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

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.

 

 

STRAIGHT UP: SOME HUMOR, SOME SADNESS, SOME SCARES AT SONOMA

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Picturing opponents in their underwear, not dressing up like peasants, and Ford Funny Car drivers trying to wear brave smiles . . . It all happened in California Wine Country at this past weekend's Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. Crashes and controversies, a bombshell announcement, and even a little bit of silliness marked the middle weekend of the Western Swing. Read for yourself . . .

 

 

 

MICHAEL KNIGHT: WHAT FORD'S DEPARTURE FROM NHRA PRO RACING REALLY MEANS

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What are the business ramifications of Ford’s decision to withdraw its support from the NHRA Mello Yello series when existing contracts expire after the 2014 season? CompetitionPlus.com columnist Michael Knight offers some quick thoughts based on his quarter-century of insider experience as a driver, team, sponsor and series representative in most of the major auto racing series. He represented Valvoline in NHRA, working with Joe Amato and the late Darrell Russell, among others.

 

 

 

 

BOBBY BENNETT: FORD, PLEASE GIVE THIS A SECOND THOUGHT

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A statement by Bob Tasca III, whose family is a staple in Ford’s motorsports history, piqued my interest.

Tasca’s comment was on Ford’s announcement they would pull out of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at the conclusion of 2014, leaving no presence on the big stage of professional drag racing.

“For Ford to make a decision to pull out of professional drag racing, I truly believe they have underestimated the passion and loyalty of the NHRA fans,” pointed out Tasca.

Ford did point out Friday it was not leaving drag racing altogether but would focus its efforts on supporting the Cobra Jet program firmly entrenched in sportsman competition. 

 

STRAIGHT UP: OF ROCKS, BEASTS, STREAKS & STRUGGLES, POPSICLE STICKS, AND A SAD FAREWELL . . .

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A look back at Denver and a look ahead to this weekend's Sonoma Raceway event in Northern California yielded some news nuggets and quotable quotes . . .

 

 

 

MICHAEL KNIGHT: HOW ESPN LOSING NASCAR COULD AFFECT NHRA

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ESPN will not have the rights to any NASCAR programming starting in 2015 and how that might affect NHRA will be worth watching.

It could be a positive: The loss of Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races, qualifying and practice sessions could mean increased opportunities for live drag racing coverage. NHRA and ESPN experimented with “live” earlier this season at the SpringNationals. There’s a growing consensus within the industry that the social media instant-information revolution has rendered NHRA’s traditional same-day delayed format outmoded.

It could be a negative: ESPN, having lost Sprint Cup which attracts the largest TV audience of any U.S. racing series, could de-emphasize overall motorsports coverage. With NASCAR gone, Formula One now on NBC Sports Network and the Izod IndyCar series contractually bound to NBCSN to 2018 (ABC televised the Indianapolis 500 and five other races this year), NHRA could be left as a programming oddity at ESPN. The only major auto racing series currently without an announced TV home in the near term is the United SportsCar Series. That’s what the Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series will be called when they merge next year. That tour is expected to include only 10-to-12 races, however, including the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

 

 

 

 

MICHAEL KNIGHT: LOTS OF POSITIVES TO GO AROUND

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I asked Tom Compton if he wanted to take a victory lap.

“No. It's about a lot of people,” NHRA’s president answered.

But June 16-23 was a good -- very good -- week for the sanction. So, in a business where the leader deserves to take credit for the positives and is going to take blame for the negatives, it was fair enough for Compton to take his due.

 

 

 

 

MICHAEL KNIGHT: CHANGE CAN BE GOOD

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I was talking to one of my Business of Racing sources who is connected to Wall St. the way Don Schumacher is the drag strip. As it was mid-May, and this fellow has family ties to Indiana, some Indianapolis 500 discussion was as natural as guys wanting to have their picture taken with Courtney Force.

My briefcase-carrying contact had briefly met Mark Miles, who is not only the new CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Izod IndyCar series, but all of the business enterprises owned by the Hulman-George family. Miles is the fourth different series leader in as many years, and that management instability is one reason the Speedway and the series face so many challenges to regain lost media coverage, TV audience, ticket buyers and corporate support.

“Stable leadership is essential in business,” my friend said. “Uncertainty makes people nervous, unsure, very cautious. Especially when they are considering a seven or eight figure sponsorship. It makes them tend to back away.”

 

 

 

 

THE BAZEMORE FILES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

bazemore leadMost drag racing fans who are familiar with my story, know that I worked as a photographer for many years before my own racing career finally got underway in 1986. Once I started racing, I put away my cameras and focused (pun intended) solely on my career. All of my past work was no longer important to me. But even though I no longer cared about my past, I did manage to lug around 11 big plastic bins of negatives and transparencies from the mid eighties all over the country. They've been stored in numerous storage units, moved from Atlanta to Indy back in 1994, stacked up in the not-so-dry 1932 era basement of my first house, and most recently, stored in the garage next to all of my and my family's cycling and ski equipment out here in Oregon. How I kept them, and why, I am not sure, but, boy, am I glad I did. I kept all of my camera equipment too, for the most part, although I did sell my 500mm lens to noted photographer and fellow Super Stock Magazine contributor Francis Butler after we had blown something up in the funny car in 1990. I last did a professional shoot (for WInston) in 1989 to raise some quick money when Gary Evans and I formed our own team, Bazemore Evans Racing. I next shot our car in 1996 for the cover of National Dragster. That was it until 2005 when my son Dashiell was born. In 15 years, I had picked up a camera exactly one time.

BOBBY BENNETT: IT’S TIME FOR A DIVORCE

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Is the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series flirting with disaster for a better future with 50 minute turnarounds for live television broadcasts?

Until this year, 75-minute turnarounds have been the norm for the last decade or so, and while the time limit was a challenge at first, teams adapted. Even though they were rushed at times after sustaining major damage in a previous run, they managed to do so in a reasonably safe manner. Impending weather often crunched the time to 60 minutes, a challenging and accepted proposition, was on the ragged edge of doable.

Fifty minute turnarounds have been attained already this year, however observing the process reveals potential danger lurks in the most routine of procedures. While none of these endangerments have become realities after just two events doesn’t mean reality isn’t waiting for the most inopportune time to attack.

You can only play with fire so many times before you get burned.

 

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