FROM THE GRANDSTANDS: CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHY?

For 30 years I have been a member of the ‘Church of Drag Racing’.

timglasseup.jpgWe passed through Ash Wednesday about a week ago, which in the Christian calendar is the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a time of soul-searching and repentance. It is a period (40 days for most religious groups) for reflection and taking stock in ones life.

Even though I, along with my friend John Rogers decided to give up donuts (for John) and chocolate (for Timmah) for Lent, I feel like it may be time for me to make a few sacrifices to the church of drag racing as well.

For 30 years I have been a member of the ‘Church of Drag Racing’.

timglasseup.jpgWe passed through Ash Wednesday about a week ago, which in the Christian calendar is the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a time of soul-searching and repentance. It is a period (40 days for most religious groups) for reflection and taking stock in ones life.

Even though I, along with my friend John Rogers decided to give up donuts (for John) and chocolate (for Timmah) for Lent, I feel like it may be time for me to make a few sacrifices to the church of drag racing as well.

I will give up trying to understand why we always begin our drag racing season the first or 2nd week of February in southern California. I lived there for 23 years, and attended the Winternationals with my father from 1980 till the year I moved to Colorado in 1996. In those 16 years the season opening race was either postponed or delayed by rain nine times. The same thing occurred this year.

ESPN2 was there to cover this year’s event, with six hours of same day-tape delayed coverage. Due to the weather delays, we only received 1 round of qualifying for both Top Fuel and Funny, both of which were marred by a glitch in the timing system.

Sunday eliminations produced the same results- more rain delays, one round of the fuel cars and the Pro Stock cars skated two pairs down the track, until NHRA pulled the plug for the day.

The event did not conclude until Tuesday, and missing in action that day was the ESPN2 broadcast team. What did they miss?

They missed a victory in Top Fuel by Doug Kalitta over Antron Brown to kick off Uncle Connie's 50th anniversary in drag racing. After the passing of Scott Kalitta last year, this was one of the best feel good stories and most deserving victories since Robert Hight's Las Vegas win after Eric Medlen succumbed to injuries suffered in an accident during testing at Gainesville, Florida.

Then there was the victory and return to dominance for fan favorites Ron Capps and crew chief, Ed "the Ace" McCulloch and their NAPA-sponsored DSR Dodge funny car.

They also missed providing some well deserved air time to fan favorites  Gary Densham and Jim Head, two drivers without major sponsorship, advancing to the semi finals and final round respectfully.

They missed a world record 6.52 second pass turned in by Pro Stock racer Greg Anderson in the second round and a victory by teammate Jason Line, who (hold on to your hats folks) had a better reaction time than Mike Edwards in the final round to earn his 16th NHRA Wally.

There were many stories, lots of excitement and some great racing that occurred on this Tuesday, and due to circumstances beyond our control (the weather) all this drama was packed into a 30 minute ho hum highlight show.

So for the next 40 days, I will just forget this happened.

 


 

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I will give up trying to understand why more people do not know much about NHRA drag racing.


If I say the phrase “NHRA drag racing”, what is the first name that comes to your mind?

I asked this question to the 25 people I am associated with while at work yesterday-The results surprised me.

•    12 of them answered JOHN FORCE

•    3 of them said “big daddy” (but could not produce a last name)

•    4 of them answered, “THE GUY WHO DRIVES THE ARMY CAR”

•    6 of these great Americans had no answer.


I assumed after receiving these answers that perhaps these 25 people were not big auto racing fans. I decided to think quickly on my feet and like every good journalist - ask a follow-up question:

“If I say the word NASCAR” who is the first name you think of?”


•    16 people answered Dale Earnhart Jr.

•    4 people said Jeff Gordon

•    2 answered Jimmy Johnson

•    2 answered “the King” (and provided a name) Richard Petty

•    1 person answered Carl Edwards.


I think I am right giving up trying to understand.


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I will give up trying to understand what the phrase “Dedicated to Safety” actually means.

IMG00016.jpg
This Halloween costume was no coincidence.
This phrase, which has been the mantra of the NHRA since its creation, has always been the basis for why I maintained my membership though the years.

There has been an issue I have noticed lately which, to me, indicates a lack of proactive thinking on the part of NHRA:

Why is it necessary for a crew member to stand in front of a Pro Stock car and provide a target for them as they do their burnout and then jump out of the way at the last moment to avoid being hit?

I have asked this question to several Pro Stock crew chiefs and drivers and received the answer, “well, it is just needed in order to put the car exactly where we want it.”

The burnout is one of the most dangerous procedures in drag racing. NHRA established a rule a few years ago, after the Chicago National event, which states “no person is to be in direct contact with any car during the burnout”. Yet, they will allow a person to be a human target standing in front of a car, spinning its tires at over 40 mph with no control over the back end of that same car.

If we are dedicated to safety, this procedure should be controlled before an accident occurs.

Giving up worrying about these three issues will be tough for me. However, it will be a lesson learned. Perhaps after the next 40 days I
will have a better understanding as to what the real issues NHRA faces in its goal to become a mainstream sporting event.

Then again, maybe I’ll give up eating chocolate entirely as well.

 

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Thank you to those who took the time to offer their support and suggestions for this column. If you have any ideas for me, please send them here: [email protected]

We will see you next month.....From the Grandstands.

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Tim Charlet, a.k.a. TIMMAH, writes a monthly column discussing life from the grandstands, the not-so-cheap seats in today's drag racing world. He speaks from a race fan's perspective, a side often displaced in many commentaries not to mention investigative articles. Charlet offers ideas as he sees them, from the average race fan's standpoint.

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