The racers call them “The Majors”, but are they really major?
The drag racing community refers to Indy as the “Big Go” but is it really the “Big Gone?”
When you have twenty-four races, sometimes three in a row, what really makes these events special?
As I see it, nothing.
For all of its zeal to return to the good old days in recognition of the 60th anniversary, the NHRA missed, in my opinion, a chance to exploit the legends who helped build the sport.
The NHRA appears to have forgotten about the one part which made these legends into legends – the events.
We should have seen the direction the sport was headed when the Holy Grail of drag racing events, the NHRA U.S. Nationals, put a sponsor name on the masthead in the early part of the last decade. The Daytona 500 is still the Daytona 500 and not the Beaudrea’s Butt Paste 500 in Daytona presented by Widgets International.
When the hot rodders were in charge of the NHRA party, each event had meaning, its own nuances and reputation. Essentially nowadays, you can attend a race, get in the middle of the action … close your eyes and forget where you are. Well, with the exception of Englishtown, there’s no mistaking that one. That’s how insignificant the reputations of these races have become.
If we’re going to trace back to the where did we go wrong moment, it would have to be when making money outranked the legend. When it became more important to put a sponsor’s name on an event than to name it, our racing executives slipped on a banana peel of historic ignorance.
Now I’m not going to decry the NHRA for making money in a tough economy, but when your zeal to make a buck causes you to forget what got you to the dance there’s a problem.
I remember when the Northstars meant you were in Brainerd. Reading was known as the Keystones. The last event was the World Finals. I remember the first Charlotte event was the Carolinas Nationals. Love it or hate it, the 4-Wide Nationals has already generated a reputation.
No offense to Lucas Oil, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Auto Plus or AAA, but events need designation and not one for the length of the contract. Once the contract is complete the name reverts to the flavor of the week.
The NHRA should mandate each event build and cultivate an image like they were back in the day. In the 1970s, we knew the Winternationals were Pomona. The Gatornationals were Gainesville and as substandard as State Capitol Raceway [Baton Rouge] might have been, the Cajun Nationals was easily recognizable. The Springnationals were in Columbus, Ohio and the Summernationals were the trademark event for Englishtown, NJ.
What do we have to do to return the Summernationals name to E-town?
Can we make the Topeka event the Heartland Nationals again?
How about the Springnationals coming back to Bristol?
Can we designate certain events as the majors with added point bonuses to winners? Even if it’s 10 extra points per round, is this really difficult to do? It couldn’t be that hard to adjust the point-earning procedures for eight events.
I can see Gainesville, Charlotte’s 4-Wide, Chicago, Englishtown, Bristol, Norwalk, Denver and Brainerd as majors.
And while we are at it, does Indy really need to be as long as it is? What’s really special mandating we should start on Wednesday and finish up almost a week later?
Is it because we need the extra time to finish up the bonus events like the Big Bud Shootout or the Ringers Pro Bike Challenge? Or do we need the extra day to finish up the K&N Horsepower Challenge? That’s right, only one of those events still remains, none of which are on the Indy schedule.
Here’s my suggestion.
Either move the K&N Horsepower Challenge, Jegs Sportsman All-Star and create nitro bonus events or return the event to four days. The Hemi Challenge can still run on Friday between sessions without needing those extra days.
Furthermore, why can’t Indy be a double point event like it used to be? How much Countdown excitement could this generate?
If the event is as prestigious as the NHRA says it is this ought to be a no-brainer unless it’s just hype. Indy was the one race which never needed to be hyped.
Certain areas of the sport, and while it’s understood that we just can’t return to the way they were in the old days, but there are some we can. If we are really into honoring the legends, let’s honor the forgotten legends – the races.
Give them a name, again.
Give them prestige, the prestige they so rightly deserve.
What do you think?
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