Dead on


A ‘Strange Challenge’ can be fun


We, as in Editor Jeff Burk and myself, are adding a “STRANGE Challenge” to our DRO AA/FC Challenge series at the Cedar Falls Motorsports Park’s Night of Fire event on July 14-15.


Of course there will be the DRO nitro-burning Funny Car teams, jet dragsters and wheelie cars that make up the main part of the Night of Fire show. We wanted to add something that will put local drivers in front of the track’s largest crowd. The normal plan is to try to finish up the bracket racing so the race fans can see the entire show in about 3-1/2 hours. If they come early they can see some great bracket racing too.


We thought of an easy way to let the local racers “get in front of the crowd” and Strange Engineering liked the idea enough to support us financially by allowing us to “guarantee the payout”. Here is how it will work.


During the time trials leading up to the bracket race we will sign up racers for a nominal $10 entry fee and keep track of the best four reaction times in the Super Pro (Box) class and the four best reaction times in the Pro and Sportsman classes (No Box). The best eight reaction times will be qualifiers for the Strange Engineering/ Reaction Time Challenge. The three rounds of the Elite 8 Challenge will be pulled out just before each round of the DRO AA/FC cars. These eight racers will be in front of the biggest crowd of the year with a chance at $500 and a Big Check for three rounds of racing.


It is up to the racers to either decide to enter the Strange/DRO Reaction Challenge before their time trials or not. Entry fee is only $10 and you get two chances to “murder the tree”.


Our goal is to offer the local racers a feature spot in the Night of Fire yet make it a race they have to “qualify” for without making extra runs on their race cars. It is something other race promoters might want to consider to add some “local flavor” to a booked-in special event without causing time delays.


I want to thank Jeff Stange at Strange Engineering for joining us in this little “experiment” and his continued support of bracket racers all across the country. If you are coming to the CFMP Night of Fire be sure to look up Randy MacIlrath at the rear of the staging lanes and get signed up so that .001 reaction time puts you in the Strange/DRO Reaction Time Challenge “Elite 8”.


Now a few other things:


It has been a while since my last “Dead-On” column and while there are several excuses and reasons I could come up with, let’s just call it a “pause for the cause” and get it rolling again. I have been watching, participating, enjoying, critiquing, rambling on about, and still loving drag racing since 1968 when I first attended the US Nationals with a buddy of mine. We drove to Indy from Marshalltown, Iowa, in my 1964 Fairlane with a 289 Hi-Po and 4.56 gears. Not sure I remember how long it took us but I know we slept in the car somewhere along Hwy 30 in Illinois the first night! Speedometer said we were running about 80-85 but I would guess it was somewhere about 50-55 mph. Cruise RPM was about 3800-4000 RPM on the Sun tach.


We slept in the car for three days at the event, showered at car washes, met some of the greatest racers in history when they were just “ordinary guys” at the Lion’s Club Park campground in Clermont. Racers would “test” their factory S/Stockers on the roads in the Park, Hemis were being started up all night getting them tuned up, and the entire Park was one big “Racer Paradise” that I will never forget. Actually getting in the gates and watching the event is a blur but walking in the pits and meeting “Dyno Don”, “Ohio George”, Gary Ostrich and so many more is etched into my DNA now and became a part of who I am.


*I saw this a couple times lately at local tracks and…it drives me nuts! I usually stay to watch the “Finals” but is that now a thing of the past? The same thing comes to mind about “splitting the purse”….Sure I have done that as it seems to be a common courtesy nowadays. My thought is this, “shouldn’t the track just pay the posted prize money and let the racers do the splitting? Two racers reach a final round and instead of racing to see who wins they just “split the money” and don’t even race each other? Wondering WHY a track would allow that?


*It breaks my heart a little bit to remember the “old days” and then go to a national event now and see pro categories that are so short on cars they aren’t really qualifying, they are practicing. They all have almost exactly the same arts, chassis, crewmember shirts and multi-million dollar rigs and support. I understand things progress, but in my opinion it has gone the other way in the pro categories. Boring shows, identical interviews of the same drivers every week. They manufacture drama -- or try to anyway -- to keep it interesting. No rivalries as there are basically only three competitive nitro teams and a couple in Pro Stock with all the money and better parts. More of a Team Championship than a drag race.


*I am not a motorcycle rider but I have to admit the Pro Stock Motorcycle group and the Nitro bikes have to be putting on one of the best “shows” at NHRA national events. Real qualifying with fields of 18 to 24 bikes showing up for 16 spots, eight on the nitro side. The engineering on these bikes is incredible and reminds me a little bit of how it used to be. If they miss the clutch setup by just a little bit or make slight tuning error they might not qualify.


*I am always waiting for NHRA to make the announcement that the pro categories will be an eight-car show if 16 or less entries show up and that they will qualify on two runs; one Friday night and one Saturday at 2 p.m. I also think all the pro categories should run Saturday night so the nitro flames and “racing under the lights” instead of under a murderously hot sun, will entice more people to come watch. The sportsman can finish up Sunday and for the pros, Sunday can be the “rain date”.

I struggle to even watch the NHRA national events on TV anymore, even with them on the DVR so I can speed through the painfully long staging process they go through every round.


Questions: Can’t the Funny Car drivers stage their own car and drive it to the water box or do they all have to be pushed by crew to get it right?

Do they have to raise the bodies every round to have the crew-chief read the idle speed and have “tire wipers” crawling under the car?


Why are there 15 guys standing around the car?


Why can’t they set the wheelie bar height in the pits?


*Pro Stock has turned that delay into an art form. Some of the delays and extra time make the classes that much harder to watch, in my opinion. Why not put in some wportsman racing instead of the same old interviews with the same drivers?


Hopefully the younger drivers who are finding seats in the pro categories can bring the millions of dollars it takes to race for $100,000. Time will tell.


Seems funny to me that a bracket racer can go out and race for $250,000 a couple times a year and $25,000 to $50,000 almost every weekend with a bracket car and there are 250 cars or more trying to get that money and the pros race for what is really a mediocre bracket racing purse and spend millions to do it. Where do sponsors see the entertainment/marketing value in that?


In closing I do want to mention the passing of Terry Chandler. This great lady that backed two Nitro Funny Car teams and in doing so promoted two excellent charities that have done a lot of good things for some very deserving people. Thank you, Terry Chandler, and may God bless you for all the good things you have done for children and veterans. Heaven has a new angel. I am sure you will continue to watch over your children.


See you at the track -- or on the ‘back nine’! 


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