Volume X, Issue 3, Page 20

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DRAG RACING Online will be published on the 8th of each month and will be updated throughout the month.

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Kay Burk
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Notes scribbled on my napkin from the Broadway Oyster Bar home of the best Cajun Po Boy and Cajun music in old, downtown St. Louis

“You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.”      -- Jeff Burk

From talking to many racers over the winter I was mistakenly under the impression that the major sanctioning bodies might have problems with full fields at their national events this season due to  some teams losing sponsorships and the increases in fuel prices, parts, and the cost of travel. Evidently that was just a bunch of whining on their parts. Through the NHRA Houston event, all of the 16-car pro fields (including Pro Modified) at NHRA events have had full fields with plenty of alternates, (ditto for the Mopar event at Vegas last weekend and the NMCA race at Bradenton, FL.) Despite increased costs and lost sponsors there were over 100 professional entrants at the Gainesville and Houston races and close to a hundred at both Pomona and Phoenix.

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer. 

Track prep and track surface have been a subject of complaints by professional racers almost as long as I have been involved in the sport. In the past two NHRA races that I have watched on the tube the track surface has been, according to the crew chiefs, drivers and announcers, atrocious. This week at Houston there was a serious drop-off on the track surface where the concrete ended and the asphalt began that unsettled the fuel cars, Pro Stocks not to mention the bikes. For the first 16 pairs in nitro eliminations there were exactly TWO races where both cars went to the stripe without spinning or smoking the tires. The prior NHRA race surface at Gainesville appeared from watching it on TV was just as bad. Evidently no one at the NHRA or PRO or anyone else sees this as a problem or if they do they didn’t care enough to do something about it.  I don’t want to hear any whining about the track surfaces anymore.

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.

I’m finished getting on the NHRA, the IHRA  or the Goodyear Tire and Rubber people about the fuel tires they deliver to the racers. There is plenty of documented evidence that the current nitro tires are subject to fail under certain track conditions and trap speeds. Nitro racers have had major tire issues for over a decade. DRO even did an interview with an ex-Goodyear tire engineer who was involved in the design of the current tires that have to be used who stated that he thought a safe maximum speed for the tires was 305! Yet the racers -- unlike their NASCAR brethren -- have never publicly complained and never refused to drive because they thought the tires were unsafe. It’s their lives.

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.

The much maligned rules makers at IHRA have been jumping through hoops for years trying to accomplish the impossible of handicapping the supercharged Pro Mod cars and helping the nitrous cars so that the two totally different cars are equal in performance. The IHRA guys (or anyone else) have never been able to do that task. With the advent of the ADRL series where the two Pro Mod classes are split, all racers now have an option. If a nitrous racer does race in the IHRA Pro Mod class knowing that they will have to race against blower cars and pay an entry fee for that privilege, they shouldn’t complain if the class is dominated by a blower cars. Same scenario applies to NHRA’s Pro Stock Bike class and racers.

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.

I’m tired of hearing from professional racers about how the major sanctioning bodies they race for don’t pay enough to win a race or to win a championship. History tells us that two of the sport’s greatest racers, Don Garlits and Raymond Beadle, took action when they thought they weren’t getting paid enough, and they were successful in getting the NHRA to raise the purses for the pro classes. It’s been 30 years or more since Raymond Beadle took action.
Today’s pro racers seem unwilling or unable to hold the sanctioning body’s feet to the fire and, while the PRO has gotten some issues solved, they have proven unable to get more money for the racers. Hell, last year the NHRA -- without so much as a press release -- reduced the number of places they paid for their Championships by two.. The IHRA cut the number of Top Fuel and Fuel Funny car  racers getting money in their points program to five. Still, the main attraction classes the ones that put the fans in the stands at any major drag race continue to attend races, support the sanctioning bodies, and some still bitch.

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.

We often get letters from fans saying, “I can’t believe that I went to a national event, bought a $70 ticket, paid $10 to park,  bought a half-dozen $8.00 beers,  two $6.50 burgers and two bottles of $4.00 water. What a rip-off!”  Sir, can you identify the man who held that gun on you to buy the ticket and that food at the concession stand?

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.

“The NHRA treats the sportsman racers like crap. They don’t appreciate us.” I hear that a lot but often it is from a racer who makes sure they race at enough division races to get enough grading points to qualify for the opportunity to attend a national event. He or she then goes to the race (if it is one that has the class they compete in), pay the entry fee and then bitch about the payout or cost to attend even though they knew in advance what they would get from the NHRA. 

You can’t be a victim if you volunteer.

And finally, a personal note. You may have heard rumors already, but I’ll make it official: I’m going racing. My friend, three-time Top Fuel Champ and the first guy to break the five-second barrier in a AA/FD, Paul Romine, car builder extraordinaire Mike Spitzer, and myself along with hired consultant and fuel system guru Dave Settles are going AA/FC racing with a VRA-legal ’79 Ford Mustang. The car will be painted to resemble Romine’s last fuel Funny Car, which was also a ’79 Stang.

Romine and I are accumulating parts. I volunteered to be the PR rep and Parts Procurer -I’ve had that job on most of the teams I’ve been associated with-and will do anything else Paul, Mike or Settles ask of me.

I promise you won’t see or read much about our team in this mag unless we do something that’s newsworthy. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the track to race instead of going as a journalist and I’ve really, really missed racing.  I also promise you will not hear or read me bitching about the cost of tickets, nitro, food, parts, bad rooms, bad decisions, bad tracks, sleeping in the truck or whichever nostalgia sanctioning body we race with.

After all, “you can’t be a victim if you volunteer!” And there will be no whining!