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in the world of drag racing

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The latest update as of January 15, 2000

Round and round and round we go, on this merry-go-round called the sport of drag racing. Last week we received the bad news that defending NHRA World Top Fuel Champion, Tony Schumacher, had lost his EXIDE sponsorship, despite having a signed contract for the 2000 season. Then yesterday, yes, less than a week later, comes news that EXIDE changed their corporate mind and will indeed be sponsoring the team for this season. In fact, a further announcement is planned for next week which may even provide details of a contract extension beyond the current season.

Talk about a quick turnaround. The rollercoaster ride he's been on for the past week must make driving a Top Fuel car seem almost tame by comparison for young Mr. Schumacher. While no reasons have been given as to this quick turnabout, possibilities include the following: lawyers, smart lawyers, loud, smart lawyers, a rethink by EXIDE's marketing department, and, oh yes, a massive public outcry in support of the Schumacher team. I'm putting my money on the first three choices.

In today's marketing and public relations climate of "speak no evil", the true reasons for EXIDE's initial decision and their sudden reversal will probably never be known to anyone but those on the inside. And a written contract is only worth the paper it's written on... unless you've got the financial backing to engage in a legal battle to enforce it... and the Schumacher family definitely has that sort of clout.

Then again, it could just be that some genius in marketing realized that they had the wrong figures on the benefits of their marketing partnership with the team and on reflection, decided that it was a worthwhile venture after all. Or perhaps the semi-organized public outcry against EXIDE woke up a few important people at their corporate headquarters. Possibly NHRA's marketing department made a strong submission on the benefits of being associated with the "world's fastest accelerating motor vehicles". Who knows? But I'm still putting my money on the "legal beagles" option.

In other late-breaking news: It rains in Brisbane mainly during the drag racing season. This can't be true, but unfortunately it is. Again. For the second (or is it the third?) year in a row, the first round of Willowbank Raceway's Castrol New Year Series was rained out last night, just prior to the start of eliminations. The bad (mainly from the weather) luck that has plagued the track for the last few seasons shows no sign of letting up. Just three days ago I was on the phone to friends in Brisbane and was told that their summer was great. Warm, but not too hot days and very little rain. How quickly it can change.

So far, we have no reports from Canada's Jim Grant, who was competing in Top Comp, or our good friend downunder, Ken Lowe, who entered Modified Eliminator in his Drag Racing School car. The only "results" we're able to post at this time are the following picture from Willowbank's WebCam and a short message from the track's Marketing Manager, Rob Oberg. Read it and weep.

Willowbank rainout

Someone has put a curse on Willowbank. Today's meeting, the first round of the Castrol New Year Series, featuring the best fields of Top Doorslammers and Pro Stocks since the Winternationals was cancelled at 4:40 pm as the heavens opened up again for at least the third time for the day.

And to top it off, the last run down the track before the cancellation resulted in a major crash by former Top Comp champion Tom Coonan. Tom is OK but the beautiful blown Ford Fairlane is almost a total write-off.

And just to rub salt into the wounds, the skies all around Willowbank were mostly clear and blue. Just a minute down the road it was a beautiful fine day, as it had been in Brisbane's southside all day.

With a big crowd and racer turnout, the track management will be po'd to say the least, especially after just spending over $200,000 extending and improving the spectator mound.

I think drag racers, management and fans are starting the hate this new La Nina weather pattern!

Not much to report from the first two days of the "National Time Trials" at Phoenix's Firebird International Raceway. Only a few teams were in attendance as of last night and only a couple of full passes were laid down. Lots of tire shake, tire smoke and aborted runs, so far. Today and tomorrow should see the action heating up, aided by unseasonably (but great) temps of 80 degrees F. We'll bring you any details of note that come to light by tomorrow evening. Until then, for the latest news from the world of drag racing, stay tuned to Northern Thunder's What's New page.

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