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Usually at this time of year, just about a month before the opening race of the NHRA season, the news is about driver changes, new sponsors, new races, and new rules. In other words, the same old stuff.
This year, though, we journalists have a wealth of unusual stories to write about. For instance: What happened at the ADRL that lead to founder Kenny Nowling’s departure, how will the new ADRL management work out and will the current owner fund that series with a major sponsor? Does the NHRA actually meet the federal guidelines for a not for profit organization, and will the IRS read the complaint filed by a Washington law firm on behalf an unknown competitor and decide to force the NHRA to make changes in the way it does business and pays it leaders? And then there is the new NHRA sportsman payout and points program that has created a big buzz in the NHRA Stock and Super Stock ranks.
Each of these subjects is certainly worthy of a Burk’s Blast, but there is another subject that I think is more important, and that is the apparent lack of interest in big time drag racing by the Chevrolet Division of GM.
From the time I first went to my first NHRA-sanctioned drags at Amarillo Dragway in 1960, Chevrolet and that brand’s involvement in drag racing was evident. While Zora Duntov was racing his one-off Corvettes in the Bahamas, back in the States Chevy drag racing was developing ’57 Chevys with four speeds and fuel injection. Soon there was “Dyno Don” Nicholson and his 409, followed by Chevy standard bearer Bill Jenkins, and finally Lee Shepherd and the Reher-Morrison cars. Chevy was the dominant car brand in the NHRA for nearly a half century.
There is no question Chevy leadership knew that drag racers bought Novas, Camaros and even Impalas because Chevy factory hot rods could be bought off the showroom floor with a hypo drag package. Can you say COPO? But now, unless you by a Corvette, there is nothing for the faithful to buy and race.
What really brought home to me the reality that Chevy management was turning away from drag racing was the news that the only seriously funded Chevy Pro Stock team for the 2011 season would be the Cobalt driven by Erica Enders for Victor Cagnazzi’s team. When we called the Chevy folks to ask what body style they were going to use for Pro Stock this year the response was basically “We don’t have a factory Pro Stock body.”
I was talking about this with West Coast Editor Darr Hawthorne who is a dyed-in-the-wool Chevy fan/racer about this and he opined, “Look at the decision making at today’s General Motors. When NASCAR made sweeping changes to their Nationwide series, bringing in Pony cars, Ford chose the Mustang body style, Chrysler chose the new Challenger and GM racing chose the Impala where the highest horsepower engine you can get if you buy one is 230 hp rather than the hot new Camaro which has a 400+ hp engine option.”
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