Rumor Mill

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

IAN TOCHER: SAFE TO SAY X-DRL EXPERIMENT IS OVER

tocherWith three events left in its eight-race inaugural season the X-treme Drag Racing League ran into “X-treme” trouble. Late purse payments to racers plagued the upstart eighth-mile organization almost from the start and promises from series president Jeff Mitchell to make good are now looking about as empty as—well, as empty as the grandstands on race day at an X-DRL event.

Whether this mess—and make no mistake about it, the X-DRL experiment can now officially be referred to as a mess—is self-inflicted or the X-DRL is at the mercy of its own non-paying “sponsors,” the credibility of the series is destroyed. Time after time racers, fans and media alike this year heard reassurances, statements of solvency, pledges of support and offers of excuse, but with the outright cancellation late in August of events at Indianapolis and Montgomery, Alabama, and the season-ending X-DRL World Finals at Charlotte in October left as little more than an underfunded dream, it’s time to get the forks out; the X-DRL is done.  

After a decent debut at Tulsa in April, through no fault of its own the X-DRL suffered through a rainout at Bristol later that month at an event that attracted only about 80 race teams and perhaps as many spectators. During one of several rain showers I sat down with Mitchell and asked how much of a setback—financially—a race like that would be to the fledgling X-DRL and he assured me it was none. “The money is not at the track,” he said, explaining he wasn’t relying on racer entry fees or spectator admissions to keep the series afloat. “We have a three-year plan and there’s enough (money) lined up right now to see it through those three years.”

GUEST COMMENTARY – JIM HUGHES: THE PROCESS ONLY IMPROVES WITH INPUT

jim hughesJim Hughes is both a successful super class racer and business owner. His Hughes Performance brand is recognized worldwide as one of the leaders in his industries. He has also won many national events both as a driver and team owner. This year, Hughes has been a vocal proponent for safety in super class racing and has at times taken the NHRA to task for their policies regarding this style of racing. Recently, Hughes and K&N Filers President Steve Williams offered their opinions in a CompetitionPlus.com article asking if the three-decade's old Super Comp and Super Gas indexes should be made quicker. The topic quickly became a lightning rod of controversy. In this guest editorial, Hughes offers his insight and ideas to help Super style racing.  

A recent article published here in CompetitionPlus.com regarding the viability of changing the indexes for the Super classes generated input and healthy debate. There is no doubt, certain aspects of our style of racing need to be updated and/or reorganized, if only to keep up with the changing times and increase of horsepower our industry has developed.

STRAIGHT UP: PROCK PRODIGY, SCELZI SENSATIONS REUNITE ON WEST COAST

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While Jimmy Prock was tuning John Force to his 136th Funny Car victory Sunday at St. Louis, his and wife Jill's 18-year-old son Austin was racing in California with four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi and his family.
 
The younger Prock, a midget racer and the 2012 STARS (Short Track Auto Racing Series) Rookie of the Year, reconnected with longtime buddies Dominic and Giovanni Scelzi, now 16 and 11 years old.
 
And they crammed their visit with -- what else? Racing.
 
The youngsters went Thursday night to a town near the Scelzis' home at Fresno for some go-kart racing. They were back in the shop the next morning to finish prepping the micro sprint cars to race in that night at Plaza Park Raceway at Visalia. The following night they raced at Lemoore.

 

 

 

STRAIGHT UP: WILL KIA OR MAYBE HONDA INVEST IN NHRA FUNNY CAR RACING?

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Drag racing grew out of the American post-World War II car culture, when gearheads gravitated to muscle cars and domestic manufacturers. That heyday for Detroit is just a memory -- like that of Southern California dragstrips Orange County and Lions -- both at the racetrack and on U.S. highways.

The National Hot Rod Association could see a bigger presence of Asian automakers in its Funny Car ranks, with once-entrenched Ford souring on its return-on-investment prospects in the sport and Chevrolet having walked away from its considerable influence years before. Mopar/Chrysler still will shoulder the American connection in the pro ranks.

But John Force is courting Kia and Honda in the wake of Ford's departure from the Funny Car class at the end of the 2014 season.

 

 

 

MICHAEL KNIGHT: IMPROVING FAN EXPERIENCE MANDATORY FOR NHRA

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What’s the most important trend in American sports right now?

Improving the Fan Experience.

That should be -- MUST be -- the highest priority for NHRA, series sponsor Mello Yello, track operators, event promoters, and other Business of Drag Racing partners.

When even the 10,000-pound gorilla of U.S. sports -- the National Football League -- understands this New Reality of the marketplace, you know the NHRA industry had best get with it, too. 

 

 

 

 

STRAIGHT UP - BIKE LEADER ARANA JR. HAS SECRET COUNTDOWN WEAPON

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No one else except non-Countdown-driver Brandon Bernstein has the advantage, but Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Hector Arana Jr. only has to look across the dinner table to get championship advice.

Dad Hector Arana Sr. won the bike-class crown in 2009, and the son said he already has received valuable advice on the eve of the six-race playoff.

"He's been there; he's done that. So in a way I have all of his 20 years of experience in racing underneath my belt with only three years. Because he has told me everything and he's there [each] step of the way.  Sometimes he's even there going down a track right beside me. So definitely, it is a good tool to have," he said. "I'm definitely going to use him to my advantage for going for this championship this year."

 

 

 

STRAIGHT UP - BIKE LEADER ARANA JR. HAS SECRET COUNTDOWN WEAPON

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No one else except non-Countdown-driver Brandon Bernstein has the advantage, but Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Hector Arana Jr. only has to look across the dinner table to get championship advice.

Dad Hector Arana Sr. won the bike-class crown in 2009, and the son said he already has received valuable advice on the eve of the six-race playoff.

"He's been there; he's done that. So in a way I have all of his 20 years of experience in racing underneath my belt with only three years. Because he has told me everything and he's there [each] step of the way.  Sometimes he's even there going down a track right beside me. So definitely, it is a good tool to have," he said. "I'm definitely going to use him to my advantage for going for this championship this year."

 

 

 

STRAIGHT UP - BRITTANY FORCE PUTS THREE FROM FAMILY IN TRAXXAS EVENT

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Castrol EDGE Top Fuel driver Brittany Force threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis Tuesday night for the Indianapolis Indians Triple-A minor-league game. Shawn Langdon, one of her Top Fuel competitors from Al-Anabi Racing, also participated in the pre-game festivities. "It was definitely something different," Force said. "I've never done anything like that before."



The 27-year-old Top Fuel rookie had excellent luck this week with ping-pong balls, too. She received the most fan votes among eligible Top Fuel racers for the final berth in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The lottery winner was decided by different-colored ping-pong balls in a hopper, with each driver assigned a specific color. Force had 49 of the 100 balls in the hopper, and one of hers popped out in the Monument Circle drawing Wednesday at NHRA Fan Fest in downtown Indianapolis. She'll start her quest for the $100,000 winner's prize against top seed and points leader Shawn Langdon. Her sister Courtney and dad John will compete in the Funny Car version of the Traxxas Shootout.

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This is very cool, and I'm so excited," Force said. "I remember watching my dad race in all the Big Bud Shootouts growing up, and to follow in his footsteps and get a chance to compete in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, it's awesome. This is an unbelievable feeling.

 

 

 

UP FRONT: RACING IS KILLING DRAG RACING

 

asher05.jpgThis is an editorial that will anger crew chiefs and team owners. It will result in comments like “What the hell do you know about it?” It will produce negative comments such as those that swirled around the suggestions that Hall of Famer Dale Armstrong made about slowing the cars. Numerous tuners – apparently oblivious to history – decried Armstrong’s suggestions, some of them actually saying, “He doesn’t know what’s going on out here. He‘s not out here every week,” as if he’d forgotten everything that had made him one of the most brilliant individuals to have ever been involved in the sport.

So, recognizing that this isn’t going to go down well with a lot of people, I’ll forge ahead regardless, because if some things about professional drag racing don’t start changing, and I mean changing in short order, our already declining attendance is going to disappear altogether.

As the title states, racing is one of the primary problems with today’s NHRA Drag Racing agenda. Wait! Isn’t this supposed to be about racing? Well, yes and no. Pure drag racing is one thing, but without an aspect of showmanship thrown in the activity is without soul, without charisma and without a hook to bring in the casual fan. And without that casual fan we’re going nowhere because there aren’t enough hard core fans to fill the seats and make the endeavor profitable.

 

STRAIGHT UP - NHRA RACERS IDLE BUT THEY'RE BUSY, CALCULATING

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When Winston sponsored the NHRA professional series, it sponsored the No-Bull Showdown between Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars at Bristol, Tenn. But Lex Dudas' Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., can top that.
 
The dragstrip that last October produced national records in all pro classes . . .  the dragstrip on which the sport's best set performance milestones . . . will see more than horsepower. It will be the site next June 7 of the Northeast Great Bull Run.

 

 

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