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At the end of last month's column, I hinted of a plan for reshaping the face of national event competition. So this month, that's just what you're gonna get! But let me lay out some thoughts that got me thinking along these lines. In my opinion, drag racing has come down with a bad case of the stags. As in, stagnant!

You can add all the "new" classes you want, but it all plays out the same. You qualify, fill out the ladder chart, and the single elimination tournaments within the tournament run to their conclusion. Which has been pretty much how it's been since they stopped contesting Top Eliminator. You know, where the Top Gas winner faced off with the Top Fuel winner. Look it up in the dusty annals of the sport, if you are interested. I guess the elim process was "refined" a bit when the ladder chart changed from 1 vs 9, etc. to 1 vs 16, etc. I think of that change as anything but an improvement, but that's a subject for a different column. Business as usual has become too usual is my estimation. So it's on to the deconstruction/reconstruction.

Rather than get into a long-winded layout of what should be, let me instead lay out an event schedule, showing who races on what day and in what manner. I will finish up with some rationales on why this would be a better way for almost everybody.

Pro Stock Bike: 1 qualifying round, 2 rounds of head-to-head competition, capped with a two car final round

Pro Stock Truck: same setup as Pro Stock Bike

Top Fuel: 1 qualifying round
Funny Car: 1 qualifying round
Pro Stock: 1 qualifying round

Pro Modified: 1 qualifying round, two rounds of head-to-head competition, capped by a two-car final round
Alcohol Funny Car: same as Pro Mod
Alcohol Dragster: same as Pro Mod

Top Fuel: 2 qualifying rounds
Funny Car: 2 qualifying rounds
Pro Stock: 2 qualifying rounds

Top Fuel: 3 rounds of head-to-head competition, capped by a two-car final round
Funny Car: same as Top Fuel
Pro Stock: same as Top Fuel

Pretty shocking, huh? And pretty confusing if you didn't read last month's column. That's the one in which I called for the end of qualifying as we know it. Let all the Pros entered have a shot at the brass ring (TV time). Give 'em some points for the qualifying round, but don't eliminate anyone before the real racing starts. Now let's get down to some of the reasons this approach would be a good thing -- good for the sport, that is.

Let's look at Friday first. Both pro classes listed have a lot of supporters and a lot of enemies. One has a super-star who can't keep a sponsor; the other is a class without a country, but has enough hardware lying around to take over a small country. Throw in a lawsuit scenario, and you've got a less than stellar attraction. I say give 'em their own day when they can be the "Big Deals," throw out an olive branch to make the lawsuit go away, and maybe, just maybe, you have a Friday night show that could out-draw the present reality. And don't forget, you still get to see Pro Stock, Top Fuel and Funny Car in a prime time presentation.

On to Saturday! To me, Pro Mod and the two other blown alcohol classes are pretty much the same. Maybe that's grossly oversimplified, but that's just how I see it. All three classes have their appeal and their followers. But I do consider all three groups to be professional racers. And they deserve their share of the national event pie. But they are not the Top Three, and at this stage would be better served having their "moment" at some other time than while the Top Three are having theirs. And once again, for those who must have Nitro, the Saturday slate calls for an afternoon and night session for T/F and F/C.

Now for Sunday. Think two dozen Top Fuelers, thirty Funny Cars, and forty or so Pro Stockers. Now multiply those figures by three rounds of competition, and whatta ya got? Ya got a helluva lotta pro cars making a helluva lotta runs! And what could be wrong with that? More to the point, what's overwhelmingly right about it is this? All those runs add up to more exposure for those who have sponsors. And all that opportunity for exposure may be what the sport needs to attract the interest of corporate America.

The linchpin of this plan is, of course, television. Content is what all mass media entertainment concerns are always looking for. Be it Speed Channel, ESPN2, or some venture still a glint in some suit's eye, it seems to me there would be a place to get all of this on TV. Five hundred channels is 500 channels, after all! Why not put some drag racing shows on to fill up some of those time slots? It is up to drag racing to make the product interesting enough to attract the programmers. If you can do that, it's an even-money bet that corporate America will be close behind.

There is a lot I haven't addressed here. Hey, NHRA ain't paying me a consultant fee so far as I know, so they will have to fill in the holes. The sportsman racers will be there, God only knows why. But that's another subject for another time. Maybe NHRA could hire some jet car acts for Sunday's slack time. Those guys gotta make a living too, ya know.

And one other thing. If a given field has twenty or so people in the mix on race day, it makes it harder to "fix" a race. Don't like that expression? Too bad, that is exactly what happens from time to time, and it costs the sport credibility in the eyes of the mainstream press. And that cannot be a good thing.

Anyway, I think this setup has more up side than down. I can already hear the
traditionalists screaming. Hey, time marches on guys! Time to dust off the
1320 setup and put out something new and improved.

Let me know what ya think. Just keep it civil -- this doesn't rise to the level of national security.


photo by Jeff Burk

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