Gettin' up for
2004, outa the way, Eleanor!
What's that on this distant new shore?
Oh Jesus, I think we've been here before;
it's those same three guys, nuthin' more.
Pedregon, and Anderson.
That might be okay for some, son,
but not every fan's idea of fun.
In the nightstand, I've buried a gun.
the mouth big and wide,
let Smith & Wesson step inside ...
right, enough of this. Rhyming screed on a Studio
Suite cocktail coaster. Have I really lost my
mind, lo, these 40-plus years of drag racing
spectator-hood? No, but for someone like me
where variety is one of the very rare and precious
spices of life, it's getting closer to a weepy
session with Dr. Phil.
With the exception of NHRA Pro Stock Champion Greg Anderson, I really don't
think you'll see repeaters in the two nitro
categories. N ow, for someone who bewails the
appalling lack of nitro suspense of the last
half-decade, one could surmise, "Hey, waddya
complainin' about? That means that maybe Doug
Kalitta, Tony Schumacher or a great comeback
by Brandon Bernstein is in the offing for Top
Fuel, or in Funny Car, maybe Force will bounce
back or Whit Bazemore or Gary Scelzi will mount
the stage of history?"
Yeah, and who else?
Leaving aside a few genuinely terrific nitro runs, most notably by
Kalitta and Schumacher and the 329-mph charges by Scelzi in Funny Car,
the nitro cars had all the suspense of me calling out Mike Tyson at the
Crush Bar. The only suspense would be whether or not his first punch
I mean look at the numbers. According to the final issue of National
DRAGSTER where they write up the three pro champions, the situation in
Funny Car draws "El Gran Silencio." Gadddzzz. Just 33 drivers competed
at 2003 National events, and a half-dozen or so of that crew raced maybe
two or three times.
What's worse is that if you take drivers No. 17 through No. 33, and
added up all their career Funny Car wins, you know how many you'd have?
Well under a half-dozen. Phil Burkart won the 1999 Springnationals and
No. 26 Bruce Sarver has a couple, and that's, I'm pretty sure, it.
Make no doubt about it, former Alcohol Funny Car World Champ Tony
Bartone oozes talent as does Cory Lee, Richard Hartman, and a few
others, but since the whole thing spins on money, they can't be seen as
serious contenders. No sponsors, no trophies. Simple as that.
If you wanna see something really scary, add up the wins of the top
three finishers, Tony Pedregon (27), Whit Bazemore (15) and John Force
(109) (That's 151) and you see how UN-competitive things are with the
"floppers". It wasn't always thus.
Let's just pick a race from a few decades ago, the 1982 NHRA
Summernationals at Englishtown, New Jersey. Just look at the 16
qualifiers. Twelve of them (Billy Meyer, Raymond Beadle, Kenny
Bernstein, John Lombardo, Don Prudhomme, Gary Burgin, Tim Grose, Frank
Hawley, Tom McEwen, Dale Pulde, Mike Dunn, and Al Segrini were all in
NHRA winners circles. Okay, I know, a few of these drivers scored their
wins AFTER this race, but still look at this list. Look at it, dammit!
The level of competition there outstrips anything we've seen this
millennium ... and by a ton. Reason? Money, for the majority of it. And
don't forget a goodly number of current-day racers are members of teams
owned by some of the qualifiers as in the case with John Force or the
Worshams. Some competition, eh what?
It's not a lot better in Top Fuel. Still ... if you count Kenny and Brandon
Bernstein as one car, then just four ... "FOUR"
as in the "Four Freshmen" or "Four Horsemen"
won 23 national events. Bleecchh. To these eyes
and ears that's not competition. I will say
that the situation is a little better here than
in Funny Car because last year's winless racers
like Doug Herbert, Cory McClenathan, Shirley
Muldowney, Jim Head, and (with a late season
appearance) Scott Kalitta have scored at NHRA
events more than once, and are genuine talents.