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in the world of drag racing

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The latest update as of January 9, 2000

. . . Oh yes, I remember now. (After all, it's been FOUR days since the last update -- and I really need a random access memory -- or any sort of memory -- upgrade). The last update finished with the promise (or was it a threat?) of another of my semi-annual rants about the state of drag racing. Where we've been, where we are now, and most importantly, where the "sport" is headed as we enter the new millennium.

Well, as usual, other, more pressing needs, got in the way of my best intentions. Like work, sleep, cleaning up this rat-hole I call my home, etc. Plus a minor case of the winter blahs. Not helping matters in that area is the fact that just six days from now is the first round of the Australian Top Alcohol Championship at Adelaide International Raceway. Since I'm writing this from Vancouver, Canada, it seems fairly obvious that I won't be in the pits at Adelaide next Saturday, doesn't it? More about that situation later this week.

Also, that look at the state of drag racing will have to wait a while longer too. It's a very large subject and the more I think about it, the more difficult it becomes to make sense of it all. There are so many factors at work; to be fair to drag racing, we've got to look at the whole sports, entertainment and marketing industries, as well. And after all, it's taken fifty years for drag racing to get to its current level, so what's an extra week or two in the big picture? To give you some idea of what I'm leading up to, here's a list (in no particular order) of the topics I'll be looking at:

  •   Drag racing: Sport or entertainment?
  •   Pros vs. Amateurs
  •   NHRA - IHRA - NR(No Rules)HRA
  •   Fuel racing rules changes for 2000 and beyond
  •   Is the PRO a viable organization?
  •   Television - Spectator Attendance - Marketing
  •   Fifty years of progress
  •   Inflation in sports and how it affects drag racing

Lots of topics; lots of food for thought and a severe case of mental indigestion in the offing for the writer, eh? You'll just have to stay tuned to see the whole series, won't you? As stated previously, it may take several weeks to finish my look and then sum it up with the ever-unpopular, and inevitable, "If I Were The Dictator Of Drag Racing" opus.

With time for today already running short, I'll finish with the latest news from the Top Fuel ranks. After a surprising sophomore season, which culminated with the Winston World Championship, Tony Schumacher has suddenly found himself sponsor-less, just two weeks before the Winter Warm-Up at Phoenix. His father, team manager Don Schumacher, received the official word from EXIDE earlier this week in a letter from their corporate headquarters in Reading, Pennsylvania.

The first word of this shocking development surfaced on the Header Flames forum early in the week and I was reluctant to believe it at first. Yesterday, the news was confirmed in a story posted at Drag Race Central. To read the entire story, check out: Exide Pulls Schumacher Sponsorship.

The main reason for the pullout, as stated by EXIDE, is the continuing loss in value of the company's shares. From a high of $57.50 in 1995, they declined to $21.50 in 1998 and are now down to less than $8.00 per share. After one year as chairman of the board, Robert Lutz (ex-Chrysler Corporation), decided to pull the plug on the Schumachers', even with another full year (2000) remaining on their sponsorship contract.

At this point, EXIDE hasn't announced what will become of their NASCAR sponsorship and a complete withdrawl from motorsports might be in the offing. While I haven't had time to research what problems the company has, that has resulted in their loss in equity value, it may be factors other than sales volume (and the impact of their sponsorships on that volume).

The article mentioned that sales were $2.4 BILLION last year, but that the company has been beset by "legal problems". In other words, the sponsorship programs could have been paying their own way, but when the shareholders and the board of directors get restless, such programs are easy and obvious targets for cutbacks.

While the conspiracy theorists will have a field-day with this news; with reasons for EXIDE's withdrawl ranging all the way from: their fear of legal liability for engine explosions injuring spectators, to dissatisfaction with NHRA's "marketing reach" (due to lack of network television coverage and weak event marketing programs), and who knows, maybe some deep dark secrets about the Schumachers or their crew, or who knows what else.

And before anyone jumps to any conclusions: None of the scenarios hinted at in the previous paragraph have any basis in fact. But with the way the internet works, I'd be very surprised if none of them bubble to the surface in the coming days and weeks. Hey, if you haven't heard a good rumour before noon each day, then it's time to invent one, isn't it?

Today's (almost) final note: Header Flames and Nitronic Research are not on vacation, intended or otherwise. The word, direct from the "Editor at Large - Large Editor" (Wrenchski) is that their server crashed and won't be back in service until Monday . . . at least. So, no truth to the rumour that Cole Coonce pulled the plug, or Tony Defeo and Dean Papadeas are holding the site for ransom, or the world came to an end and you just missed it . . . Hey, what did I just say about rumours?

Today's last word concerns some interesting news from Alberta this week. Long-time Top Alcohol campaigner, Ken Sitko, has passed along some great pics of cars that he has owned and driven over the years, plus, some pics of his father's car running at Edmonton International Speedway back in 1970 (or so). They will be placed in a re-designed, and finally updated, Canadian Racers Photo Gallery as soon as possible. Like tomorrow, if I can manage to stay awake long enough after work tonight to get it finished. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about. Thanks very much for passing them along, Ken.

Sitko Family Racing Sitko Family Racing Sitko Family Racing

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