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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of August 7, 2000

Regarding the first IHRA broadcast of 2000, which I reported yesterday as being scheduled for 7:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time): there were two problems with that report.

First, the show was broadcast at 10:30 PM in all time zones, unlike the television schedule that came in Friday's newspaper. When yesterday's paper showed the later time, I knew that the idiots that prepare the viewing guides had screwed up again. But by then it was too late to change the time listed on this page. My apologies for that, but on the other hand, that leads to the second problem with last night's IHRA show.

The second problem was the show itself. At this point, I could drag out the thesaurus and list all the variations of what can be summed up in one short word: BAD, with a capital B, A, D.

With nearly five months to prepare that first (of twelve) broadcasts, you'd assume the producers would have had more than sufficient time to fine-tune their efforts. Possibly even test it in private viewings, critique it, change the stuff that didn't work and improve the weaker segments. If what I saw last night is the best they can come up with in that lengthy timespan, then it certainly doesn't bode well for the future.

Oh come on, Bob, it wasn't that bad? And besides, they'll get better. Wrong and wrong. Now in fairness, I can't compare the IHRA effort to the current NHRA/ESPN broadcasts... mainly because we don't get to see them in Canada. And from what I've gleaned off the 'net, that product isn't meeting with universal approval. But it certainly can't be half as bad as what I tried to sit and watch for an hour last night.

I didn't have a stop watch handy to time the actual racing footage shown, but it couldn't have been much more than five of the sixty minutes. Here's the breakdown on what was shown during the sixty minutes of airtime:

  •     Opening & Closing:    4 minutes 20 seconds
  •     Nitro Harleys:    9 minutes 45 seconds
  •     Alcohol Funny Cars:    4 minutes 20 seconds
  •     Pro Modifieds:   8 minutes 25 seconds
  •     Pro Stock:    3 minutes 20 seconds
  •     Top Fuel:    13 minutes 5 seconds
  •     Advertisements:    16 minutes 45 seconds

"The reinvention of drag racing" was the opening statement from Ralph Sheehan, the announcer, who was assisted by temporarily parked fuel racer, Tommy Johnson, Jr., and the IHRA director of marketing, Aaron "The Cheerleader" Polburn. After a slick opening montage, the product that followed makes me fear for the future of televised drag racing, if indeed, this is the reinvention (devolution is more like it) of the sport.

So what annoyed me the most? Let me count the ways: Very, very little ontrack action; volume so low that the cars were barely audible; six static camera positions, with very little panning or zooming; far too many "talking heads" and not enough racing; and so on.

Getting back to the five month lead time for this inaugural broadcast, I've got to wonder about the commercial future of the program too. Half of the advertisements were "in-house" pieces, promoting other TNN programs, and the balance of the ads were mostly from Holley, Carquest and Mopar, three of the major sponsors of IHRA. One of the few "independent" commercials was for a series of Benny Hill videos... low-brow in the extreme.

With all that time to sell an advertising slate is this the best they could come up with? Maybe I should be nice and say, "well, it was a start, and surely the programs will get better as time goes on". Yeah, right. And speaking of Shirley (surely? surly?) the five minutes devoted to promoting her was spoiled, as it inevitably is, by her continued whining about how she is still being discriminated against. Now she's being picked on for being old. Frankly, after listening to her myriad complaints for nearly thirty years, the only thing that's getting old in her camp (other than herself) is her whining. Give it a rest, eh Muldowney?

At this point I'll stop my own whining and complaining about the IHRA/TNN broadcast package and leave it to other viewers to give me their opinions about the show. What did you think? Did you even bother watching it? Was I looking at the show from the wrong point of view? Maybe the cars and the racing should become secondary to the human interest side of the sport, like asking the Harley racers about whether they wore "kevlar codpieces" or listening to thirty seconds of Jimmy Rector mumbling incoherently about how happy he is.

Hey, this page is just the opinions of one person, and if I had a dollar for every time I've been off the mark, or just plain wrong.... I'd be running a Top Fuel car, instead of still trying to put together an alcohol dragster.

That's all we have time for today; next update will be tomorrow, with a preview of this coming weekend's Langley Loafers - BC OldTime Drags at Mission Raceway. We've got pics and info about some of the feature cars to start with. And, if we're really lucky, maybe the first installment of the Seattle story, more than a week late.

Black Bar
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