Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page



ey kids, I just got back from a weekend spent in NASCAR Land - hold the death threats, please. I'll not bore you with a rehash of what those folks do on a race weekend. Although it was astonishing to see the sheer volume of merchandise purchased by eighty-thousand race fans, all of it in support of their favorite race car driver. And none if it acquired on the cheap, believe you me!

Other than that brush with frenzied capitalism, the real lesson of the weekend was in how The Chase benefits NASCAR, and by extension, how A Chase can be a boost to drag racing.

In prior years, the annual NASCAR trip to Kansas Speedway was a big deal, if only by virtue of the track's short history. And the Kansas City area media treated it with a proper level of respect and coverage. But now that The Chase is The Straw that Stirs The Sport, local media went absolutely nuts over the weekend's activities. Every station, every newspaper every everything was live and in color from Wednesday all the way through to Monday morning. It's almost funny, at least to those of us who have lived through the last thirty-plus years of what used to pass for motorsports coverage in this (or any other) area. Without unduly gilding the lily, it is clear that The Chase has a definite chance to bridge the gap that has always existed between the stick-and-ball world and the motorsports community. A forty-plus race series, the general public may not "get." A playoff system, however contrived, they get.

On to drag racing. I think it's safe to say the general public doesn't get drag racing. It doesn't televise particularly well, and it is confusing to newcomers, what with its four professional categories and a cast of thousands in the sportsman ranks. Now our sport has a playoff system, so maybe there's hope for more mass exposure. I would bet a goodly number of you out there couldn't care less whether drag racing ever attracts a new fan. Let me tell you why I care. If more people take an interest in drag racing, it stands to reason that more people will eventually be able to make their living doing what they love -- be they a driver, crewman, car owner, hard parts manufacturer, whatever.

Drag racing has made some real strides in the last few years, in terms of widening its mass appeal. The NHRA Chase isn't perfect, and I hold out hope that the Guys in Glendora will amend the process before the 2007 season gets underway. But at least they had the will to try to advance the sport beyond its current scope. Best-case scenario, they will have also made it easier for the 1320 community to make a living in the process.

The specter of the 2007 Chase may already be affecting the sport. Witness the exit of Whit Bazemore from Team Schumacher. Using the Official Version of Events as my guide, it's my understanding DSR saw it as the perfect time to insert a new driver in that particular car, in order to get ready for the 2007 Chase. And what better time for Bazemore to get acclimated to the new world of Top Fuel than right now? Without A Chase looming on the horizon, would this have happened now? No way to know for sure, that's for sure. Maybe we'll see a few more team moves before the 2006 season expires.

As it expires, is it just me or is there a new sense of urgency in the air at NHRA events? After all, this is the last year under the current points setup, the last time the pro champs will be determined over the course of the entire season. Maybe the points races in Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car would have tightened up as a natural course of events -- or maybe the drivers and teams involved are fueled by the desire to be the Last of Their Kind. Like homerun hitters before the 162-game schedule, or 100-yard rushers before the 16-game NFL season, NHRA's pre-Chase champs will have a thought or two regarding asterisks and ensuing pro champions. And there's not a thing wrong with that eventuality. Somebody might read about it, and figure they need to find out what this drag racing stuff is all about. And that is what the Chase is all about.

Speaking of last-time-around scenarios, how about Shelly Payne's win in NHRA Pro Mod exhibition racing? I say last time, in light of the ongoing questions regarding the Pro Mod show's presence at NHRA national events. At any rate, it was good to see Shelly win, becoming the first woman to win a professional doorslammer class at an NHRA national event. Funny, NHRA won't fund the bracket, but I'll bet they use her win to pump up their demographics.

Another first -- the ADRL becomes the first drag racing sanctioning body to mandate head/neck restraints for their competitors. When you consider the cost of anything involved with fielding a race car, it makes no sense to quibble over the cost of a proven safety device. I will admit the drivers should have enough sense to do it without being forced, but that's pretty much how human nature works. Save us from ourselves, we'll thank you later (maybe).

One last observation before I go. Does Shannon Jenkins really think it's a good idea to run a Toyota body on his new Pro Mod? I don't know, it seems a bit "foreign" for a lot of venues he appears at. Will a Toyota get too warm a reception at say, Dixie Dragway? I think it's safe to say Jenkins will perform the proverbial acid test on his own fan base. Maybe his fans will love him in spite of his Toyota. Now he just has to hope IHRA doesn't close the loophole on him, after he pays for the body work! Later!  




Lenny's Line [9/8/06]
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