VOLUME XX,  NUMBER 1 - JANUARY,  2018

BURK'S BLAST w/editor Jeff Burk

Notes scribbled on my cocktail coaster from the Slippery Noodle blues bar in Indy

I think that the rule changes to NHRA’s Pro Stock class for 2018 asked for by the Pro Stock team owners and approved by the NHRA signals the end of the NHRA Pro Stock class as its hardcore fans have known it for over 50 years. Allowing Pro Stock teams to race a Mustang with a Chevy engine  or a Camaro with a Chrysler Hemi under the hood  will alienate what fans the class has now as well as nearly guarantee no factory support in the class.

 

Pro Stocks’ original attraction for racers, fans, and the Ford, GM and Chrysler factories was that the cars were for the most part absolutely stock appearing and powered by a motor built by the same manufacturer that built the car. Also it was a place where the factories could compete against each other for bragging rights and publicity.

 

Eventually, because the NHRA management team couldn’t or wouldn’t make the Pro Stock racers to adhere to the spirit of the Pro Stock class, the cars morphed into what they are today. In my opinion, it now also guarantees Detroit's continuing enthusiastic support of the Factory Stock category.

 

As for the future of the Pro Stock class, it will remain a class for wealthy hobbyist. I don’t think NHRA will ever kill the class, they’ll leave that task to the owners.

 

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I would not have believed 10 years ago that eventually there would be enough nitro burning “Nostalgia” Funny Cars on the West Coast that March Meet majordomo Blake Bowser could add a second nitro funny class to not only have a qualified 16-car Nostalgia Funny Car, but also an eight-car qualified nitro funny with a 5.90 index. They will be known as “Classic” Funny Cars and the class itself will be called that as well. For that much nitro I might be inclined to pay the $19.59 for the new PPV of the March Meet that the hats at Bangshift just announced.

 

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Just Wondering … Will the IHRA take advantage of its 40+ years of branding and become the sanctioning body for both sportsman and “big buck” bracket racers? There is a void they could fill. I think that sooner rather than later an IHRA national event will offer their faithful racer base a chance to race in the traditional IHRA Sportsman classes one day for an Iron man and a World Championship, then hang around the next day and sign up for a $100,000-to-win bracket race.

 

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Just Wondering … Speaking of the IHRA, I wonder why they don’t make their Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes their “professional” classes? Start promoting the quickest and fastest cars the IHRA offers and, frankly, the only two classes that might sell tickets. Make sure the Low ET and Top Speed for those classes are part of the race report.

 

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Just Wondering … When is Ford or a Ford team going to put Billy Glidden in a Factory Stock Mustang Cobra Jet? I think that would be a proper tribute in the 2018 season to his father, Bob, an all-time great drag racer. I think it would be a real PR boost for the class.

 

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Just Wondering …  Am I the only rabid fan of NHRA’s Top Fuel and Funny Car classes that wishes the NHRA nitro races lasted more than 3.5 seconds per lap? I just need nitro races that lasts little more than 3.5 to 4.0 seconds of track time to be “nitrotained.”

 

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Just Wondering … Wouldn’t all pro teams racing for the NHRA have more success attracting, signing and keeping sponsors if the NHRA broadcast director would insure that every Top Fuel, Funny Car or Pro Stock entered gets some TV air time every time they try to qualify and, of course, all races in elimination pass gets some air time. I know of and have worked for teams that had single and multiple race sponsorships based solely upon TV exposure for the potential sponsor thought they would get. Why not give all the teams you have as much exposure as feasible in the qualifying and early rounds and save the interviews, news, and major announcements for the last quarter of the show? The major-sponsored cars and teams go to the semi and final rounds about 95% of the time anyway.

 

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Just Wondering … When the NHRA tech department decided to allow the MSD 12-amp mag for the Heritage Funny Car and for some Heritage Top Fuel combinations they also made a rule that no mag, electronic or mechanical, can exceed 12 amps in power. Currently the Heritage fuel pump rule is that the winner’s “sealed” pump is sent off, unsealed flowing to 19 or 21 gallons, then resealed and supposed to be flowed by the NHRA after a win to insure it can only pump the legal amount. Will the mags now have to be sealed and require an NHRA-approved bench check after a win? After all, magnetos, points or no points, can be modified to make or try to make more power, that is a fact!

 

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Just Wondering … When is the NHRA financial bus going to turn around? The NHRA’s 2016 income tax return says the company’s 2016 gross income was $98 million, down from $103+ million the previous year. The NHRA operating at a financial loss seems to be a trend over almost the last decade. The NHRA’s management team however didn’t take a pay cut and the soon to retire president Peter Clifford was paid over $900,000 and the former prez Tom Compton got a $600,000 parachute. DRO will have a in depth report on the NHRA’s tax return in our January issue.

 

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Just Wondering … In 2017 according to its own publicity department the NHRA had 10 or more national events where they announced they were sold out of tickets for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Is this a sign more fans are attending NHRA drag racing?

 

According to a reliable source the NHRA declares a race sold out when they’ve sold 10,000 race day tickets at face value. Accomplishing that feat 10 times or so in 2017 would seem to bode well for the NHRA going forward.

 

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Just Wondering … Remember when a racer could buy or get repaired any part of his or her race car on the Manufacturers Midway? Today the Midway reminds me of a flea Market more than a place to buy parts or get info. There is no doubt that the Midway is a serious profit center for the NHRA and they charge Ford, Chevy, U.S. Army, and Mopar dearly for the real estate on the Midway. But the Midway is no longer a place for the racers at the track or the local gearheads to congregate. Maybe the NHRA could have a “gasoline alley” inside the Manufacturer's Midway with affordable rental rates for local custom shops, speed shops, machine shops, car and car clubs, etc. to set up and perhaps bring the current sport compact, Mustang GT generation into 21st century NHRA drag racing.

 

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Just Wondering … Was I too quick to worry about hybrid Pro Stockers infecting the new NHRA Pro Stock class? As of this week I cannot find any racer who will say they have ordered one or a shop that has a deposit on a hybrid Pro Stock. I’ve been told that there is some interest in building one these newest variation on Pro Stock.

 

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Just Wondering … What’s the number, Burkster? Just for fun I’m setting the over and under line for average entrants in both the NHRA Funny Car class and Top Fuel for the 2018 season. The line for the Fuel Coupes is 19 and the Dragsters at 18.

 

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And finally, I want to thank all of you who still enjoy reading my column. You may have noticed that this year I’ve been writing significantly fewer columns than I have in the past. Part of the problem is that I have been writing columns about drag racing since 1976. There isn’t anything concerning this sport, participants and fans that I haven’t written about or expressed my feelings about over the last 40 years.

 

So, although I still enjoy writing my column, I’m just not going to do that as often as I have in the past. I will try to write at least one column per month. For those of you who have expressed your feelings that I should never write about drag racing, this is my Christmas present to y’all.

 

For the rest of you, my wish is that you have a no-drama holiday and 2018! 

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