Volume X, Issue 8, Page 8

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And you say I never compliment the NHRA or IHRA

hat I really want from a drag race is a good time and to see good drag racing. In my search for those goals recently I’ve been spending more of my time and money going to events that don’t get covered by the major print or electronic media instead of the NHRA and IHRA national  events.

Frankly, in most cases the NHRA and IHRA events just aren’t that much fun or entertaining for me, especially after 30+ years of attending them. The fact is those sanctioning bodies’ races have changed very little in the last three decades other than in the performance area. 

Having said that, both sanctioning bodies deserve kudos for a lot of improvements and accomplishments over the years and we’ll get to those later.

Not the least of the reasons I’ve lost interest is the fact that I like my racing to be unpredictable. I want races where there is a reasonable chance there will be pro teams, drivers, and cars I’ve never seen or heard of before, much less seen 100 times before. A race where the possibility that all the best seats aren’t pre-sold, a race where I can buy a beer and burger, hand the lady a ten-spot and get some change. A race where the management greets me, the racers, and especially the spectator, with a smile.

I want an experience opposite to the one I got at my last major league national event where they parked me in the south 40 and when I got to the press room instead of being greeted with a smile and a, “Glad to see you,” I was asked a less-than-friendly, “What are you doing here?”

At the time I found that question kind of strange. I currently own three magazines that cover that sanctioning body’s races. I’ve spent more than 30 years as a drag racing journalist during which time I edited and worked on a couple of pretty good drag racing magazines and newspapers including Super Stock and Drag Illustrated and Drag Racing, and currently edit one of the largest internet magazines dedicated to drag racing which gets about 300,000 readers an month. What was I doing there?!

So, while I will still go to a few of the major sanctioning bodies’ events and we’ll still cover them in the pages of DRO, MoparMax and MaxChevy, in the future I’m going to save myself and the major management teams the grief and spend my time and money going to major independent races where I’m welcomed, and the track, racers and fans are glad to get race coverage in my magazines.

Oh, and here is something the major sanctioning bodies ought to consider. In DRO’s most recent reader survey many of you said you didn’t read DRO for NHRA or IHRA national event results. You like the other races that you can’t read about anywhere else, and our independent opinions.

Two weekends ago I went to the eighth-mile Eddyville, Iowa, dragstrip  for the World Fuel Altered Championships (which I think really should be called the U.S. Fuel Altered National Championships). Last week I attended the World Series of Drag Racing at the quarter-mile Cordova, Illinois, track. And I had a great time at them both.

Aside from 23 blown nitro and alky altereds at the Eddyville race, the best thing about that event for me was the interaction I had with the fans and racers. There wasn’t a pit on the grounds that had a rope or banner keeping fans at bay.

At NHRA and IHRA events now fans are kept out of the racers’ pits and they may only see the racer when he or she works the rope line or sign autographs at their souvenier trailer. Pro drag racing is big business with millions of dollars in sponsorship at stake. And many teams make a lot of money by charging fans for coming into their pits. It’s called hospitality in the racing biz these days. I call that an oxymoron. At least currently, big time drag racing pits are nothing like the secure compounds that NASCAR’s pits have become, but it’s drifting that way in my opinion.

So, for two races I just hung. I talked to the racers and talked to a lot of DRO readers who would stop me, call me “Burkster” and tell me what they liked and didn’t like about DRO as well as a variety of other drag racing related issues. And as that kind of interaction often does, one of the readers that stopped me gave me the inspiration to write this column. He told me how much he liked my “just wondering” columns and agreed with them but said, “How ‘bout you write a column where you list the Top Ten good things that the NHRA and IHRA have done for the sport of drag racing?” 

We talked some more and I realized that maybe he had a point, so I told him I would try. So here goes.

Let’s start with the NHRA positives shall we?

  • NHRA has made drag racing safer. Wally Parks started NHRA with that in mind and it still applies.
  • NHRA management has made drag racing a mainstream motorsport. Can’t argue that!
  • NHRA put all of their national events on TV for all of us to watch.  Again can’t argue with the benefits to the sport of that.
  • They’ve made a not for profit corporation profitable. No question, just check their tax returns.
  • Participation at any level of the NHRA is absolutely open. Race, color, or gender means absolutely nothing; you don’t even need talent.
  • NHRA brought the art of track prep to a science level.
  • NHRA has free entry for pro classes.

Now let’s turn our attention to the IHRA.

  • IHRA offers racers and fans an alternative to the NHRA…and damn proud of it!
  • IHRA has kept rules that allow Chris Karamesines to keep racing…and damn proud of it
  • IHRA invented Pro Modified…and damn proud of it.
  • IHRA invented Mountain Motor Pro Stock…and damn proud of it.
  • The first 200-mph doorslammer, first six-second doorslammer, first four-second ET in nitro racing were all thanks to the IHRA…and damn proud of it.

Well, those are the good things I can think of that the two leading sanctioning bodies have accomplished. I tried for ten of each but failed. Sorry. 

I guess we can now put to rest the rumor that I never say anything positive about the IHRA or the NHRA.

If you readers can come up with some more legit achievements that you can credit to either sanctioning body that have made the sport better for the racers, sponsors, or fans, then let’s hear them. In the meantime, I’ll see you at races where folks smile at the gate, don’t park me a cab ride away from the tower and don’t ask me why I’m there. I’m there to have a good time enjoying drag racing.