in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of August 11, 2000
"Welcome back my friends.... to the show that never ends" Or at least it seems that way around here. No sooner do I get one section of this website updated, then upload it, check out what's happening on other sites and read my e-mail, then I find out I'm either wrong, stupid, or jumping to conclusions. Again.
So, it's department of corrections time again: First, if you've seen the latest batch of Backfire! entries, you mave have noticed the message from Stan Ray, concerning a rather rude picture that I displayed on this page yesterday. Without looking too closely at the details, I saw a long-wheelbase rear-engine dragster with Carquest lettering and assumed it was Paul Romine's. WRONG-O!! Turns out that it was a Pro Outlaw racer, one who is probably more than a little upset with Mr. Bader after the latest IHRA pronouncement.
No, not the fines for sportsman cars that oil the track; no, not the one about the latest rule changes for Pro Mod (all '57 and earlier models MUST have SFI-approved fuzzy dice mounted inside the cockpit); no, not the latest Top Fuel rule change that mandates a ballistic blanket around the rear tires to keep them from exploding. The change that I'm referring to is the deletion of Pro Outlaw (aka: Quick 8, Super Eliminator) from the IHRA roster in 2001.
Reaction to that announcement has been swift and vocal, with that special tinge of outrage that surfaces when a group of racers is told: Thanks for blowing your life savings on a race car, entertaining the fans for several years and receiving almost nothing in return. Here's your reward: YOU'RE TOAST!
At this point I've just got to drag out the history books and refer to a very famous statement made by a Pastor Niemoller in the 1930's in Nazi Germany. (And no, I'm not going to try -- at least tonight -- to draw any comparisons between Hitler and Bader). Niemoller's statement was made in reference to the large number of people (that Hitler didn't like) being hustled off to the concentration camps.
"First they came for the Communists, and I was silent because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I was silent because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I was silent because I was not a Jew. But when they come for me, who will speak on my behalf?"
A little too dramatic for the current events swirling around the IHRA? Possibly yes, possibly no. Some people are of the opinion that the changes in IHRA rules and procedures enacted this year are just the tip of the iceberg. Some people say that sort of thinking is just paranoia? Who's right? And what's that sound coming from under the bed? And what's that shadow behind the curtains?
Just like last night, I don't have the time to go into all the issues and problems of the IHRA (and its dictator, Bill "Darth" Bader) tonight. But I am thinking back to the origins of the association and the various owners and philosophies that its operated under for the thirty years of its existence.
As soon as possible, like after I get through this weekend at the OldTime Drags at Mission Raceway and finally get the Seattle story posted, we'll take a deeper look inside the IHRA and try to see where it's going and why it's taking so much flak these days.
Here's the last paragraph of the Pro Outlaw announcement made last week and a response from a very concerned, and understandably upset, racer. After you've read it, try to remember the words spoken by Niemoller nearly seventy years ago and ask yourself: "Could it happen to my class?" The cynic in me will answer: "If Bader thought he could put an extra few bucks in his pocket . . . in a heartbeat, baby!"
"Many of you have spent nearly three years and a huge amount of money on something that is going nowhere, and has no future. It makes no sense to prolong the inevitable. Pro Outlaw will not be contested after the conclusion of this year." - Bill Bader
What went wrong?
Where did it start?
The class really started several years ago when a heads up quick 8 of the fastest qualifiers raced on Saturday night. This was funded by Greg Mosier, Vic Richards, and others. Racers included many of the current Pro Outlaw cars, plus Bruce Litton, Danny Dunn, T.J. Lefter, Tom Callahan, Gary Parks, and many others.
This became so successful that many racers concentrated only on this event, and this also created a small problem for IHRA. The cars that didn't make the Top Dragster field could not go home on Saturday because many would get back in on Sunday, as the Quick 8 racers didn't run T/D. At one race the 42nd qualifier stayed over and was in.
At this point the class was becoming very serious, and very fast.Super Eliminator
At the Bristol race in 1997, several of the racers had a meeting with IHRA about starting a seperate class. This continued into winter, and through a second IHRA ownership. The racers were told that a class could be created, but they would have to locate their own funding.
Very quickly $50,000 was raised to fund the season, by signing a seperate sponsor for each event. This was a pretty unique situation, and many saw this as a new level of cooperation between the racers, and the sanctioning body to work together towards mutual goals. Unfortunately at this time IHRA was also sold to a third owner who, as it turned out, did not see things this way.
The first season could not have been more spectacular. The first event had 18 cars, for an 8 car field; by the Norwalk race the field had been expanded to 16 and there were 32 entries. Performance levels increased, with some great races. At Budds Creek there were 8 cars qualified under 6.25 sec. The cars were featured in many national publications and Super Eliminator even had it's own website.
At the end of the season, there also was no points fund for the racers, but many sponsors chipped in and a modest fund was created.1999
The winter of '99 was actually the beginning of the end for Super Eliminator. When the racers approached IHRA about securing sponsors for '99, they were told that it was IHRA's job was to secure sponsors, and the racers didn't need to. Many of the '98 sponsors were never contacted, and no series, or other S/E sponsors were ever signed.
An extremely minimal event purse was announced for 1999, and many of the racers gave it up at that point. With fields falling, IHRA began to snipe at the class, using the self-fulfilling prophecy that the class was failing. During the summer rumors were started that the field was being cut, etc. which discouraged several potential new cars. They even chose to make one of their negative announcements at Norwalk where there was 28 cars entered.
At every event Super Eliminator was putting some great races on the track, including the first female pro winner in a long time, a 5.95 ET, and many performance breakthroughs. The cars had also attracted several major corporations as sponsors.Pro Outlaw
For 2000, IHRA changed the field to the expected 8 cars, and the name to Pro Outlaw. The car owners were encouraged to give their cars "cartoon character" names. They were not included in the TNN pro coverage, as well as given an event schedule that required two qualifying runs, and the first round of eliminations in a six hour period. No class has ever had a schedule like that.
In spite of all of this, the fields were always full, and the competition was good, with record performances and several different winners.
Now, five races into the season, IHRA has announced the class is being dropped, because of lack of interest, because the fans cannot tell a Pro Outlaw from a Quick Rod, etc. Does Neal Parker and Laurie Cannister running 6.03 at 225 mph look like Quick Rod? How about Snyder and Decker carrying the front wheels to half track?Opinion
Pro Outlaw has fast, loud, cars that basically race for free. They give IHRA the cars to put on two three hour pro shows which is their goal. It is the only class with true diversity in a time when all types of racing fans complain about "cookie cutter" cars. It is the perfect place to develop new pro racers, already producing Top Fuel racers Litton and Dunn, and A/FC racer Terry Munroe.
If the fans don't recognize Pro Outlaw, how did Laurie Cannister become a finalist in the Car Craft awards, over all the NHRA drivers?
If IHRA can't sell four dragster classes, then we should expect the demise of at least one bodied class. Pro Stock maybe? After all, they have Super Stock, Hot Rod, Top Sportsman, and Pro Mod. Who can tell the difference?
In a time where most of their champions either quit, or go to NHRA, it is hard to understand why IHRA continues to alienate racers. They certainly haven't made many friends in Top Fuel or Pro Modified. You can only replace your old friends with new friends for so long. It didn't work for Ponzi, and it won't work for Bill.
Pro Outlaw racers, remember one thing. This was IHRA's failure, not yours!
That pretty much spells it out, doesn't it? Like all IHRA pronouncements, this latest one could be subject to change, depending on many factors, including what Bader had for breakfast this morning, which way the wind is blowing, the concession stand sales during each round of racing, or any one of another hundred arcane reasons.
So what else is burning a hole in my monitor tonight? It appears that I wasn't a lone voice in the wilderness with regard to my perceptions of the inaugural IHRA broadcast on the Nashville Network last Sunday evening. At the time, due to my location in Canada, I wasn't aware that it was running in the same time-slot as NHRA's Autolite Nationals (Sonoma) on ESPN. No wonder nobody spoke up right away; they were all watching the NHRA show.
Through the courtesty of an anonymous contributor, I've received a batch of responses to the IHRA broadcast. Surprisingly (?), they all universally slagged the broadcast on TNN. As bad as some people think the NHRA shows on ESPN are, all the respondents below feel that the IHRA show is far worse. I guess there's nowhere for the show to go but up, eh? Or out? As they say in television land.... stay tuned.IHRA GOES BRAIN DEAD!!!
From: concerned racer
Date: August 8, 2000
Will the real Bill Bader please stand up? Because you have completely lost your mind? Sir, I think you need to get some sleep! How do you think your Top Sportsman and Top Dragster racers can afford to pay fines for oil downs?
You only pay them $1500 to win a damn race. These guys have just as much money in their race cars as Pro Stock and Pro Mod do, but they only get a lousy $1500 to win. Oh yeah, they also get contingency money. WOW!!!!! They might take home $7,000. EWWW!!!
You are going to piss off a butt load of racers, if you guys go though with that proposal. And another thing, your TV coverage was very disappointing. A local high school could have put together a better production. Ralph Shaheen and Aaron Pulburn sucked!!!
That's why NHRA dumped Shaheen, DUH!!! You guys really should have done a better job finding talent. Maybe someone that knows the sport of drag racing. This is drag racing not a monster truck show, Mr. Bader. Hey look everyone, "It's Big Foot vs. Gravedigger???" (ha huh)
God, what will you guys do next??? Piss off half of your Pro Mod racers? Oh yeah, you already did that one.
Re: IHRA GOES BRAIN DEAD!!!
From: IHRA Cartoons
Date: August 9, 2000
This is to the "concerned racer". I don't know who you are but I gotta say, that is the best opinion I'v read in a while. I loved it and you hit the nail right on the head!
Re: IHRA GOES BRAIN DEAD!!!
From: longtime IHRA racer totally disgusted!!!!!!!
Date: August 8, 2000
The TNN coverage was BAD, VERY BAD. I tried to watch both NHRA and IHRA that night, but I soon learned that I did not need to waste my finger energy on the TNN coverage, if you can call what I saw coverage! I think we need to get back to being drag racers, and somebody to talk like he or she really knows what is what is going on, period!
Darlington TV Coverage
From: IHRA Fan
Date: August 8, 2000
TNN's Darlington TV coverage: rank amateurism.
TV COVERAGE? WHAT A JOKE!
Date: August 8, 2000
I CANT BELEIVE ANYBODY THAT WATCHED THE SHOW SUNDAY NIGHT COULD POSSIBLY THINK IT WAS ACCEPTABLE. FROM POOR CAMERA ANGLES TO MISPRONOUNCIATION OF NAMES THAT HAVE RAN IHRA FOR YEARS WERE JUST PART OF THE BAD COVERAGE. I ALSO HAVE TO BELEIVE THAT STARTING OUT WITH FIRST AND SECOND ROUND HIGHLIGHTS AND NOT SHOWING ALL THE WINNING RUNS IN THE SECOND ROUNDS IS NOT GOING TO KEEP THE SPONSORS HAPPY. THE COVERAGE SORTA REMINDED ME OF THE FIRST IHRA RACES THAT WERE TELEVISED IN 85-86. WE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT THE REST OF THE RACES AREN'T GONNA BE LIKE THIS ONE..... PLEASE...
IHRA TV COVERAGE
From: Disappointed IHRA FAN
Date: August 8, 2000
I taped the show Sunday night so I could watch a current race (NHRA). It was a great idea, I mean what is one more day after five months? As usual, the IHRA made a lot of promises and failed to deliver, making good on their statement "Nothing but attitude".
Ralph Shaheen was dumped by the NHRA years ago because he had no clue what he was talking about and did nothing to fix it, so he was the obvious choice to host the IHRA shows. In true form, much like the higherups at the IHRA who did no homework before hiring a host, Ralph did no homework to prepare for the show as he annihilated the name of Gentleman Jim Lape. not to mention he had no idea how good some of the runs in Top Fuel Harley were, or the history of a lot of the racers.
I thought Tommy Johnson Jr. did the best job considering he is not Talent by trade, although I do find it humorous that when Tommy gets a ride it's always with the NHRA.
And then there is Aaron Polburn, once again the phrase nothing but attitude fits because he had no real information to add to the show. Not only is he the scariest thing I'v ever seen but how many times can we listen to him say at the top end, "I don't know what you ran and WHO CARES ANYHOW?" Aaron does have some talent though, he holds the record for the number of times you can stumble and say the word UH in a short 10 second segment.
As far as running the classes one at a time, it's great for the fan that just likes one class. He can tune in and tune out without watching the whole show. The sponsors who waited for five months must love that.
At least Ken Stout did his home work and fed us some information without stumbling and Bret Kepner, who as we all know, is a walking encyclopedia of information, got us excited as we watched. Bob Varsha is now contracted Talent for Speedvision and once hosted the shows and did a great job along with Ted Jones.
I'm sorry but I don't see the big improvment. Once again the racers got the raw deal. If the IHRA would have given the previous group of people the budget that they have given to this group the shows would have been great!
The IHRA is for sale, it always has been, the only reason it has not sold is because they can't find anyone to spend their mony on just ATTITUDE. The slogan for the IHRA should be just ARROGANCE because that is what the TV show reflects with Aaron and the Drag Review reflects with Bill Bader.
Sorry guys I'm not biting on all the HOOPLAH!
Re: IHRA TV COVERAGE
From: Pro Outlaw #1
Date: August 8, 2000
We ran a poll and 100% of the people we talked to agreed that the TV coverage was poor. Disappointed IRHA fan said what everyone else thought and said it best. Does this mean we're getting rid of IHRA's TV show like we are getting rid of Pro Outlaw because of the poll they ran?
The people have spoken... and spoken.... and spoken some more. I could probably surf around the 'net for an hour or so and find at least a dozen more postings just like the ones above. Or expressed in even stronger terms. Until the next episode, coming up in just forty-eight hours, we'll just have to hope the broadcast ratchets up the quality by a few notches. We might be more successful waiting for bovines to leap over a lunar landscape, or porcine creatures to grow feathered appendages and take flight, but we've just got to have hope, right?
That's all the time we've got for the moment, except to congratulate our good friend, Larry Pfister on the long-awaited release of his newest video masterpiece: Horsepower Heaven 99 (aka: the best drag racing video of the last century). Click on the thumbnail view of the cover for all the details about how to acquire your own copy of the video.
If all goes well this weekend, we'll have seen the tape and post a review of it here by Monday... or Tuesday. After all, the video is more than six months behind schedule, so you can cut me a little slack, can't you?
Next update of this page will be tomorrow (Saturday) night, with the latest news from the BC OldTime Drags, presented by the Langley Loafers, at Mission Raceway Park.