I thought we had learned something about obstructions on the racing surface and their relation to driver safety. After seeing the latest doo-dad in Commerce, Ga. , however, I guess we haven't learned a thing. Well, maybe something…the almighty dollar in marketing appeal is much more important than the safety of our drag racers.
sure this editorial won't win me many fans, but to tell the truth
it wasn't inspired until last Saturday because of an incident that
took place in Atlanta . Up until then, I had intended to draw up
plans for a new Pro Modified style class that would allow the nitrous
and blower cars to go their separate ways. The incident, which took
place on Friday during the NHRA Southern Nationals in which a sportsman
driver ran over a marketing sign placed between the tree and the
starting line camera (in the center of the track) and then crashed,
angered me to the point that I said to heck with my previous plan.
I wholeheartedly support the opinions of a noted drag racing journalism
legend when he says, “It's saddened and mystified me, in this litigious
age, to watch "modern" (i.e., those with no knowledge
of history) sanctioning officials and track operators erect huge,
immovable structures such as finish-line scoreboards (RIP, Jimmy
Nix) and light poles (e.g., The Strip at Las Vegas) and fireworks-launching
tubes (e.g., Brandon Bernstein), plus various types of camera equipment
and signage "innovations."
It makes me wonder. And, no, I'm not pointing the accusing finger, but if the shoe fits then one needs to wear it. If a sportsman racer were to hit one of these “marketing innovations” and succumb to a catastrophe, would something be done to rectify the situation? I then wonder if a professional driver were to have the same misfortune – would the powers that be inevitably make an immediate change? The bottom line, regardless of the rhetoric, is that it shouldn't be there.
While I may not be pointing a finger, past logic leads me to believe that an incident involving a sportsman racer would not have nearly the influence that one involving a professional driver would have.
Let's ask this question - why do we have that camera in the middle of the track anyway? Ever wonder what might happen if a dragster driver were to hit it head on and the camera were to become airborne and enter the driver's cockpit? Bet you didn't envision that scenario.
Here's another thing. Have you ever witnessed one car get shut-off, the driver made to extract and jump over the guardrail while one car thunders down the track on a solo? Why do we extract that driver from the car and have him run to safety while neglecting the potential of the other driver to crash into the parked race vehicle during the course of the run? Couldn't this be just as dangerous?
Have you ever noticed the centerline is narrower on the starting line and doesn't widen until well after the tree? Why is that? Foam blocks are one thing, but I don't see anyone making these obvious obstructions out of foam for the safety of the driver.
In fact, I don't see anything changing when it comes to making a dollar. I understand that we need to market this sport to the highest plateau, but there has to be a limit as to how high we climb. And, to who's expense, do we climb at?
Now, I'm not limiting my rant to just one sanctioning body. I'm opening it up to anyone that sees marketing and television coverage to far exceed the importance of safety to the drivers. That includes the independent track operators as well.
In today's litigious society, the sanctioning bodies and major events should take note that their obligation is not only to the race fans to provide them with a quality show and to the sponsors to deliver exposure value, but also to the racers to give them a SAFE place to race. After all, isn't that why Wally Parks took racing off of the streets when he formed the NHRA?
Remember, it's been said that the rulebook has been written in the blood of those that died to make it what it is. Shouldn't the marketing manuals of drag racing be written by the pens dipped in that same bloody ink?
What do you think, drop us a line at Comppluseditor@aol.com .