COMMENTARY: NORWALK IS A NO-WIN SITUATION
For a long time, the NHRA hasn't gotten the benefit of the doubt in controversial situations. And, to be honest, in previous administrations of the sanctioning body, they didn't deserve it. Decisions made out of arrogance or for fear of legal ramifications, basically made the bed they must sleep in all too often.
This weekend's NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio provides another no-win situation.
NHRA and Norwalk executives decided to keep many of their sportsman divisions at home, precisely those who park in the grassy areas of this beautiful facility. Perhaps the NHRA learned from a previous mistake some seem to forget.
Remember Houston 2013? This was the weekend when torrential rains flooded out the pits of Houston Raceway Park, leaving many of the big rigs mired in the grass and unable to even make their way to the staging lanes even if the sportsman portion wasn't called off. It was also the weekend many of us wondered if it was truly time to split the national event experience for professional and sportsman racers.
Since then NHRA has made significant adjustments to their program, namely bringing the sportsman winners up for post-race interviews and at times racing to completion many classes ahead of forecasted weather instead of keeping them over until Monday or later for completion.
In other words, they’ve tried to get better.
NHRA made a proactive decision before racers traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to turn them back in an attempt to get out ahead of the situation. I get it. It sucks anytime a race gets canceled, or in this case, partially postponed.
When a reasonable-thinking race fan or racer, puts themselves in the same situation as those at the NHRA or the Bader family making the decision, I'm convinced they'd have done the same thing too.
Drag racing has more visible critics than ever these days thanks to social media. There were probably just as many "back in the day" when drag racing was so perfect as some would argue, just no avenue such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to record. There was only the media, whose message was weeks after the fact.
I love sportsman drag racing; always have and always will. Modified Eliminator remains burned into my heart and likely will be there when I die. However, in all of my years of seeing television commercials and hearing radio spots for local events (three NHRA events within 150 miles of home), I don't recall once extolling the virtues of Super Comp or any of the other great classes of competition to sell tickets.
The statement above is not me being a hater; it's a realist observation.
Right now, as I see it, NHRA and the Bader family, longtime owners of the beautiful facility in Norwalk, Ohio, are in survival mode with this decision.
Some might say NHRA doesn't care about sportsman racing, but they'll be hard-pressed to say the same about the Baders. The Bader' actions towards the sportsman racers and fans have spoken louder than words time after time for the last five decades.
Reschedule the entire event for another weekend, some suggest. It's not that simple, because of factors, namely advertising, activation and television procedures. It would be a noble thing to do, but also a financially disastrous one as well.
They will run this portion in another day and time. As far as I can see, NHRA has been more than willing to be flexible in the refund and/or transfer process.
Decisions aren't always popular, and sometimes they are wrong. However, when you look at all the factors, lay out all the details as if you are the one with the vested interest, it will trouble your heart, but then you should see why what was done, was done.
Want to be mad at someone?
Blame Mother Nature. She's made the mess others have to pay for.