BURK'S BLAST w/editor Jeff Burk

Bet You’ve Missed His Wondering…

Just Wondering … Was that the plan? When the 2018 NHRA season opened Robert Hight was the Funny Car speed record holder at 339.87 mph. Tony Schumacher reset the speed record for Top Fuel to 336.57 at the Phoenix race. After that the NHRA competition department, concerned about the increasing speeds, instituted a program of reducing the amount of traction compound used for track prep and it worked. Top speeds for both classes were reduced by as much as 10 mph immediately. Since then Top Speed of the meet for either class is down by around 5 mph. At Charlotte with primo atmospheric and track conditions the Top Speed was 331.53 for Top Fuel and 332.43 for Funny Car. That is a reduction of about 1.5 percent on average. I don’t think a 1 to 2 percent reduction in speed is what NHRA had in mind when they started their speed reduction program and I believe they will take more drastic steps to slow the nitro cars for the 2019 season.




Just Wondering … Am I the only fan who wishes the NHRA would go back to a simpler championship points program? The current Countdown points program that NHRA copied from the NASCAR is, in my opinion, unfair to its race teams and confusing for fans and the media. The current points program was put in place by Tom Compton on the premise that it would generate more ticket sales and interest for the series from fans, media and sponsors -- which never happened. Instead, the program basically made the first 18 races of the NHRA season practice for the last six races of the season. No matter how many final rounds or wins a pro team gets, when the ‘second’ season starts the current system limits how many points ahead the team in first is ahead of the second-place team and limits how far behind the 10th place team is. So, the current system punishes excellence and rewards mediocrity and is confusing to anyone but the participants. It is time to simplify the championship points program!




Just Wondering … Am I the only one who thinks that prior to the 2018 season the NHRA management had already determined the Pro Stock class wasn’t in the sanctioning body’s future plans? They concluded that flat hoods and fuel injection made no difference to the lack of popularity the class suffered from with the ticket buying fans or corporate sponsors. Before the start of this season NHRA sent an unmistakable message to their Pro Stock race teams and that message was: The Pro Stock class doesn’t attract enough sponsors, fans and entries to pay for its existence and in fact costs us money to keep it as a pro class and that isn’t acceptable for us. Only some major financial support and a guarantee of full 16-car fields from the Pro Stock team owners saved the class this year. Despite their efforts, four full time teams including those of the 2017 World Champ Bo Butner and the de facto 2018 Pro Stock Champ Tanner Gray, along with two or three other teams announced they were retiring from racing in the class.


When only 14 teams were entered at the Charlotte race that may have been the “last straw” for the NHRA. NHRA had floated the idea of allowing “Mountain Motor” Pro Stocks to join the class, even going so far as to have an exhibition of those cars at the U.S. Nationals. At Charlotte NHRA told the Pro Stock community that the Mountain Motor idea was DEAD! That there would be no changes in 2019 but maybe in 2020. The NHRA may as well have announced the end of the class at the same race.




Just Wondering … Is it a sign of the times? Bracket racing purses far exceed those offered at professional drag races. These days it is normal for 400-600 professional bracket racers to pay between $600-$2,000 in entry fees to race three times or more in a weekend. Total purses of a half-million dollars or more at one of these events isn’t unusual over three days of racing with a single winner getting a $300,000 to $500,000 payday. Aren’t NHRA sportsman racers paying entry fees approaching $300 at NHRA National events that pays (with contingencies) $15-20,000 max to win? I think in the next year or so there will be an organized professional bracket racing series that will rival the NHRA in popularity with racers and FANS! Race fans will buy a ticket to see a drag racer take home a half-million dollar winner’s purse.




Just Wondering … Will some of the NHRA pro sportsman (bracket) racers in the Stock, Super Stock and Comp Eliminator classes like Jeg Coughlin Jr., David Rampy, Dan Fletcher and others who have won hundreds of national events between them start attending some of those bracket races that could pay them in the mid six-figure range? I cannot see why they wouldn’t.




Just Wondering … Are the NHRA and its corporate partners like the Coca-Cola company, AAA of North America, Lucas Oil, Snap-On Tools, Goodyear, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Ford really concerned about the inherent danger of supporting a sport (NHRA professional drag racing) where massive engine explosions, bad crashes and star drivers being injured is a relatively common occurrence? Evidently they aren’t concerned enough to do anything that would significantly change the status quo.




Just Wondering … Have the NHRA nitro team tuners already circumvented the diminished track prep program the NHRA adopted to reduce the near 340-mph speeds that Top Fuel and Funny Car were recording at the start of the 2018 season? Yes and no. Top Speeds for Top Fuelers and Funny Cars are down from the 337+ speeds we saw in February and March, but both classes are still running speeds over 330 mph.




Just Wondering … If the NHRA management were really concerned about the cost of racing at all why do they continue to make their racers arrive on Wednesday to race on Sunday and have three or more qualifying sessions for their pro and sportsman classes? If the fields for either the pros or sportsman are de facto “All Run,” what is the purpose of three and four practice laps? Do the tracks and the NHRA really need to force their customers to spend the money and manpower for two days of qualifying? Aside from the teams with major sponsors, many low budget nitro teams often miss one or more of the Friday qualifiers to save parts and money knowing all they have to do is stage their car on Saturday and they are in the show. Virtually every NHRA national event has trouble attracting a crowd for the first and second pro qualifying sessions on Friday. And what is the point when there are only 16 cars on the premises? Today’s race fans simply don’t want to spend their time and money watching practice.   

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