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What a great comparison, last weekend was. I was watching the X Games on ESPN2 (which includes auto racing) on and off and I also watched a little F1, woke up in time for the checkered flag fuel mileage shootout between Paul Menard and a hard-charging Jeff Gordon at the conclusion of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, and found some time to watch the second leg of the NHRA’s Western Swing from Sonoma, California. All of those races had their exciting moments.
We’ve heard excuses that televised drag racing on the small screen can’t possibly translate to the hardcore drag fan, but the advent of big screen High Def TV may be the best chance drag racing has to achieve televised popularity of the original extreme motorsport, drag racing. I’d be happy if the ESPN2 NHRA broadcast had half the excitement, spontaneity and extremeness of the X Games. Now that I have an HD DirecTV hook-up and a new SONY flat screen, the grandeur of drag racing on TV is actually quite stunning.
After watching this week’s race from Infineon Raceway on ESPN2 and having watched so much motorsports over the weekend, it is my opinion that we drag racers are trying to be something we are not. We are not polished professionals, and most of our current crop of drag racers are simply playing the part of a TV actor, very much the red-headed stepchild to NASCAR.
Once again, the NHRA show started late as we waited 46 minutes as ESPN finished their tape-delayed X Games show. Hey, it is their network, their show, their X-treme, and the suits at NHRA don’t have a say in the production or show times.
Damn! There’s Mike Dunn and Paul Page back in ties and cheap jackets. In the qualifying show they both wore relaxed knit shirts, much more like the wardrobe often seen around our drag strips. Who dresses these guys? Isn’t there a woman somewhere in the ESPN production process that can get these guys into a believable outfit? Not a Sparco firesuit like the NASCAR reporters wear, but something casual? Here’s a hint: find out who dresses the Snake!
The suits at NHRA still believe that ESPN is the ‘flagship’ network, or maybe it’s Coca-Cola that believes it. With the diminishing ratings of the NHRA show still sliding, a shortened, tight, edgy 90-minute show would provide a watchable highlight show. After the long 46-minute wait for the ESPN2 show to begin, I felt that a clean 46 minutes could easily have been lopped off of the NHRA Sonoma coverage.
The show I watched Sunday night had too much sameness, too much slowness … and why does the viewer need to see Cruz Pedregon sitting at the end of the track waiting for a safety worker to push or pull the racecar off the track?
Why not show more of the color of an event at Sonoma, California, and show off some of the diversity of an NHRA show? By segregating the professionals and Pro Mods from the sportsmen racers on TV, NHRA is fostering a sense of elitism in a sport that in the past was all about American values.
As Prudhomme said in his pre-race intro to the spectators, “Thank you to all the smokin’ hot women who have always come out over the years.” Having been to the Sonoma race for about twelve years straight, I know Prudhomme is correct! Drag racing is sexy, so why not show some of the great looking women of Northern California. I’ve seen ‘em, the Snake was right, so why not support his vision?