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owes allegiance to no sanctioning body and will call 'em like we see 'em. We strive for truth, integrity, irreverence, and the betterment of drag racing. We have no agenda other than providing the drag racing public with unbiased information and view points they can't get in any other drag racing publication.

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Let's make the Hall of Fame really special


Art by Star Pixel Graphics

Boy, some of our readers get their shorts in a bunch easily. Take for instance some of their reactions on the Internet to the current series of articles we are running on Don Garlits' International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. More than a few of you are taking exception to Chris Martin and I questioning the credentials of a few of the almost 200 honorees in that august institution.

So, I thought I would take just a few minutes to give you my thoughts about the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, its importance to the sport, and a little about media coverage (or the lack of it) for the sport of drag racing.

Coverage by the mainstream media of professional sports leagues like baseball, football, basketball, hockey and NASCAR dominates TV sports shows and newspaper sports sections. The players, leagues, and execs are subjected to intense scrutiny by the press and equal space and time is devoted to both the good and bad news relating to them. It comes with the territory of being in the public awareness.

If professional drag racing is to ever enjoy the same status as the rest of professional sports in the minds of the media and fans, then it must start acting like a premier professional sports league in all respects and not the glorified social club it started out as. The sad fact is that too many times the organizations, racers, and teams of drag racing don’t present themselves as a premier professional sports league to those that know nothing about drag racing. As I’ve often said before, in professional sports how you are perceived is actually much more important than how you really are.

I think that in many cases as a sport we just do too much whining and not enough work. The sanctioning bodies publicly and privately complain that they either don’t get enough attention from the mainstream press or that what they do get is too "negative."

I’m of the opinion, shared by many others I might add, that the only negative press a sport gets is when they don’t get the press's attention at all. And many times, I'm sorry to say, drag racing falls in that category.

Viewed historically, all major sports in this country have suffered some massively bad publicity and not only survived but flourished. Strikes and lockouts for baseball and hockey, steroid and other drug abuse in football and baseball, and a riot in Detroit certainly weren’t positive for those leagues, but they sure kept them in the public's eye and on the front pages of the papers.

The last career goal I have as a drag racing journalist (and hard core fan) is to see professional drag racing viewed and treated by the mainstream media as an equal to the other professional sports.

All of which brings me to the subject of DRO’s “negative” article in which we simply revealed the career highlights (or lack thereof) of those in drag racing’s only all-encompassing hall of fame, and then suggested some who so far may have been overlooked. It wasn’t intended to be negative, but rather was intended to promote and discuss what should be the most prestigious, heavily promoted, and important event of the drag racing season, but isn't.

You see, as a sports fan and the editor of this magazine I believe that any true Hall of Fame ought to be a very exclusive club, reserved for only the best and brightest the sport has and, for the most part, limited to the true participants.

Because the IDRHOF is dedicated to recognizing the achievements of all of those associated with the sport of drag racing at any level, the fact that many drivers and tuner with unquestionable hall-of-fame credentials still haven’t made the Hall is unavoidable, especially when only a handful are inducted each year. But when, like this year, 11 people are enshrined and major stars still don’t make the cut, I have to wonder what the selectors are thinking.

My question is, what are the requirements for being enshrined at the Hall of Fame? In baseball a committee of experts screen the retired players and make up a nomination list based upon certain criteria. The 500 baseball writers that make up the voting base then make their votes and 75 percent of them must agree on the selection. A similar system is used for the football hall of fame. In drag racing, four or five people decide among themselves who does or doesn’t make the hall of fame and no one seems to know what the criteria are.

This year the 500 or so members of the baseball writers of America voted just one player into the Baseball Hall of Fame -- ONE! On the other hand, a four- or five-person committee put 11 people into drag racing’s Hall of Fame. The fact that just one baseball player made the hall was the lead story on every sports page and tv sports show in the world that day. When the drag racing HOF announces its current class of 11 honorees it barely rates a mention anywhere. Here at DRO we didn’t even get a press release announcing the new inductees, I had to go on the Internet to get the names of those being honored this year.

Sadly for drag racing, who did or did not make the Hall most likely won’t get significant coverage in the pages of Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, National Dragster, Drag Review, Drag Racer, Drag Racing Action, Hot Rod or Car Craft. Perhaps if a half-dozen or so people weren’t inducted each year, the mainstream media might see it as more of a news story -- something special. Perhaps to give being selected for membership more credibility in the mainstream press, members of the national media could vote on the committee’s selections.

I want to make it clear that I’m absolutely not criticizing the previous induction of anyone who is a member of the Hall; all that are in are certainly worthy. I’m only questioning the omission of some drivers and tuners whose achievements are a matter of historical record.

What do you have to say?

Your letter may (or may not) be published in our "We've Got Mail" section.
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Burk's Blast "the publisher's corner" [1-9-06]
A second chance for the Funny Car class.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if NHRA and IHRA’s management and the Don Garlits Museum seriously worked together to make induction into the Hall of Fame something special in the world of sports. Both sanctioning bodies have the resources and capability to do so. I know for a fact that IHRA president Aaron Polburn is inclined to work with NHRA and has tried to approach them about other matters. Tom Compton and his staff ought to do more than pay lip service to the idea of doing what is good for the sport and really do something that doesn’t just involve the bottom line in the short term.

The induction ceremony in Gainesville in March each year is the only event left on the drag racing calendar since the demise of the Car Craft Magazine All-Star Banquet where all sanctioning bodies' presidents, staffs, and stars can get together on neutral ground and do something important for the sport. The sanctioning bodies, sponsors, and press could and should make the induction ceremonies into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame an event that gets the kind of media and fan attention it deserves.

And, although I’ve kind of strayed, here is the point of this blast. At DRO we cover and investigate and report on everything the sanctioning bodies do, the sport's major personalities, and even the halls of fame that make up drag racing just as thoroughly as our counterparts in the mainstream media do for NASCAR, professional baseball, football, and all other major leagues of sport -- because we believe that drag racing is a major-league sport. We just have to convince the rest of the sports world, don’t we?


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