Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page

What’s the Point?


emind me again why we need a new NHRA points system. I’m quite willing to give next year’s Countdown to the Championship a fair shake, but you’ve gotta’ think the suits at Glendora have mixed feelings about the way this season is shaping up.

On the one hand they have to be thrilled at the lead in all four professional classes being less than three rounds (60 points) each. With three races left, the largest gap is the 56 markers separating first-place Jason Line from teammate and three-time defending champ Greg Anderson in Pro Stock, while Doug Kalitta has just a 52-point edge in Top Fuel over Tony Schumacher, himself just another 10 points ahead of third-place Brandon Bernstein. Then there’s Pro Stock Motorcycle, where Antron Brown recently wrested the lead away from Andrew Hines, who now sits 27 points back in second place with Angelle Sampey still in the picture at 64 points behind the leader.

But just like last year, when the title came down to a three-way points battle at the season-ender in Pomona, the Funny Car crowd has established the tightest championship chase, with John Force holding the slimmest possible of margins (1 point) over Ron Capps at the head of the list. The third man this time around is Force’s sophomore teammate, Robert Hight, who after a late-season charge sits just 35 points out of the lead.

So, with every point gained, lost, earned, or squandered in these last three races posing significant bearing on the final outcome, fan and media interest is rising and may even reach a fever pitch if all four classes are close enough to have to duke it out for the championships in Pomona. Obviously, that’s what NHRA wants, isn’t it?

On the other hand, there has to be some niggling desire for a runaway winner in at least one category to justify the “need” to tamper with a points system that’s worked more often than not for decades. It would be so much easier to sell the Countdown to NHRA’s somewhat alienated, but die-hard fan base and skeptical media if Force or Schumacher or Anderson had already completed one of their patented “clinched-in-Dallas” performances. As it is, with the current points program producing perhaps the closest across-the-board season in NHRA history, there’s more pressure than ever on NHRA to make the Countdown work in ’07.

Still, they may not have much of a case to prove, as the cream seems to rise to the top regardless of which tallying system is applied. According to calculations by Chris Davis, a fan posting at Nitromater.com, if the Countdown format were applied to this year’s action, the exact same drivers would make up the top eight currently listed as points leaders in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, albeit with minor shuffling of the ranks. In Pro Stock, Larry Morgan would be in instead of Greg Stanfield, and Karen Stoffer would take Chip Ellis’s place in the fourth position of the Pro Stock Bike Countdown format.

Now, Stanfield and Ellis obviously would have legitimate gripes if Davis’s numbers are accurate, but overall it really doesn’t look so bad. Arguments that the Countdown negates the early season seem at least a little alarmist considering it would be the same group of racers going after the season title. Of course that third-to-last race may have a significant impact as the Countdown contenders will be pared down to four with its completion and theoretically any one of the lower-seeded racers could gain enough to supplant one of the top four.

If, for instance, any of the aforementioned points leaders suffer an early exit at that race and someone were to step up and oust them from championship relevance, I suspect the wrath of drag racing fans will rain down on NHRA with even greater intensity than that of NASCAR followers when Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon were left out of last year’s championship hunt on the stock-car trail. What drag racing’s faithful lack in numbers they more than make up for in passion.

NHRA has to be prepared to deal with the fallout of their Countdown if it doesn’t live up to the season-long excitement generated by this year’s championship quests. I hope the powers that be at 2035 Financial Way truly are willing to tweak the new system if it feels too forced, too phony, too scripted, too made-for-TV—too anything in comparison to what’s in place now. Because if not, really, what’s the point?

Race safe,


PS. Speaking of points, I hope ORSCA is finally committed to calculating and posting points in a timely manner. Apparently a new person is in charge of point calculations now, so hopefully the wait of several weeks following a race to learn championship ramifications is a thing of the past. I know the racers keep their own tallies (quite accurately it seems, judging by the corrections they request after practically every race), but it’s frustrating not to have official results in place before heading to the next event. At least the bar has been set so low that it’d be hard not to see improvement. They have two races left, so we’ll wait and see.


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