Notes written on a coaster from G’s Place in Port Byron, Illinois (best steak and music bar in the area)

It’s not just the fees that NHRA “big show” teams charge promoters that has put an end to those cars doing match races. It’s track prep! I can hear you out there thinking as you read this, “Here he goes again about track prep.” But bear with me just one more time.

At the just completed 57th annual World Series of Drag Racing, Cordova track owner/operator Scott Gardner prepped his track to what he and his track crew thought was the very best they could deliver. The track had enough “teeth” that Paul Romine’s AA/FC ran a 5.799 at over 248 mph. An extremely good ET for one of those cars at any track, and one that bettered the existing track record by more than a tenth of a second! Yeah, you could say that the track was excellent for any car other than an NHRA nitro burner.

Fast forward 24 hours and the start of the Top Fuel and Funny Car match races at the World Series. Six NHRA nitro teams were on hand: both Pedregon brothers, Tim Wilkerson and his son Dan were driving Funny Cars, and Doug Foley and Spencer Massey were driving Foley’s U.S. Nationals-bound Top Fuel dragsters.

The best ET and speed delivered by any of the nitro teams was a slovenly 4.713/188.10 by Cruz Pedregon’s nitro coupe. Massey ran a 4.715/159, which was the best speed and ET for a Top Fuel car. It took them two laps each to do that and not one of the cars made it through the 1,000-foot mark under power. Not one!  It was, by any standards, a pathetic showing. The only possible excuse for this miserable show is that today’s NHRA nitro crew chiefs simply don’t know how to race on any track surface other than a track groomed to NHRA national event standards. I’ll say it one more time: drag racing is a sport in which the racers and tuners shouldn’t have to have a perfectly prepped track surface to deliver race fans a good show.


I walked into Scott Gardner’s office after the event was over to congratulate him on a great race and in the course of our conversation the subject turned to the pro show. I commented on how lame I thought the professional racers’ show was. I was about to start beating on him to book more Nostalgia Funny Cars, and pay them more and the NHRA pros less, when Scott held his hand up, giving me the old “stop” sign and said, “Remember how many fans we didn’t have for Nostalgiafest when the Nostalgia Funny Cars were the main attraction?  Did you notice that we had an SRO crowd at this event?

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