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There is a tradition in journalism of commenting on the past year and predicting what will come about in the new year. I’ve never really cared for that particular journalistic enterprise for two reasons: First, I don’t know anyone in the business (including me) who is really qualified to predict or discuss more than one or two categories at best. Second, who really cares about what happened last year? We can’t change it.
But I never could take good advice, even my own, so once a year I get out the old Burkster’s tequila-filled crystal ball, clean it, light some incense, and squint into my slightly clouded crystal orb for some pearls of prognostic predictions.
I see the future of the NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car classes being more of the same. The classes will continue to be dominated by teams owned by multi-millionaires or billionaires. Like any car that is capable of speeds over 320 mph on a thousand-foot track using an engine that burns rocket fuel, they will continue to have the occasional crash and continue to be extremely dangerous.
The NHRA will continue to race those cars on 1,000-foot tracks and there will continue to be massive engine failures, fires and oil-downs because, as of Jan. 11, 2011 -- despite more than two years testing new engine and drivetrain combinations -- the man in charge of the classes, NHRA’s Dan Olson, has not made one significant change to mitigate engine explosions or to slow the cars down.
Those 80-100 GPH fuel pumps, twin 44-amp mags and superchargers that can deliver 40 to 50 lbs of boost remain the rule and the heart of the problem.
Nitro cars will be running at the same speeds or faster than they were when the racing distance was reduced to 1,000 ft. Devices installed on nitro and alky cars to automatically shut off the fuel and deploy the chutes will encourage some to drive over their heads and will diminish the driving skills formerly required to drive these cars.
Drivers of nitro cars actually capable of working on and/or tuning their cars will become virtually non-existent. The trend of drivers with money and damn little experience getting whatever Top Fuel and Funny Car rides become available will continue.
Nitro cars will continue to deliver the sound, smell, performance, and the occasional crash and burn that sells tickets to the fan just looking for a visceral thrill. As it has been for a couple of years now, innovation, record breaking performances, and independent teams are going to be less and less a part of NHRA nitro racing.
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