Touching on This and That
Some months, it's kind of tough to come up with a "big issue" to devote a column to. This was one of those months. That is, if you put aside the ongoing controversies over chassis specs in the nitro classes, tire problems and what does or doesn't cause them, track conditions at national events, and several other issues this sentence is already too long to include. Plenty of folks are currently chewing on these topics, so I won't spout off at length, but I do want to add my two cents worth. So here goes.
The only thing(s) I know about NHRA's newly hired chassis consultant, L. Daniel Metz is what I have read in the press releases. He has a lot of degrees, has worked with many of racing's highest profile organizations, and has the backing of drag racing's most powerful organization. If it is NHRA's intention to "legitimize" the heat-treated chassis spec, they didn't need to hire a PhD to accomplish that. They just could have issued their usual "... and that's the way it is, fellas" statement and continued on down the road.
At the end of the day, nobody is legally required to drive a fuel car - it's a matter of personal choice. That being said, it would be nice if NHRA would do the truly impossible and admit the whole idea of heat treating Top Fuel and Funny Car chassis was a colossal mistake. It is tough enough to heat treat any size component, let alone a section of chassis tubing. I won't even get into whether anyone currently working as a tech inspector is actually qualified to pass judgment on a heat-treated race car. I don't know all of them, so I can't say nobody can get the job done. But I've got my doubts. Not so long ago, I worked with a team that heat treated their car, albeit for different reasons than what is currently being done. It didn't work too well then, and I don't think it is working well now. Just my opinion.
If it's the safety aspect that someone wants to discuss, I'm all ears. If it is a driver, crew chief, parts buyer or press guy whining about the "conditions", I'm a whole lot less interested. Drivers and crew chiefs alike are never happy unless the track offers so much bite that each run offers a shot at perfection. Several years ago, I listened to legendary sprint car owner and crew chief Karl Kinser go on and on about how the track should be prepped so his guy could go flat out, every lap, every place they raced, because, "... that's what the fans want.”
No Karl, that's what you want! And every other guy tuning a race car wants the same thing. It isn't going to happen, more often than not. As long as drag strips have had two lanes, they have had two unequal lanes. Can things be done to minimize the differences? Sure, and that's where the discussions should focus. Not more or less prep, but leveling the playing field, literally. By the way, I can't imagine what the bump in the track surface at Houston must have felt like in a solid suspension, 8,000 horsepower nitro car. No wonder all old fuel car guys have bad backs!