a plain vanilla appearing website, like this one, may not be the most visually appealing; I will say this: At least the darn thing works. It's not loaded with javsacript error messages, doesn't take all day to load and isn't junked up with pop-up windows and scrolling banner ads. (I know some of the graphics at "NT" take a while to display, but a lack of money and computer equipment are the main reasons for that). Many sites on the net are hosted for "free" but are they really free? While the webmaster isn't paying for the service, visitors are, in the form of those aforementioned popups and banners. Don't you get tired of them too?

Okay, what's the next target? How about the old reliable: NHRA ? Almost too easy, eh? The possiblities are almost limitless. They've recently announced the details of the 2000 television contracts and while it's an improvement on the pitiful efforts of 1999, it's still a long way from ideal. And what has SFX Sports, their much-ballyhooed "broadcast partner", announced six months ago, done for them lately? To refresh your memory, check out  SFX Partners with NHRA.

Come to think of it, what has Hill & Knowlton, their public relations firm, signed with much fanfare back in March, done for them? H & N's efforts have been so low-key as to be almost invisible. By the way, did they come up with NHRA's new slogan: "We have ignition". In light (glare?) of Herbert's "Hiroshima" at Pomona, that slogan could be seen as a very bad joke.

What else can I toss at the association? Tom Compton, new president; looks like more of the same old, same old. No background in racing; corporate culture written all over him; another Dallas Gardner clone to be sure. After all the nice things he had to say at a meeting with the racers in Mission, BC, in May of this year, his tune has changed, dramatically, now that he's running the show. In retrospect, that meeting was nothing more than a public relations exercise. His stated goal of beginning a dialogue with the racers was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

That is becoming one of NHRA's biggest problems: The lack of communication. They hand down pronouncements from Mt. Glendora, then quickly backtrack when the affected parties make their feelings known. Maybe NHRA's new year's resolution list should contain these items: "I will listen before I speak". "Consult, not confront". "Think twice, then act once." Amen, end of sermon.

Despite these rocks thrown at the NHRA, I've recently re-joined the association. After being a member continuously since 1972, earlier this year I let it lapse due to a number of reasons (mainly, the money was needed elsewhere). Last month I sent in a rather large amount of Canadian dollars to sign up again for two years and earlier this week received my "valuable" membership benefits package.

On the outside of the package was a customs valuation of $10 US. Inside was a "wilson valuation" of 50 cents. A 1/144th scale funny car model, some discount coupons for the first day of national events, a membership card, a decal, a lapel pin, a discount on Alamo rental cars and a few other advertising brochures. Whoopee. Since I joined after the November deadline, I didn't even get a 2000 rulebook. Gee thanks, NHRA. Next time, why not save the postage and just send out the membership card in an envelope.

The following day came the big, and I mean BIG, year-end issue of National Dragster. 240 pages worth, with advertising content outweighing editorial by a wide margin. At least I was able to see who was going broke or selling out in the "Racer for Sale" and classified ads in the back. In the first few issues of 2000 you can be certain the cars and parts for sale ads will heavily outnumber the number of racing stories. And it's not going to get better any time soon either.

Unfortunately, the clock on the wall, combined with the phone which has been ringing and interrupting me all afternoon, says it's time to go to work, and either delay this update until tomorrow, or cut it short. So, halfway through another "tour de farce" it's time to lift, pull the chutes and shut 'er down for the day. Sorry folks, but tune in again tomorrow for the second part of our Boxing Day "Special". Still on the menu: Big Daddy drives again on New Year's Eve; The "NRHRA" (No Rules Hot Rod Association); and the latest news from Australia on the Western Sydney Motorplex saga. Stay tuned.

Black Bar
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