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DRAG RACING Online
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.
Asst. Managing Editor
Jon Van Daal
|Jon Van Daal
at Large Emeritus
& Ad Design
Let's make the Hall of Fame really
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
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
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.
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?