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Notes scribbled on the back of my rejection letter from the Don Garlits
International Hall of Fame

Another year has passed, another class has been inducted in the Don Garlits International Hall of Fame, and still one of the most innovative drag racers not in that hallowed club is the late Clayton Harris.  

Yeah, I admit he was a friend of mine and, yeah, I am biased, but he was the first tuner to put a front-motored nitro burning dragster into the fives, the third tuner in the fours with budget racer Richard Holcomb, and a multi-time national event Top Fuel winner as team owner/driver/tuner of his own Top Fuel car.

Sometimes I wonder about the people who decide who gets in these halls of fame. I’m not saying that any of the current members of Garlits’ HOF don’t deserve the honor, but I am saying they are leaving some deserving drag racers out.

Here’s an example of my frustration with halls of fame.  This year the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is inducting among others the Scandinavian band ABBA.  ABBA is a Rock HOF band, but a Rock and Roll HOF band? Well, maybe by some folk’s standards but until real rock and rollers like Mitch Ryder, Hall and Oates, and Eddie Money are in the HOF ABBA which had just one Top 40 hit shouldn’t be in. . . . I guess I just don’t understand the criteria for what a true hall of famer drag racer or a rock and roll band is?  I do know what Clayton Harris was and did and he is a hall of fame drag racer.

Well, the IHRA Nitro Jam series for 2010 is two races old so it is time to give that series the same kind of scrutiny that any “major” sanctioning body gets from me.

First, let me say that Feld Entertainment has done a superb job of promoting their series through the first two races. The Feld PR machine has created a hell of a buzz. But here are some facts that everyone should acknowledge.

First, neither the Florida nor Louisiana track have seats for 10,000 spectators, so let’s understand there is a huge difference between getting, say, 5,000 people to buy a one-day $25 ticket to an IHRA Nitro Jam and 10,000 people to buy a $50 ticket to an NHRA event.

Second, so far the total number of cars (sportsman and pro) attending any IHRA event is less than 250 entries total. That isn’t a health number by any standards.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the three booked-in nitro classes total 20 cars (four Top Fuel cars, eight Nitro Funny Cars and eight injected fuel dragsters). They haven’t exactly put on stellar shows by any professional standards unless you think a  five-second, 240-mph Nitro Funny Car pass is “stellar”  and the A/FD’s,  despite IHRA lifting many of the NHRA performance restrictions, still aren’t as quick or as fast as their NHRA counterparts.

So far the IHRA Nitro Jams have been staged at tracks where the fans haven’t had drag racing National Event in years, if ever. So it stands to reason they will attend the premiere IHRA races and I will admit that so far the IHRA Nitro Jams appear be a success in the markets they are in. But the fact is that in the past many new track owner/operators have hosted losing “National Events” for the prestige and ego stroke.

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