The very early days of NASCAR (1949) had names such as Louise Smith and Ethel Mobley. In 1965, Shirley Muldowney was the first woman licensed by NHRA to drive a gasoline-burning dragster capable of speeds over 150 mph in the quarter-mile. In 1977 Janet Guthrie was the first woman to earn a starting spot in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 (where she was top rookie). Ladies have been making their mark in the Motorsports industry for decades.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Carolyn Melendy. (Read about Carolyn Melendy here: www.competitionplus.com She is considered the first lady of Pro Modified racing, having been involved in the class since the 1990s. At the time it was male dominated, and she recalled that no one wanted to line up next to her to race. The issue to her male counterparts was that they felt she did not have the skill to drive a Pro Mod car. Finally, Bill Kuhlmann (a pioneer in the Pro Mod movement), decided to line up next to her, thinking he would have her by many car lengths. The conclusion was that he was sadly mistaken. Although Carolyn did not win the race, she was right with him all the way. It was there that she began to legitimize herself in the Pro Mod world and consequently open the door for women like me. I’m thankful for that. And on a side note, I would like to mention Annette Summer and Carol Long, two ladies in Pro Mod that I also feel may not get the recognition they deserve. Or even Bunny Burkett (IHRA Funny Car Driver and World Champion) for that matter. Ladies much like me that work hard at their craft without the accolades. True racers. And at the heart of it, that is what we are; racers, drivers and competitors.
"Breaking News: This is an ESPN Special Report. We pre-empt the regional volleyball game to bring you this special presentation.
"We're in Glendora, California, this evening for a State of the Sport Address. We're here before a joint session of Professional and Sportsman Racers. The National Hot Rod Association Board of Directors – drag racing's 'Supreme Court,' if you will, has been seated. The NHRA department heads are in place. And now we'll hear from Graham Light, the NHRA's senior vice-president of racing operations, who serves as the NHRA's Sergeant at Arms, and he'll introduce Tom Compton.”
Light enters and in the customary loud announcement, calls out, "Mister Speaker, the President of the National Hot Rod Association!"
The doors swing open and Tom Compton strides in, shaking hands with team owners and racers as he makes his way to the stage. Once the applause fades, he greets his distinguished guests and begins to lay out his agenda for the sanctioning body.
Before we begin, the importance of this topic resulted in our consulting a half dozen others, seeking their input on these topics. The people who provided that input are anything but in complete agreement with everything, and we’re good with that. Even though this is an editorial, seeking wide-ranging opinions has helped set the tone while also helping to clarify our own thoughts.
After our last editorial (http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/26057-up-front-racing-is-killing-drag-racing1) we were overwhelmed by the support it received. In addition to e-mails and calls, the number of Facebook and on-site “Likes” topped 4,500, while the “Didn’t Likes” numbered less than one percent of the total respondents, or less than 50. During a recent national event we heard a number of strong supporting comments, some from surprising sources, which included NHRA executives, race team owners, track operators, corporate sponsors, mechanics and drivers. The only conclusion we can draw is there’s widespread belief that the current “show” aspects of NHRA Drag Racing are sadly lacking, and something must be done about it to not only attract new fans, but keep the ones we already have.
Jason Fiorito, president of Pacific Raceways, has come up with a master plan to develop his family's 320-acre multiuse property southeast of Seattle into an "automotive and design technology campus" with global reach.
It’s his one idea that has gained traction after several scrapped projects since he took over management of the facility from Jim Rockstad in January 2002. It’s a clever, relevant, and even economically and environmentally beneficial proposal, with its mission to bring together high-tech and automotive companies for advancements in the renewable-energy-vehicle industry and other “green” initiatives.
But it casts uncertainty on the future of National Hot Rod Association drag racing in the Pacific Northwest.
With three events left in its eight-race inaugural season the X-treme Drag Racing League ran into “X-treme” trouble. Late purse payments to racers plagued the upstart eighth-mile organization almost from the start and promises from series president Jeff Mitchell to make good are now looking about as empty as—well, as empty as the grandstands on race day at an X-DRL event.
Whether this mess—and make no mistake about it, the X-DRL experiment can now officially be referred to as a mess—is self-inflicted or the X-DRL is at the mercy of its own non-paying “sponsors,” the credibility of the series is destroyed. Time after time racers, fans and media alike this year heard reassurances, statements of solvency, pledges of support and offers of excuse, but with the outright cancellation late in August of events at Indianapolis and Montgomery, Alabama, and the season-ending X-DRL World Finals at Charlotte in October left as little more than an underfunded dream, it’s time to get the forks out; the X-DRL is done.
After a decent debut at Tulsa in April, through no fault of its own the X-DRL suffered through a rainout at Bristol later that month at an event that attracted only about 80 race teams and perhaps as many spectators. During one of several rain showers I sat down with Mitchell and asked how much of a setback—financially—a race like that would be to the fledgling X-DRL and he assured me it was none. “The money is not at the track,” he said, explaining he wasn’t relying on racer entry fees or spectator admissions to keep the series afloat. “We have a three-year plan and there’s enough (money) lined up right now to see it through those three years.”