NHRA got it right this time

I’m usually the first to take the high-sheriffs of Glendora to task when I think they have screwed up. Now that I’ve adopted a kinder and gentler attitude I also try to be the first to give them their props when they get it right. I think that Graham Light and the rest of the suits at the NHRA have got it right as to how they have gone about limiting the amount of testing the Top Fuel and Funny Car teams can do.

Like it or not, the only unlimited part of either a Top Fuel or Funny Car team in the last decade has been the budget. There were so many rules and regulations specifically written for the engines, chassis, tires, etc. for nitro cars that basically Ingenuity and improvisation in the nitro classes has been effectively outlawed The only option left for the racer without a budget to gain a performance advantage was to test the cars and components on non-race days. So the big-budget teams started testing before and after each national event in order to wring every last bit of performance out of the spec Top Fuel and Funny Car combinations that the NHRA mandated.

As a result, the cost of fuel racing continued to escalate out of control and the teams with the most money continued to dominate. And those on a budget dropped further and further behind.

The NHRA’s first step toward getting the cost of nitro racing under control was an accidental one. They shortened the length of the race from a quarter mile to 1,000 feet in an attempt to make the racing safer in response to pressure from the drag racing press but mostly because the racers themselves demanded that NHRA shorten the track.

Apparently the shorter track has made the racing safer, but the jury is still out on that.  But what isn’t in question is that the shorter track has, according to every team owner I’ve talked with, saved each team significant cash. And that is one of the main reasons the nitro teams haven’t been lobbying to return to 1320-foot racing.

The NHRA got lucky once more when they restricted testing at their national event tracks during the panic over the price and availability of nitro. As it turned out there was always plenty of nitro and it can now be bought for around $800 a drum, but, again, the teams all found out that they saved a significant amount of money by not testing after every race.

So fast forward this scenario to Wednesday, Jan 21, when the NHRA announced their 2009 testing policy restricted the T/F and F/C teams to just four days of testing. According to NHRA VP Graham Light, the NHRA did this to save the racers from themselves. Less testing means less money spent and less of an advantage to the mega-teams.

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