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Last month in Getting Nostalgic, I raised some questions concerning various subject matters, including the moving forward and the process of putting together of the United Nitro Funny Car Association.
In my December column I had spoken with Bill Doner, the head of the UNFCA, and in that conversation Mr. Doner had assured me that the organization would supply me with meeting minutes. As of the writing of my January column that had not happened, so I wrote about that. The day after the column was published I received a phone call from one of the UNFCA staffers, verifying my email address, and not long after I received those meeting minutes.
On the Thursday evening before the 2016 March Meet there was meeting of the members and potential members of the UNFCA. My intent was to be at that meeting, but travel arrangements precluded that from happening. My inquiries on the number of people who attended were varied from ten people to nine to ten teams being represented, and one response consisting of “Not as many as we hoped.” So one would have to think there were people and prospective members attending. How many actually attended I don’t know.
In speaking with those various board members, it was clear that they themselves had a clear and focused agenda for the organization, but it was important to keep Mr. Doner on message and focused.
Doner’s efforts have been successful in gathering contingency sponsors for the association. Member teams who qualified and went rounds would be recipients of those contingencies. And cultivating a few new members would build a larger base for the association.
One of the more interesting things conveyed in the conversations I had with the various board members was that these members, who are successful business men, all stated that it was important to run this association as a business. It was also important to them to deal with one person at the NHRA and that one of the goals was to find a way to facilitate that one item. This would provide the UNFCA with a single avenue of approach when dealing with the Glendora, California-based sanctioning body.
One other interesting thing that came out of conversations was there was talk of having an (associate) member for those teams who might not have the resources to pay full price to join the association. However, it would then affect the amount paid to the associate member who qualified for either contingency or monetary compensation. So it would be prorated based on the amount paid to join the association.
It can be presumed that the board members are taking this association seriously. They have all the legal papers in place and a competent legal counsel in place who is familiar with the sport of drag racing. The board members all seemed to take the tack that the UNFCA was another part of their business portfolios and that they were not going to have egg on their faces if this thing goes sideways.
The premise behind the association is solid and is needed to help bolster the growth of nostalgia drag racing. The board members I spoke with also understand that this association needs to be more than just a California thing; it must reach out and touch those cars in the Midwest and the south. From this vantage point, it was refreshing to see that there are serious people behind this venture, but I feel that they need to better communicate this fact to the “masses”.
The 2016 March Meet had a unique feel to it. This was not only something I felt; some of the racers and some of the fans in attendance felt it. Was the feeling due to the rain that was persistent throughout the weekend? Was it due to rumors going around the event that legal counsel from the NHRA was walking around doing a presumptive risk assessment of the event? Or was it the hangover from the recent tower fire? Whatever the reason, there was a different vibe to the event. That vibe held on until the end of the event -- when the finals took place that old March Meet feeling came back.
One of the reasons was the fact it was the first win at the March Meet for the Team Craig Top Fuel dragster driven by Rick Williamson. Tuned by John Russel and owned by Mike and Kathie Craig, the team picked up up their first major win. Along with that win, Team Craig was awarded the “Mike Sorokin Award”. The award is in remembrance of the 50th Anniversary of the legendary win by Adam’s father, the late Mike Sorokin and the legendary Surfers Top Fuel team.
“I was always a Funny Car guy growing up as a kid,” stated Williamson after his win. “But then I saw the Surfers and I thought those guys are cool.” As he grew up he realized that deep down inside dragsters is where he needed and wanted to be.
Williamson gives credit to his win to his team, their hard work and dedication. “One of the cool things that happened was that my brother Brett (who drives for Mike Fuller and did not qualify) dove in and helped do the clutch. I don’t know where we would be without him diving in and helping.”
Even something as small has how close the crew brings the car to the starting line before turning it over to Williamson makes a difference. “We made some major changes to our staging procedures, in an attempt to bring consistency to the program. So we figured it out that the crewmember would bring me to six inches of the pre-stage light, and I take over from there. But now I have and exact point from where to start, and that brings consistency,” continued Williamson.
“It is so cool to have won the race and to take the Sorokin Award. I was so nervous going into the final ’cause I knew I had Adam … he was not only going for the win, he was going to try and win his father’s award, but he is the best on the starting line. When you race him it’s a pretty good chance you’re gonna be second off the starting line. But we were first to the finish line.”