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The latest update as of July 5, 2008

9:45 PM

They tried, and tried, and tried some more, but eventually the hard-working track crew had to admit defeat as yet another rain shower washed out their efforts of the past two hours. As the official announcement was made by the IHRA officials on the P.A. system, the point was truly punctuated with a flash of lightning that ran right across the track at the finish line.

So we're finished qualifying with only one session of fuel cars, but all fields are set with only one nitro funny car on the outside looking in. The four non-qualifying alcohol funny cars all had three chances to make the field so no one can complain that they weren't treated fairly. The real losers in this situation are the fans and the track as the rainout refunds are mounting and the missed action is accumulating.

Our next report will be in the morning. Not too early, I hope.

8:15 PM

Just like deja vu all over again, it's raining at Castrol Raceway. We were nearing the end of Pro Mod qualifying (four cars left in the lanes) when Joe Delahay oiled the track, and while that mess was being cleaned up, the rain started, light at first, then gradually gaining in intensity until the track was well watered.

The downpour stopped more than half an hour ago, but the latest, and definitely optimistic pronouncement from IHRA race control has suggested that we are at least one hour away from resuming racing. That would push it past sunset and with the marginal lighting available at this facility, the fuel cars still to run would be facing a daunting prospect of getting down a cold, damp, dark track tonight.

It's looking more and more like top fuel and nitro funny car qualifying was a one-shot affair, but with barely enough cars here to fill each field, that is pretty much a moot point.

At this point, we're tired and hungry and it's time to shut off the computer long enough to search for some lunch and/or dinner, in whatever form we can find. Pretzels and cookies in the media centre just aren't enough to sustain us.

More news later, at least before midnight. Stay t-u-n-e-d.

6:00 PM

It's been a long, and rather warm afternoon here at Edmonton's Castrol Raceway, but we've been treated to a smorgasbord of automotive esoterica, with everything from Nostalgia Funny Cars to a Wheelstanding Backhoe, a BioDiesel Jet Funny Car and pretty much everything on either two or four wheels between those extremes.

Track and air conditions were much improved from Friday afternoon, as the Pro Mod and Alcohol Funny Car fields tightened up considerably, but the fuel cars were mostly up in smoke or just plain blown up well before the finish line in almost all cases. Thankfully we weren't treated to a succession of oildowns, with only two short episodes of on track deposits recorded.

With one more qualifying session for the pro cars, starting in just over an hour, it's to be hoped that conditions and tuneups will meet somewhere close to a happy medium and some solid four-second runs can be recorded by the Top Fuel cars and something close to that by at least a few of the floppers.

For the blown alcohol and injected nitrous players, more five-second passes should be in the cards, but some last ditch qualifying efforts by the "outsiders" in alcohol funny car should produce some serious excitement this evening.

There's no time right now to post any numbers, or add captions to the photos, or post more than a few of this afternoon's pictures, so check out Drag Race Central for the facts and check back here late tonight or early-ish tomorrow for pictorial presentations.

1:30 PM

Another quick update while we're waiting out another oildown, with barely half an hour until the first pro session of the day and the first time we'll see the fuel dragsters and funnies this weekend. The track is warming up but is still cooler than yesterday's 118 F peak. It's just nudging 110 degrees as I write this and the density altitude readings are closing in on 5000 feet, again still well below yesterday's gasp-inducing numbers.

If the cars don't get to the lanes too quickly we'll sneak the first few of today's photos into the Saturday page. And before we forget, a big thank you to Dean Murdoch of SpeedZone for graciously providing a link to these scribblings this weekend. Who knows, maybe we'll even turn this into a "regular" thing again.

11:30 AM

A quick update while we're wolfing down a bag lunch before the qualifying session gets underway in a little more than two hours. We've posted the balance of the photos from yesterday, thumbnails only for now, but still have to fill in the captions for the second page. But considering the lack of progress on this website over the past few years, that's a big step forward. Next update in two hours if all goes well.

9:30 AM

Good morning from sunny, breezy and slightly cooler than yesterday Castrol Raceway. After a very intense session of thunder and lightning last evening, accompanied with torrential rain showers, we've started Saturday dry, and with a good forecast for the rest of the day.

With last night's pro qualifying session washed out, they only have two more chances today to get into their fields or improve their positions. The pressure will be especially intense in alcohol funny car, with 12 cars vying for the eight qualifying spots. The fuel burners and pro mods aren't under quite the same pressure, but a good first pass at 3pm today is certainly required to ease the tension that builds going into the final qualifying session, the Night of Fire extravaganza at 7:30pm.

One "professional" class that is already signed, sealed and delivered is Pro Stock. With only one attendee, Bob Bertsch, his victory tomorrow is a foregone conclusion as long as he can show up, start the car and get it to the starting line. His 300 foot effort yesterday confirmed his ticket to an uncontested first and final round on Sunday.

Editorials and comment by a variety of pundits are already inundating the internet, in chat rooms, discussion boards, and racing websites, so to add my voice to the crescendo of conflicting viewpoints would serve no truly useful purpose. My take on the issue is that the racers should have travelled here, competed, put on a show for the fans and negotiated in private with IHRA, instead of boycotting the event.

There was advance notice served on the association of their intentions, as almost every Pro Stock racer in attendance at the previous race (Budds Creek, Maryland) signed a committment to not appear at Edmonton, but to my knowledge, no negotiations were entered into or even considered during the two weeks since the boycott declaration.

While the pro stock boycott is the big news story of this event, it may not cause much of a ripple outside the IHRA family, and frankly, that isn't a very large group. To the drag racing or general motorsport fan at large, this is decidedly a non-issue or at most, a minor distraction. And if the boycotting racers think they're proving a point to anyone, they are sadly deluded.

The IHRA has steadfastly (to this moment) not commented on the matter and won't (on or off the record) speculate on what will happen after this event. They also refuse to discuss the points fund situation for the pro stock racers, as the fear is that with the collapse of the Torco sponsorships, that the season-ending bonus money will evaporate and leave the racers even further out of pocket than they already claim to be.

No one can dispute that the costs of travel have skyrocketed in the past few months and have moved up in the hierarchy of expenses for a professional, or amateur race team. There will be no easy solutions to this situation, other than to cut back on travel and attend fewer races, especially long-distance events, like Edmonton is for many racers. However, to commit to running a full schedule, as most pro racers do for their sponsors, and then decide to conveniently drop an event in mid-season is not the answer.

Racers should be willing to shoulder the costs for the balance of the season and reconsider their positions for next year, at which time we may all have a clearer view of where the sport and sponsorships and events will be heading. It's very difficult to predict just how much effect the subprime crisis and apparently looming recession in the USA, greatly exacerbated by the incredible increase in energy costs this year, will leave us as we enter 2009.

At this moment I can foresee fewer racers competing at fewer events, with fewer sponsors next year. No increases in purses, and possible reductions or even elimination of bonus funds may be in the offing. Maybe we will even see fewer races, especially on the IHRA schedule, which does feature events in a number of financially depressed regions. But before we proclaim that the sky is indeed falling, let's just hang on and let the winds of change blow the way they will, then react, instead of jumping to hasty conclusions.

Okay, that's enough soapbox work for today, let's slap on some sunscreen, find a hat, and go watch some racing. The next report will be shortly before the first pro qualifying session (scheduled for 3pm) and in the meantime I'll get to work on adding captions to the balance of Thursday's and hopefully, all of Friday's pics. Unfortunately, the full-size images won't be available until at least tonight, or possibly Sunday evening. It's bandwidth and time constraint issues, as in, there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done.

All together now: STAY TUNED!

To see previous updates go to the What's Old page