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Cleaning out an overfilled reporter’s notebook

I have to admit that I was astounded by the loyalty and patience demonstrated by faithful NASCAR fans after the long delay to the start and finish of this year’s Daytona 500. Apparently a large majority of the fans that had tickets for last Sunday’s Daytona 500 stayed almost two extra days after a rain delay to see the race, and stayed to the finish after midnight early Tuesday morning. Most of the postponed NHRA races I’ve seen over the years (including the U.S. Nationals) have been unable to get even a couple of hundred fans to hang around for an extra night or day to see eliminations.

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I’m not picking on NASCAR here, but Juan Pablo Montoya’s horrifying crash into a track truck with a jet dryer attached to the rear of it makes me wonder why NASCAR would allow any race cars to make laps at speed on a track with a slow-moving safety truck cruising around it. The sport was extremely lucky that no one was hurt in that bizarre incident. I think it’s a miracle there hasn’t been an accident like this before.

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And while on the subject of safety. The fact that no driver was hurt in any of the many Daytona 500 crashes speaks volumes about the advances that NASCAR has made in the Safety area. Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, and Montoya all had serious wrecks that in the past could have resulted in life-threatening injuries to the driver. Instead, because of the safety advances incorporated in these cars, all three of these star drivers walked away from bad wrecks without so much as a scratch. And yet the NHRA still won’t make HANS-type devices mandatory in any of the sportsman .90 classes despite the fact many cars in those classes are exceeding 150 mph in a quarter mile. Instead of mandatory HANS devices, NHRA has safety rules mandate racers replace/ re-certify window nets every two years. I wish I understood the logic behind these kinds of safety decisions.

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A big deal has been made by the NHRA and the drag racing press speculating about NHRA Rookie of the Year battle between Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria. Those two drivers are talented to be sure, but I think Funny Car shoe Todd Lesenko, who drives for “Big Jim” Dunn, and Top Fuel rookie Khalid al Balooshi, who drives for Al-Anabi and Alan Johnson Racing, will be among the contenders for that coveted award. Al Balooshi is my pick to win that award.

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Speaking of the Qatar royal family-backed AJR team, I recently put in a request with their PR person to do an interview with rookie Top Fuel driver and defending NHRA Pro Mod Champion, Khalid al Balooshi. I was politely but firmly told that, because of certain rumors that appeared in Agent 1320 which they felt were misleading, DRO would be refused access to the AJR team members. Funny thing is, DRO and most other racing publication generally do not hear anything from teams when we give them “good” coverage -- which, by the way, the  Al-Anabi teams have gotten a lot of from DRO during the last three or four years.

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