Finally some good news!

There are finally some good-news drag racing stories to write about and, boy, am I grateful for that!

The NHRA tech department made a rule decision that was good for everybody! That department is headed up by VP of Technical Operations, Glen Gray. The department often gets hammered by columnists and racers for the decisions and rules they make and, frankly, sometimes deservedly so.

The tech department is by necessity an autocratic department tasked with making rules that keep the racers safe while attempting to provide them the ever illusive “level playing field.” Although there is a group of racers and manufacturers that are asked for their input regarding rules and changes, the final decision fall on the tech department. It is a thankless and difficult job, but the department’s recent change of a rule written in 2011 for NHRA’s Heritage AA/FCs was correct, courageous and commendable.

For the second year in a row Mr. Gray and his advisers found a compromise solution rule directly affecting the Nostalgia nitro flopper racers that was a win for everyone.

Before the start of last season the NHRA informed the AA/FC teams in an addition to the 2011 rulebook that they would be able to race in 2011 with carbon fiber rotors on the rear brakes and steel rotors on the front but in 2012 four-wheel carbon fiber brakes would be mandatory. That decision saved the racers a little money and gave them about 16 months or so to comply.

Because of the cost required to modify the chassis of older Funny Cars to accept carbon fiber brake rotors - up to $10,000 - racers who can’t afford or don’t have that kind of money were faced with three options for 2012: Don’t race with the NHRA, replace the Funny Car body with a Fuel Altered body, or spend up to $10,000.

Faced with the fact that the disc brake rule was going to force a good number of AA/FC teams to quit racing, the NHRA did something basically unheard of: They modified their 2011 carbon brake rule for the nostalgia AA/FC class. They now will allow nostalgia nitro Funny Cars that don’t exceed 240 mph in a quarter mile to retain steel front brake rotors and only require four-wheel carbon fiber brakes on AA/FC’s that exceed 240 mph.

This is the first instance that I know of of the NHRA changing a safety rule after it had been posted. I take this action as a sign that the NHRA’s management team is finally considering both the long- and short-term effects a rule can have on racers, has the will to change a bad rule, and isn’t afraid to acknowledge and change an unfair rule.

I once wrote that the ascendancy of Tom Compton to the president’s position at the NHRA signaled that winds of change were coming at the Old NHRA. I believe he has implemented many good changes, including the mindset of the tech department to the point that they can make a bad rule and change it. I hope that means going forward the tech department will be more flexible and less autocratic.

The racer-friendly decision regarding the AA/FCs has done more to improve racers’ opinions of the NHRA management than anything they have done since Mr. Compton first took over control of the sanctioning body. And that is a very good thing.

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