in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of January 28, 2000
Let's start today's installment of "As The Wheel Turns" with a light-hearted look at NHRA's new advertising campaign. The catch-phrase/slogan is "We Have Ignition" and the multi-million dollar campaign has been launched on television, in magazines and newspapers and over the internet. They've even released a computer monitor screen-saver. We've managed to secure an advance copy, so if you want one, click on the flaming picture above to download your very own "official" NHRA screensaver. Okay, after that small (very small, some might say) bit of humour, it's down to some serious business. Street Racing: The Need for Speed aired on the Arts & Entertainment channel across North America last night. Click on the thumbnail picture for an article from my local newspaper about this program on the "growing menace" facing our streets. I've just finished watching the repeat show (11:00 - Midnight on the West Coast) and have calmed down enough to sit still and write this update.
And, as if on cue, just as sit down to the keyboard, someone in a (sounded like, anyways) Camaro does a two-block burnout right outside my window. Classic, eh?
My anger about this shlock-umentary started to build two days ago, when I first read the newspaper article about it, entitled "Adrenalin in Overdrive". My first reaction was to send off a blistering series of e-mails to the local newspapers, A&E, the producers and the NHRA. After reflecting on it for a few hours, I decided not to. Why? The sad fact is, that no matter what we as drag racers do, the general perception, in the media and the public at large, is that street racing equals drag racing. They are one and the same; the same people, the same cars, the same results. End of story.
The year 2000 marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the NHRA and despite the quantum leaps mankind has made in almost area, drag racing is still looked down upon by the vast, and I mean VAST majority of people. We, the drag racers and fans of the sport, are such a small minority that we barely register on the radar screens of the mass media. And when we do . . . you've seen the headlines too many times to know what comes next: "Drag Racers Kill Pedestrian"; "Draggers Run Rampant" . . . etc., etc., ad nauseum.
So what did I think of the program? It wasn't as bad as I expected, frankly. The producers made the story fit their preconceived notions of what they wanted to show. The terminology was predictable: I kept score of the number of times the word "dragger" was used: 15 in all. Other mistakes were references to "jet fuel" and "dragging", used in relation to STREET RACING. The time spent showing the legal alternatives to this "organized" stupidity were brief, very brief, although in the first few minutes one of the police officers explained to his colleagues the differences between legal drag racing and street racing. And at the end of the broadcast, the "Beat The Heat" racing program was briefly, again, very briefly, mentioned.
At the conclusion of the broadcast, I was left wondering just what was accomplished with this sixty minutes of prime-time network television. Did anyone learn anything from it? Were any conclusions drawn? Sadly, no. Virtually the entire show focused on two young fellows who live to street race. In their import cars. Hondas and Mazdas. In the whole hour, I saw maybe two or three classic muscle cars, but they didn't compete against the "heros" of the piece.
The emphasis on late-model four and six cylinder front-wheel drive cars left me bewildered. Is this really where the street (racing) scene is headed as we enter the new century? Is this really where the young people's heads are at? Yeah, I know, this "revolution" has been going on for nearly ten years now, but it's still a difficult concept for this old mind to get "into". If these racers took their acts to a real dragstrip, is this the future of drag racing in the 21st century? Apparently so. Metric tools, turbochargers and front-wheel drive . . . this is all making me feel awfully old fashioned.
That's enough from me on the subject, but here's what the TV Editor in the Vancouver Province newspaper had to say about the program in Thursday's edition. By the way, her name is Dana Gee. Her take on this show makes more sense than I can, so she gets the last word:
I thought street racing was something from some goofy '50s film. In Toronto, it turns out, there are still a bunch of guys with heads full of sawdust flooring it as part of an underground street racing fraternity.
These guys are a long way from the 55 Chevs with dangling dice. They spend hours in garages beefing up their rides and readying them for the next face off with a rival racer.
This piece tracks the late-night Toronto race scene from the planning and betting stage to the convoy of racers that take over sections of highways and dark streets. Besides the danger, of which there is plenty, these guys also face serious charges if they are busted by the police.
Haven't these clandestine clowns heard of video games? I know they have flight simulators to keep guys busy for hours, convicning them that if all the pilots both had the chicken and got food poisoning, that they, thanks to their computer, could land a 747.
Surely they must have street racing games, too.Okay, let's back to some real drag racing, eh? Our friend, Jim Grant, has checked in with an update of his downunder adventure. Man, am I jealous. He's down there in Australia, travelling all over the country, having lots of fun in great weather, racing and hanging out with all those nice people. And I'm sitting here in the middle of winter, whining about it. Click on the pic to see what Jim's been up to lately. This weekend, seriously, this weekend, I'll have a page up on this site with some more pics of the car, his great T-shirt design and more news about his 2000 Doorslammer Tour. By the way, this weekend he's out on the West Coast, in Perth, racing at the Western Australian State Championships at Ravenswood Raceway. Watch out for those "sandgropers", Jim. In other Australian drag racing news: congratulations to Mark Brew on his stunning performances at the first two rounds of the ANDRA Top Alcohol Championship; last weekend at Calder Park (Melbourne) and the previous week at Adelaide. At both events, Mark set Low ET and Top Speed, turning career best numbers of 5.74 and 241 mph. Good on ya' mate! All this in a car that he'd never even sat in before last month and with an engine combination that he's never run before.
Unfortunately, a small amount of bad luck dogged him and Mark finished runnerup at both meetings to many-time national champion Gary Phillips. At Adelaide, the car shook the tyres hard in the final and at Melbourne, broke a valve at half track. In both instances though, the car still ran a five-second time and lost by small margins. Mark and crew chief Bob Brackam are certain they'll be ready for the Australian Nationals, coming up in three weeks, and will be anxious to finally get past Phillips and take over the points lead. (With bonus points awarded for ET and speed, Brew is only 20 points behind Phillips after two of the five events on the championship calendar this year).So why isn't this car down there competing against Brew and Phillips and the boys? It's too late tonight (this update is being done at 2:00 AM) to go into all the details . . . but the car will be sitting until the end of 2000, before seeing any action. Why? . . . M-O-N-E-Y . . . or more precisely, a lack of money is the main reason. When I started building the new car, over two years ago now, even my wildest estimates put the total cost of getting it built, shipped and ready to race downunder at no more than $100K. Looking back on it now, that seems incredibly naive.
It seemed that everytime I turned around, or took a deep breath, there went another thousand dollars. It adds up. And keeps adding up, until you either give up or get it finished. Have you ever heard the term: "throwing good money after bad"? We're waaay past that point now, so there's just no choice but to continue to the finish (line). While I put in the hours at work, pay off last year's bills and save the bucks to finish the project, my Aussie crew is hard at work completing the car and doing the conversion on the truck. (It's going to be quite an adjustment to climb in the other side to get behind the wheel, next time I drive the tow vehicle).So what am I going to be doing with this NHRA Competition License that arrived in the mail this week? Hmm . . . it's a little too early yet to say, but I'll give you a few hints about what my North American "racing" plans are for the 2000 season:
There's so much more that I'd like to report on tonight, but it's getting late and I've just got to sign off for now. Before I go though, thanks very much to Dean Murdoch of SPEEDZONE for sending along copies of the 1999 issues of his new Northwest drag racing magazine. Five issues in its first year of publication? Quite an accomplishment for Dean and the Speedzone gang. Congratulations folks and I'm definitely looking forward to this year's editions. Until they get their own webpage up, rumoured to be in April, take a look at the (still under construction) SPEEDZONE introduction page here at Northern Thunder. Unless of course, you noticed the logo at the top of this page and already found it.
The next update is planned for later today, Friday, but you know how these things go . . . every day for a week, then nothing for a week . . . and on and on it goes. You'll just have to keep coming back to see when it happens, won't you? You'd almost think I planned it that way, wouldn't you? Not really, that's just the way it works out. PS: I 've got an incomplete, and totally unofficial, Mission Raceway schedule posted. It will be updated as soon as possible . . . probably even before the MRP website has it posted, eh?