Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 6, Page


Shooting From the Hip


here’s an exception to every rule. You’ll find that particular caveat in some form or another in practically every rulebook written for every sport on the planet. It’s certainly in the recently released Outlaw Racing Street Car Association (ORSCA) rulebook, under Section 4:2 of the General Rules, Decisions by Race Director: “Race Director may alter, amend, or waive any rule or specification for any single occurrence or for any good reason without advance notice and with no obligations to anyone or organization.” A little awkwardly worded perhaps, but you get the idea.

Sanctioning body president Johnny Fenn invoked the above loophole a couple of weeks back at the ORSCA event in Albany, GA, allowing Limited Street competitor Keith Szabo to arrive on raceday—long after qualifying was over and done with—with the expectation of entering eliminations.

Now, Szabo is no average entry in the class. After winning the season opener at Atlanta Dragway and making a quarter-final appearance at race two in Jackson, SC, he sat a close third in the points after being awarded 10 points for entering the Albany race (more on that later). Essentially, he’s a potential race winner every time he comes to the line and that’s probably part of the problem.

Apparently, some of Szabo’s competitors complained to Fenn that a late arrival shouldn’t get to bypass qualifying and tech inspection (tech was available only on Saturday) and still get to race and receive points. Now, would there have been similar concern if it was a racer farther down the unofficial pecking order? Maybe, maybe not, though there certainly should have been. Allowing a racer, any racer, preferential treatment sets a precedent that others (maybe the points leader someday?) may want/need to exploit on their own farther into the season.

To be honest, I was a little surprised the first time I learned Fenn had granted permission for Szabo’s late arrival since I’d spoken with him about a similar situation that cropped up at the Atlanta event. In that case, Outlaw 10.5 racer Tony Johnson had problems with his car during rain-shortened qualifying, but Fenn agreed to tack him on to the bottom of the ladder for raceday since the field wasn’t full. But he thought better of it after a couple of 10-wide guys suggested they had no quarrel with Johnson running, but asked if they would receive the same consideration if they ever had problems at a future event. That was all it took for Fenn to reverse his decision and give Johnson the bad news that he couldn’t race after all.

That was the correct course of action, though, which is why I was a little bewildered by Fenn putting himself in exactly the same position at Albany. Now, I don’t fault Szabo (or Johnson for that matter) for wanting to make the race. Szabo is a serious racer, one intent on making the most of his sizeable racing investment, so he apparently skipped ORSCA qualifying in favor of trying to win a race in North Carolina that day. Upon receiving the go ahead from Fenn to show up and race Szabo made the long overnight tow to Albany, only to hear the same thing as Johnson, that Fenn had changed his ruling—which again was the right thing to do.

This is where it gets sticky, however. Although Szabo did nothing “wrong,” he essentially was disqualified from the event, but ORSCA plans to award him the 10 points it offers “for every car that passes Tech and purchases a Tech Card,” again according to the rulebook. But if no tech inspections were available on Sunday when he arrived, how could Szabo pass tech or purchase a card? And once those attendance points are awarded, does that mean he also will receive the year-end bonus of 25 points if he competes at all remaining points events? What if he wins the championship by less than 35 points? What if he beats out even one rival for any position by less than 35 points; won’t those drivers have legitimate gripes over the result if they put in the money, time and effort to be there for qualifying and eliminations at all nine events this year?

I applaud Fenn for doing the right thing by sending Szabo home, and even more so for apparently covering Szabo’s travel expenses for the Albany trip from his own pocket, but now he needs to do the right thing for the big picture and withdraw any points Szabo may be credited with from Albany. I have empathy for Szabo’s position, but simply put, he doesn’t deserve the points.

Like every ORSCA racer, Szabo knows the rule: show up for tech and you’re guaranteed at least 10 points. Sure, he sought an exception and the request was granted, but obviously that was the wrong decision so I can’t see why he shouldn’t receive any residual benefit.

But this isn’t just a matter of whether one racer receives 10 points or not, it also is a matter of credibility for ORSCA. It has to offer a playing field where all the players know the rules going in and can count on them being enforced. You can be sure Tony Schumacher wouldn’t get the points if his hauler somehow arrived Sunday morning for an NHRA race. Ditto for Clay Millican and the IHRA.

I realize ORSCA is a much more grassroots, hands-on type of organization than the big two sanctioning bodies, but that doesn’t make it any less important or influential to its participants. Certainly there are going to be times when the “exception to every rule” clause will have to be exercised, but directly affecting the championship points chase should never be one of them.

Race safe,       








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