It's one event, but right out of the gate, the inaugural PRO Superstar Shootout landed the most difficult jump for any fledgling program. The event produced an entertainment home run. 

It had close racing, record-setting times, and plenty of fans on hand to witness it. The event was much like watching Metallica play at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. 

I've been a professional journalist for 37 years. The first thing the journalistic legends of this sport taught me was to remain objective. It's not personal, it's a job; an assignment. When the readers peruse your copy of said assignment, they shouldn't be able to tell on which side of the fence you stand. 

I will say this. The PRO Superstar Shootout was one of the best drag races I've covered in the last 25 years, and to be a little more precise ... top five. That's out of 400 races or so since 1999. Absorb that for a minute. 

I'm very much aware of the political battle going on behind the scenes, whether the parties will admit it. They can say all they want that it's not one. One wanted to succeed to prove its point. The other wanted the event to fail to prove its point. 

And in the end, the fan came out the winner. Those who attended the event in Bradenton saw three days of entertaining drag racing. Those who saw the event on livestream and social media were left with a good presentation of drag racing. 

Now, a seed has been planted, and if NHRA wasn't paying attention, it had better start. I may be getting ahead of myself here. No one at PRO has ever publicly stated this was the start of a new series, and likely won't.  All they said is they wanted to prove there's a different way of running a drag race that can be better. In that context, I say, "Mission accomplished."

If history has ever taught me one thing, and learning from the example set forth by the original PRO/PRA efforts, traditionally, more times than not, racers running an event or a series is a recipe for disaster. That's why I was skeptical of this one from the outset. 

I was wrong. This event was definitely one of the times the racers delivered a delicate mix of good racing and entertainment. 

Walking through the Friday evening crowd, it was almost like I was teleported back to the good old days of the IHRA -- except there were a few things that struck me. During downtime, the fans stayed in their seats as track prep was going on. This could have been because of limited seating, and to leave, one could never get their seats again. No one left the grandstands when the sportsman and Pro Stocks came to run, as often happens at NHRA events.

What you had was a facility packed with gearhead fans instead of casual ones. Or maybe they were genuinely entertained there as they awaited the next facet of the show.

There was good music playing, and no DJ doubling as an out-of-work comedian. Of course, good weather and a concise schedule didn't hurt, either. 

It was as if the race fans noted the event's shortcomings and provided grace for the fledgling effort. Before the final qualifying session began, event promoter Wes Buck rendered what I feel was one of the most heartfelt messages to the packed grandstands. 

"I believe we have created change," Buck said. "If we've done anything over the course of 24 hours, I think we've proven that we don't always have to do it like we've always done it. I want to play music. I want to set a vibe. I want to welcome people as close as humanly possible. 

"I know we have had some growing pains. We have traffic miles in both directions. We've had food lines too long. We have room for improvement. Be mad at me. I can tell you we are trying. I've told this team we may fumble. We may drop the ball, but we are going to fumble forward together. I appreciate your grace and understanding. 

"A lot of people have had a lot of swings at this. There are some who have been doing this for 60 or 70 years ... decades. This is our first swing at the bat, and I think we have made contact."

Indeed, they did. 

In this world where you are only as good as your last one, the next one will be even more crucial. Race fans will extend grace more times than not when they see the well-intended effort and deny it when they are taken for granted. 

The first event may not be perceived as a long-term sustainable, financial platform, but there are enough intelligent and determined folks in the group capable of making that happen in the long game. 

Maybe the parties involved can turn this whole scenario into a win-win for drag racing, its racers, and its fans. 

I absolutely do not think the NHRA in the Glen Cromwell era is as unbending and unwavering as it used to be. Some might disagree. 

One NHRA person asked me what I thought of the event long before it happened, and I said point blank, "If NHRA had been more willing to listen to its shareholders over the years, this might never have happened. When you treat people like you're the only game in town, eventually you find yourself not the only game in town."

If I can cover an event promoted by Drag Illustrated, with whom we often battle for the same advertising dollars, then NHRA can surely come to the table with a group of individuals who helped it achieve success over the decades without being butthurt that they went out on their own and succeeded. 

I'm an NHRA fan. I'm a PRO fan. 

I'm a drag racing fan ... objectively.