getting nostalgic w/Brian Losness

So It’s Goodbye IHRA Professional Racing


Welcome to October, and that means that the end of the drag racing season is on the horizon.


I had this column all ready to go about how the NHRA is theoretically the most diverse sports entity going right now and I would do my overview of the California Hot Rod Reunion. Then something else stopped me in my tracks.


For 2018 the IHRA will not be facilitating the running of professional cars (Nitro and Pro Stock/Mod). Their focus is going to be strictly on bracket racing.


Now this is somewhat of a disappointment as many of us thought the IHRA was going to be the standard bearer for the nostalgia scene. It was to start with nostalgia funny cars and at one time, according to Scott Gardner, then president of the IHRA, “There will not be any big show Top Fuel cars in our program, if we move to Top Fuel it will be Nostalgia Top Fuel.”


There was energy and enthusiasm for the move. There was mountain motor Pro Stocks and Pro Mods in the mix.


The series in this configuration ran for three years.


One drawback to it was that it was an invitation only series. Therefore, those picked teams had to commit to the series for the year. This made it somewhat difficult for those teams who might not be able to afford the extensive travel that was required since most of the events were East Coast based.


And for the duration of the three years it was hammered by every type of weather anomaly that could affect a drag race outside a swarm of locusts of biblical proportions.


Now, there were some who say (and I can be included in that group) the show was maybe somewhat over produced. This might be expected as the parent company at the time was Barnum & Bailey and the injection of extraordinary theatrics seemed to be a standard operating procedure.


There was creative concert lighting and booming rock music along dry ice fog pumped into the starting line area. This was overkill; nothing is more dramatic than header flames and burnout smoke when it comes to drag racing.


The upside was the purse that was being paid by the sanctioning body for each event, and then a year-end points fund.


It appeared as though the nostalgia racers were being respected and being compensated for their worth being a headliner at a major motorsports event.


I have to give the devil its due, at least the IHRA tried something that might bring a new level of enjoyment and entertainment for the fans. That alone deserves a big atta-boy.


Then in 2016 the IHRA made a bombshell announcement when they named former NHRA star driver and ESPN commentator Mike Dunn as the company president.

Dunn has just as much nitromethane flowing through his veins as he does blood. To many, this was like the next coming of Christ.


However, it appears as though Mr. Dunn was basically handcuffed as the president, and the company was directed from outside (owner IRGSE) influences.


Now the IHRA will steering away from professional drag racing all together, and will be limited to a bracket racing sanctioning body. There is nothing wrong with that, as bracket racing is the backbone to the sport of drag racing.


However, with that being said, I just do not see someone with the pedigree of Mike Dunn being the overseer of a bracket racing company. I just do not see this happening. However, I could be wrong.


So, what will this do for those running nostalgia funny cars around the country? Well, since the IHRA put “professional racing” on hold last year, in the short term…nothing.


Long term, it does offer up something of an opportunity for some enterprising organization.


Now before all seven of you get wound up, no I am not speaking of the NHRA.  Nostalgia racing is less than a red-headed stepchild to them. This is going to have to take someone or some organization that has resources at their disposal to go out and start organizing races at various venues.


There is a market for nostalgia racing. Is it a major market sport? No. However it is, if the right business model is formulated and followed, a wonderful small- and medium-market sport. It has been proven over the years. Ever seen the crowds at Bakersfield, Boise, and back in the day at Salt Lake City?


Does a group like the UNFC have enough resources and infrastructure in place to facilitate such a move? Not for 2018, but for the near future, who knows?  The most important aspect is that there is opportunity for those who can exploit that opportunity.


All I am saying is that nostalgia racing is a perfectly ripe piece of fruit, but there is nobody who can pick it and use it to its full potential. In addition, if that happens I would hate to see it die on the vine a few years from now.


Moreover, it has to be someone outside of the NHRA, which pains me to say, because their concern for nostalgia racing is negligible.


California Hot Rod Reunion (Better not bring a knife to this gun fight)


Speaking of the NHRA, the California Hot Rod Reunion is coming up in on October 20. This is going to be one of those points’ battles where it will go down to the wire.


Because of the rainout of the final rounds in Boise (still hard to get my head wrapped around that deal) in August, Q3 on Saturday will also serve as the final rounds for both Front Engine Top Fuel and for Funny Car. These final rounds will have a huge bearing on the championships in both classes.


According to the NHRA Heritage Series point’s page, Jim Murphy has a seven-point lead over Mendy Fry 388 to 381 in the standings. Mathematically still in the hunt is Adam Sorokin who is ninety points behind, but he is in the Boise final with Murphy.


For Sorokin to win the title he would need a four-leaf clover, to rub Buddha’s belly, and get some divine intervention in the form of a minor miracle to pull it off. If he wins the Boise final over Murphy, goes on to run the table for the Reunion race, and Fry and Murphy have unexpected first round losses, he could win the championship. (A walk in the park.)


On a more serious note speaking of Murphy, our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim, his family, friends and all those who are in our nostalgia racing families who have had to deal with the fires in Santa Rosa.


By my calculations if Murphy wins the Boise final, then Fry would have to go two rounds more than Murphy in order to take the title.


If Murphy wins the Boise final, he would have a 47 or so points lead, depending on qualifying points. Therefore, Fry would have to make up almost three rounds.


Fry, on the other hand, needs Sorokin to take out Murphy, then have both Murphy and Sorokin lose first round, and Fry make it to the finals. The lynch pin in this whole deal is qualifying points and car count.


The field is based on an eight-car show, which will tighten things up a bit.  Since there is a possibility of being more than eight Top Fuel cars on the grounds, it will make qualifying just that much more important.


However, I was just informed that the “Nitro Hemi” team will not be at Bakersfield as team owner Steve Harwood does not agree with the amount of money charged by the NHRA to race their race. He cites that neither Tulsa nor Boise charged for the headliner cars, so why does Bakersfield (NHRA). He has declined offers of others to pay the entry fee on a point of principle. (A man of honor.)


In Funny Car it is not quite as close as the Top Fuel cars, however it is going to just as much of a dog fight as Ryan Hodgson and Jason Rupert both have made the final of the Boise race and, like Top Fuel, these two will race for that Wally on Saturday afternoon in Q3.


If Hodgson wins the Q3 Boise final round, well, it is pretty much over and the title goes back to Edmonton eh.


If Rupert wins the Boise final, well then things get a bit more interesting.


Rupert has to out-qualify Hodgson and then go much deeper in eliminations than the Canadian to take the comeback win. Rupert’s other blessing is that it will be a 16-car field for the floppers, giving one more opportunity to either gain points or take out Hodgson.


In addition, because the Q3 final rounds also count as qualifying passes, here is a nightmare scenario for those who are in the two fuel car finals from Boise.


How awful would it be to go into Q3, not being qualified, get into a pedal-fest with your opponent and win the race but not go fast enough to make the show. Ouch.


Our grizzled veteran photographer Tim Marshall, will be in the trenches at Bakersfield getting photos and chasing down some story items while I will play the part of Marlin Perkins (I know that dates me) and I’ll be back at the Boise Base Camp taking in the event on NHRA all access and planning a surprise birthday party for my wife. (Don’t worry she isn’t one of the seven people who read this.)


Once again, our thoughts and prayers to those in California, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico who have been affected by all of the natural disasters that have happened recently. God bless you all.  


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