:::::: Editorials ::::::

DRAGS, DOLLARS & SENSE: IT'S THE JOHN FORCE SHOW, AND RIGHTFULLY SO

7-9-10michaelknightHalfway through the 2010 racing season, John Force stands as the most significant driver in all of American motorsports.

Think about that, drag racing fans.

And be PROUD.

This is the star-spangled reality as of July 4:

DRAGS, DOLLARS & SENSE: RACING TO THE MAX

The Blue Max is a legendary part of drag racing’s past.

Mad Max could be an exciting part of its future.

“Before I end up my career, you’re definitely going to see me at least doing a test in a dragster,” says Formula One/Le Mans/Indy 500/sports car/Champ Car/now NASCAR driver Max Papis.

Don’t laugh.

DRAGS, DOLLARS & SENSE: WONDERING WHAT WALLY WOULD SAY

What would Wally say?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

Wally Parks, NHRA’s founder, has been gone for almost three years now. The sport he loved has changed in that time – not for the better, according to some – and that’s what has gotten my mind to racing.

BOBBY BENNETT: WHERE HAS THE MUSCLECAR PRO STOCKER GONE?

03_17_2010_muscleThere was a time when Pro Stock was about the muscle car, the epitome of Super Stock on steroids.

It was the highest level of doorslammer racing in the early 1970s.

When Pro Stock first burst onto the NHRA scene in 1970, the class was a healthy mix of the muscle cars Detroit offered. Chevrolet had the Camaro, Chrysler the Barracudas and Challengers and Ford the Mustangs and to a lesser degree, the Maverick.

GUEST COMMENTARY WITH RON CAPPS - SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

cappsEver since the PRO meeting was held on Saturday morning of the Las Vegas NHRA race, I've been reading reports on the Internet, including in chat rooms, and hearing comments on TV, about what went on at that meeting, and I can tell you I am disappointed with all the comments.

Although I am not an official spokesperson for PRO, I feel, as a new member of the organization, I must speak out. First, those comments are mostly inaccurate. Second, I was at the meeting. And, because I was there, I am going to attempt to clarify a lot of the issues that both journalists, who were not in attendance, and fans, who also were not in attendance, have been erroneously analyzing.

Larry Dixon, Bob Tasca and I were brought into PRO last year and we've been trying to sit back and see exactly what was going on and take everything as it came. PRO brought us in to get a different viewpoint than some of the members have had. Dixon and I are the only non-owner/driver members. Tasca falls into the owner/driver category.

WHERE PROGRESS IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM

04_23_2010_asherI stole that line from the trailer door of Dan Ritchen’s Iron Horse dragster.  Ritchens hailed from the Beehive State and opined that making progress in Utah was nigh unto impossible considering the state’s hidebound ways.  The same could be said about NHRA Drag Racing, but in this instance it’s the racers who appear to be working as hard as they can to keep the wheels of progress from turning.

Before the four-wide race I wrote that it would not be the end of the world.  The race is over and the world didn’t come to an end, but from the way the competitors cried foul after the fact you would think the event’s rules demanded not only four cars at a time, but four starting from each end of the track.

If you’ve been paying attention for the last few years you’ve heard racers and sponsors bemoaning the fact that drag racing has become stale, and new ideas and concepts must be tried to help the sport’s audience reach expand.  A bigger audience drawn by more on-track excitement and innovation results in better sponsorship support because the larger audience makes the sport “worth” more to the sponsors.

SUSAN WADE: THIS TIME FANS SHOULD NOT BE THE FOCUS

04_15_2010_wade Perhaps this should come with a yellow, diamond-shaped warning sign: Contradiction Ahead.
 
Sports fans have to be the most forgiving, most longsuffering, most charitable, most tolerant group on Earth. The majority of athletes avoid or ignore them, figuring that simply meeting them is in the same category as stepping on wet chewing gum. Most athletes don't like signing autographs for them -- unless the fans pay for the privilege. Few athletes recognize or care that the fans who underwrite their salaries never will make in a lifetime what they make in a year. Athletes seldom understand that a fan might -- might -- get his name in the newspaper once in 50 years, if he writes a letter to the editor or miraculously bowls a 300 game or gets a hole-in-one or dies.
 
Yet fans still stand at the fence or shout from the stands, hoping their favorite athlete will take notice and sign a ball or a picture or scrap of paper. They wear the jock's jersey or hockey sweater or some T-shirt proclaiming superhero status for this mere mortal who has been over-marketed. They buy merchandise and claim to be "the biggest fan ever." They  listen faithfully to games or matches or races on the radio, event after event, day after day, season after season, knowing they never will meet their heroes. They're grade-school kids, working moms, trapped-in-the-mundane middle managers, retirees.
 

SUSAN WADE: FOUR-WIDE RACING IS PERILOUS PAGEANTRY

The spectacle of four-wide racing is a memory for drag-racing fans with the rain-delayed finish of the National Hot Rod Association race at Charlotte's zMAX Dragway.
 
And racetrack owner Bruton Smith and the NHRA are lucky to have escaped with no serious injuries to anyone. The potential certainly was there.

Matt Hagan's shrapnel-spraying bomb and Jeff Diehl's body-blowing concussion in the same qualifying foursome first gave proof that this pageantry was more than bit perilous. Cory McClenathan lost a tire at high speed during eliminations, and a piece of it punctured the front wing of Rhonda Hartman-Smith's Hartley Family dragster in the next lane. And in Funny Car runoffs, Robert Hight's Mustang went amok and banged into Jeff Arend's Toyota at the top end. The concussions, tire explosions, and line-crossing runs, of course, can occur and have occurred in the traditional two-lane format. But the grace of God kept any of those accidents from being worse.

DRAGS, DOLLARS & SENSE: OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION

The unfortunate realities of life mean that, in a down-a-couple-of-cylinders economy, one business is off-to-the-races like Tony Schumacher and the U.S. 04_15_2010_knightArmy Top Fuel team. 

Crisis Communications.

Just ask Tiger Woods. Toyota. Jesse James.  Mark McGwire. Alex Rodriguez. Or other names-of-note forced to hire experts to help formulate a message – and a strategy to convey it – following unhappy news.

The NHRA organization, however, is in the midst of something else:

THE ADVENTURES OF THE PIT PET, ADRL HOUSTON

lisa_headshotI’ve been fortunate enough to attend several drag races this year and I have such a great time that I like to write about my experiences.  I’m definitely not enough of a motorhead to be able to report on the technical aspects of racing, but I do like sharing the interesting things I see and hear while hanging out with the teams.  I was very surprised to learn that many of the teams don’t know each other very well unless they’ve been racing together for years.  They recognize the other drivers’ names and their cars and they wave as they pass in the staging lanes, but often that’s as far as it goes.  After spending time with various teams, I understand how that happens.  There is a lot to focus on throughout the day to ensure that your car makes it down the track in the manner that you expect and walking next door to see if your neighbor likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain is not part of it.  So we’ve decided it’s time to devote a corner of the web to getting to know the teams!  And since the teams do such a great job of taking care of me, giving me water, and patting me on the head, my dad has started referring to me as the Pit Pet.

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