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



Ray Bradbury, to the best of my knowledge, wasn’t into motorsports. But the death last month of this true genius of the science fiction genre got me thinking about drag racing.

Specifically, the way NHRA is -- and isn’t -- telling it’s own often-amazing tale.

Bradbury, 91, was perhaps best known for his classic The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950 -- just one year before Wally Parks founded NHRA. I find that timing an appropriate coincidence since hot-rodders of that day probably would have thought 325 mph runs at 1,000 feet a fantasy from the far side of the moon.

Bradbury’s writings foreshadowed, in part, the reality of our modern communications tools and choices. Not only that, but also the consequences they would bring to our society, and even to our humanity. As the New York Times’ observed: “In the drive to make their lives smart and efficient, humans, he feared, had lost touch with their souls.” The obit included this Bradbury quote:  "We've got to dumb America up again."



Stock -- as in investments, not cars or motorcycles -- dominated the mainstream media in May. The Dow kept going down, Down, DOWN on daily bad news about the banks in Europe. Where’s Urs Erbacher now that I need him for a comment? Political instability and the Euro crisis meant Greece was the word on Wall Street. What say you, Chris Karamesines?

The over-hyped Facebook IPO left buyers who quickly lost money Redfaced or Facebroke. It’s already referred to in the financial history books as the Facebook Fiasco. And when people talked about Chase, they didn’t mean  NASCAR’s playoffs.

Seems to me this is a good time to take stock of drag racing at roughly the Full Throttle season’s mid-point. But remember, as a wise broker once told me: Never fall in-or-out of love with any one pick. What goes up will eventually come down. And vice versa.



"This is no battle, no waged campaign. This is pastime. We must be devout in our observation of the pain that allows us to laugh, the fallen who allow us to run, for those who never returned that we may now come together. This reverence we commemorate is a sentiment heavy on our hearts. This reverence we do not take lightly.
"We dedicate our longest march to the endless march of our United States Armed Forces. They landed on hostile shores so we could run on the beach. They battled machines of fascism so we could use fast machines for play. They charged into the unknown so that we may know freedom.
"What once was Decoration Day is now our day of memorial. But for this weekend and this time, we stand not in a state of grief but in reflection and proudly state, 'America, united, shall endure. "
- Ken Squier-narrated tribute to America's military, aired on SPEED TV Sunday



It took 96 editions of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race for someone to come close to trumping it as "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing."
But Bruton Smith just might have done it.
The proof will be in the performance this Sunday, 90 minutes before the green flag waves to start the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup Series race at Smith's Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Don Schumacher Racing's Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown will perform side-by-side burnouts for the NASCAR crowd -- a first for stock car fans, who have seen burnouts before but never have experienced sensory overload in stereo.
Fox Sports TV motorsports analyst Jeff Hammond, a five-time Cup series champion as crew chief or crew member, will be the "official starter" as the 8,000-horsepower dragsters fire up on an unprepped surface.



With a perfect tag-team performance Sunday at Atlanta Dragway, Don Schumacher Racing's Ron-and-Rahn put the Funny Car smackdown on the smokin' hot Robert-and-Jimmy tandem and halted their John Force Racing reign.

After Ron Capps and his Rahn Tobler-tuned NAPA Dodge Charger Funny Car defeated Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang in the final round of the Summit Southern Nationals, Capps shared some frustrations -- with qualification.

"We love those guys," Capps said of Hight and his JFR team. "Tobler and Prock went to dinner here not too long ago. They're good friends, and Robert and I are good friends. We had dinner last night and watched the UFC fight. I told them at the other end [Sunday], 'You guys bring everything I got out when I have to race you.' "

However, Capps let his annoyance spill out: "I got so tired of hearing about Force [Racing] winning every race. I got tired hearing about Robert. I love him but I got tired of hearing about him on this race streak"


mudd brandon

This week, along with six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion owner Richard Childress, NHRA Full Throttle Series champions John Force and Kenny Bernstein were inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala.

The credentials of this trio cannot be argued. At all. Childress was a perennial top-ten driver in NASCAR prior to becoming an owner. He won his six titles with the late Dale Earnhardt, who was inducted into the Hall in 2006. He has won titles in all three of NASCAR’s top series and continues to be one of the strongest and most respected owners in stock car racing.

Force’s 15 Funny Car titles eclipses any driver in the history of NHRA. With his victory in this year’s season-opening Winternationals, his win total is at 133, a benchmark in the sport. His team, John Force Racing, has also won titles with Tony Pedregon and son-in-law Robert Hight. So far this year, they have won all six of the races run in the Funny Car class.


mudd brandonI like you, John. I really do. I like your team members and crew chiefs. I like your drivers; Robert Hight, Mike Neff, Courtney, Ashley, Brittany; all have been very nice to me anytime I’ve spoken to them or needed anything, whether as a member of the media or the PR director at a track. John Force Racing is a class act.

Which makes me wonder why your team has suddenly decided that the NHRA Full Throttle Series Winner’s Circle is their personal sandbox. Why won’t you let other drivers in your sandbox, John? There have been six races thus far in the season and JFR have won them all. You, at the Winternationals, Robert took the next FOUR STRAIGHT (definitely a little rude, but whatever), and Zippy entered the fray last weekend in Houston.

On paper, you have a weakness: Courtney. She’s a rookie. She’s a GIRL. And she earned her first-ever round win against YOU, the most decorated champion in our sport. And she continues to win rounds.

What’s your problem, John? I know for a fact you’re a good guy. I know of the charities you donate to. I’ve seen you take kids and their families behind your pit area for personal meet-and-greets and autograph sessions. I’ve seen you at the ropes talking with the fans far longer than guys a third your age.


mikehead2It is only 9 a.m. in New York City, but it’s already been a busy morning in what promises to be another hectic-yet-profitable day for Eddy Hartenstein and Tom Compton, the chairman and the president of NHRA Pro Racing, which has sped past NASCAR as America’s No. 1 racing series and is riding the wave as the country’s hottest sports marketing property.

The two execs hurry to their dragster-long limo after a very positive breakfast interview with editors of the Wall Street Journal. The Journal is readying a Page One story on how drag racing, the most American of all American motorsports, has zoomed to national prominence after Hartenstein’s HD Partners bought NHRA in a $121 million deal announced five years ago this month. Warren Buffett was quoted in Forbes last week as praising NHRA’s forward-thinking and innovative business plan. Hartenstein and Compton are flooded with invitations to be featured speakers at business conferences -- CEOs everywhere are asking, “How did you do it?”

(Rumor has it Compton -- hotter than an exhaust header among CEO headhunters -- just iced an offer to become commissioner of the National Hockey League. He couldn’t afford the pay cut.)

Corporate America has fallen in love with the straight-line sport. Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Nissan have factory-supported teams, making NHRA the biggest and most important racing battleground on earth for the automakers. Porsche -- yes, Porsche -- is studying it. Apple, Starbucks, Panasonic, AT&T, FedEx, General Electric, Lowe’s, Subway, Exxon Mobil and Walmart are among the series’ newest sponsors. The legendary beer wars have returned, with Budweiser and Miller again backing prominent teams. And now a record number of fans are taking sides in the burger battles, with McDonald’s vs. Wendy’s in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes. Jegs.com says the drag racing boom has quadrupled its mail order business.



This will be the shortest Up Front editorial I’ll ever write for CompetitionPlus.com. And I promise to keep it that way.

There is absolutely no excuse for the pit-parking situation at Royal Purple Raceway in Houston this coming weekend, none whatsoever. The blame for this situation falls at least partially on the heads of the track ownership, but more solidly on the seemingly empty heads in Glendora, who clearly failed to think this through before relegating professional competitors to a second-rate pit area on the grass.

In the last five years the amount of pit space relegated to the heavily sponsored fuel teams has been on the increase, and dramatically so. Despite the fact that team owners pay for the privilege of housing their increasingly massive hospitality areas next to their pits, things have gone beyond the point of being questionable and have reached the point of ludicrousness.

One of the primary selling points that NHRA Drag Racing has with potential sponsors is the direct access to the drivers that the fans enjoy. Ours is the only motorsports endeavor in which this is the case and believe me, it’s a very important point. However, when hospitality space increases to the point where those very same fans are forced to walk an additional quarter to half mile to see their favorite driver (and that distance is no exaggeration), it’s time to re-evaluate the whole situation.


There are some who never accept change and those who see change as growth.

Those unwilling to accept change will never embrace 1,000-foot drag racing, nor will the Countdown to the championship be a source of pride. And, don’t mention drag racing while running four abreast, the once a year style of racing is a definite jolt to those willing to fight for the past and never defend the future.

Throughout their history, professional baseball has  changed; professional football has changed. And, their fans aren’t staging boycotts just because big league baseball has adopted interleague play; or, pro football changed the format of the overtime session.

Granted the National Football League never shortened the football field but if we are going to compare apples to oranges, in the interest of fair reporting, they never had a football player run off the end of the field and lose their life; not that I am aware of. They did, when players were coming up in later life mentally incapacitated because of head injuries, implement new rules controlling tackling. In fact, they are discussing doing away with the age old tradition of kick-offs in the name of safety.

In drag racing, for many it is safety be damned in the name of tradition.