Notes written on my napkin from Pat’s Pig in Topeka, KS: Great BBQ and Cold Beer

OK, I’m going to publicly admit it: I was wrong about 1,000-foot racing for NHRA nitro cars.

I sat through a session at Topeka and a pass that takes less than four seconds doesn’t give the fan enough “bang for the buck.” I originally supported the shorter distance because I believed that shortening the track would mean slower speeds and a safer sport. I also believed that a 1,000-foot track was long enough to still be entertaining.

Again, I say I was wrong in all cases, and the facts support that feeling. 

First, nitro Top Fuelers and floppers now regularly put up speeds within 15 mph of the speeds they were running when the distance was a quarter mile. I believe a crash at 315 mph will be just as bad for the driver as one at 330 mph.

Second, if I’m a spectator paying $40 or more for a ticket, watching and listening to a 3.80- to 4.00-second pass just isn’t very entertaining, even with the shortened attention span issues.

Third, getting the cars safely stopped is no longer the issue at most tracks after the NHRA has made carbon fiber brakes mandatory along with devices that deploy the chutes either when the engine blows up or 400 feet past the finish line, whichever comes first.

Fourth, splitting the professional classes into groups that run different distances at the same track is confusing to the average fan.

If excessive speed is the issue, why doesn’t the NHRA simply do what Lee Beard told me they should have done long ago and lower the maximum rpm using the mandatory MSD rev-limiter? The NHRA department tasked with the job of slowing down nitro cars has spent three years and a gob of money doing R&D trying to develop an alternate solution to just lowering the rpm. I’m damned if I can figure out why. The solution is already in place. 

The NHRA program to slow down nitro cars reminds me of those government program boondoggles where a group of engineers spend millions of dollars and years of time re-designing a toilet seat.

I’m not saying that all tracks should return to a quarter mile. Englishtown and Pomona come to mind as tracks that should remain at a 1,000 feet and, frankly, I think at those tracks all classes should run the same distance. 

The NHRA is in the sports entertainment business and, as I have, should admit that the 1,000-foot solution simply hasn’t accomplished what it was supposed to and go back to a quarter-mile racing where possible.

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