The first day's talk at the Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals
at newly re-named O’Reilly Raceway Park was dominated by discussions
of the new points system for next season (See previous News items for
the details). Racers, manufacturers and the media could talk of
little else, and Torco’s will be posting
reactions throughout the weekend. Everyone was asked the same basic
question: What’s your opinion of the points system change for next


GEORGE BRYCE – PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE TEAM OWNER: We haven’t known about it long enough to have studied it and really understand all of the possible implications and scenarios that are possible. The first
thing I thought of was what happened in NASCAR when some of the biggest sponsors in the sport didn’t have their cars make the Chase for the Cup, and I watch NASCAR all the time, even if I have to watch it on TiVo because I’m a big NASCAR fan. I think that it did fix NASCAR in some eyes, as far as the fans ‘cause it made it really exciting for them. I was really disappointed that Jeff Gordon and Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) didn’t make the Chase last year, but it looks like they’re going to be in it this time. But our team has typically finished in the top eight every year no matter what, and I don’t think that’s going to change, so it’ll probably be good for us. Our sport needs this excitement right now, and it needs competitionplus and everyone else talking about this because we’re pretty stuck in a rut, and this is going to help us get up on the surface to where people will be talking about us. I’m ready to adapt, and it could be really exciting and I’m looking forward to it.


LARRY MORGAN – PRO STOCK OWNER/DRIVER: Actually, I haven’t had a chance to really study it completely, but I’m sure it’s a typical NHRA deal where they don’t communicate with anyone but themselves, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s pathetic. I just don’t know, and until I look at it thoroughly I really can’t comment on it.

COMPPLUS: What’s your plan of attack for this weekend?

MORGAN: I plan on winning this race, that’s what I plan on doing.


MARK PAWUK – PRO STOCK OWNER/DRIVER AND PRO BOARD MEMBER: Well, I think NHRA needs to make changes within our sport, and I think shaking up the points system is great. My only concern is the first
17 races of the year when you have guys competing for a Top 10
position and then only 8 of them make it to the next stage of the
game. That’s probably a good idea in some ways because maybe it will
bring some more excitement back into our sport. When you have
situations where someone is running away with the points, which has
been the situation in Pro Stock for the last few years, the fans
kinda lose interest.

But, I do feel that when you get down to the Final Four with two races left there are to many variables at stake. The guys have worked hard all year and let’s say Number 8 in the points ended up in the top 4 because of luck. Maybe he had some of the top guys redlight against him, maybe the other guys broke. There are so many variables in our class where one mistake can determined whether or not you go to the next round or not. Number 8 could end up winning the championship and not really deserve it. I do like shuffling
things and maybe having a showdown with the Top 8 or Top 10 or Top 12
or whatever they want to do, but I think with going to four cars with
two races left there’s just too much at stake for guys who might have
had career years and don’t make that final cut.


COMPPLUS: What was the driver attitude during the PRO meeting?

PAWUK: We took a vote and basically the membership didn’t have too
many problems with going to final 8, but a lot of guys had a real problem with cutting it down to four cars with two races left. That seemed to be the general consensus.

COMPPLUS: Were you consulted as a PRO board member, or was your opinion on this sought by anyone at NHRA prior to the announcement.

PAWUK: I’d rather not comment on that.

KURT JOHNSON – PRO STOCK OWNER/DRIVER: Anything you can do to add an element of excitement at the end of the year’s obviously going to
help, but the fact that we’ll only have two races to decide the world
champion is going to turn out to be more of a lucky thing than a
skillful thing, or necessarily the team that deserves it. When you
look at NASCAR’s schedule they use 10 races out of 36 (to determine
the champion). That’s 27 percent of the races. The calculations on
the NHRA side are two out of 23. That’s just 6 percent of the races
to decide a world champion. I think they could have stretched it out
to something like the last six races, or eight. That would have been
a little better deal to decide the world champions.


WARREN JOHNSON SIX-TIME PRO STOCK CHAMPION OWNER/DRIVER: I could live with the eight (final points races), but when it goes to four that’s absolutely, totally ludicrous, and that’s all because (NHRA)
is trying to “personalize” their points structure compared to what
NASCAR has. They want to put their own little stamp on the thing,
but unfortunately, we don’t have 499 laps to make up for an error.
The way this is laid out now, a guy could win the championship after
he’s in eight place without ever winning a race. And, when it boils
down to four, one team could win the whole thing. In the long run I
see this as being the demise of all the pro categories. This is
what’s going to happen to the guys that are just filling the fields
and having fun with their race cars, but they’re still part of the
program because we need 16 cars out there. Those guys don’t even
have the illusion of ever winning a championship, it’s not even in
the cards anymore. Those guys are just going to hang up their
helmets. You’re going to see Top Fuel and Funny Car down to maybe
eight cars inn two years. That’s why (NHRA) figures they’ll only
have two car owners out there with four cars each. In Pro Stock I
can guarantee you that there will be two cars who aren’t out here
next year because of this. (Johnson declined to answer our question
as to who those car owner were, saying he’d promised them he wouldn’t
tell anyone.)

The guys that are quitting aren’t going to be among that top 8 anyway,
but the thing is that you could be than Number 8 driver
and not attend any of the year’s remaining races and you’re still
going to be eighth in the points. The car in ninth place can’t move
up no matter what he does. The only thing he can down is precipitate
down. And when it gets down to four cars the guy in fifth can only
hold on to that, or move down, but he can’t move down further than
eighth because those top eight cars are going to be locked in. It’s
totally ludicrous thinking. It’s typical NHRA small-time thinking,
and I’m giving them a lot of credit in letting them think I think
they can think, which they obviously can’t.


COMPPLUS: Did you have any inkling that this was coming before you saw the announcement”


COMPPLUS: So, you weren’t one of the racers consulted about this?


BART PRICE – PRO STOCK TEAM OWNER (PIRANZ/GREG STANFIELD): I don’t care for the new points structure. It leaves us in a position where a guy could have a bad race or two and lose the championship because you just can’t catch the guy ahead of you. They way they’ve got it now they’re going to take the top four guys with two races left,
there’s no chance for anyone else. You could be that guy that jumps
up and wins some races, which you can do out here, and it wouldn’t
mean anything because you were already out of it. But, you know what
I say. This is NHRA and it’s their game.


CLAY MILLICAN – TOP FUEL DRIVER Well, I’ll tell ya what. If they’re
trying to make people talk and stir things up, I think they’ve
accomplished that. If they changed the points system to create
excitement, I think that’s a good thing. The only thing that I think
is extremely wrong is that last cut, going from eight to four cars.
I don’t like that. But, being that I’m a guy who’s won a few
championships, I don’t want to be that guy who’s won all year and
then gone into a slump and lost the title.

On the other side of it, you can’t turn ESPN on within them talking about Is Dale, Jr,. going to make (the Chase for the Cup), or is Jeff Gordon going to make the Chase. There are pros and cons, but the most part I think the way it is was pretty good.

In general I think the whole sport is stepping up. On
the IHRA side their program has definitely moved up. I think it’s
extremely interesting that Norwalk just moved to NHRA. Things are
changing, but the grandstands seem to be a little fuller at times,
and I think that’s good for everybody. I hope it gets more interested
in coming in.

COMPPLUS: Are you going to be able to maintain your points lead and win the IHRA championship again?

MILLICAN: Well, we’ve made it close enough now that it’s real
simple. If Doug Foley wins a round, I have to win a round For a guy
who barely gt a passing grade in math in high school I can actually
understand the position we’re in. I think it’s going to be fun.
Those guys have run really well, and they’ve stepped up their
program. They’ve gone out and found the dollars necessary to spend
the same kind of money we spend and if you look at the whole sow,
everybody over there has really stepped it up a bunch. Its going to
be tough, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s just like
my first year in IHRA. It was one of the most intense things I’ve
ever been involved in even though I didn’t win the championship. We
lost by seven points to (Paul) Romine that year, and it all came down
to the final round of the final race.

COMPPLUS: You’ve run all of the IHRA races this year, so what’s the
biggest change you’ve seen between last year and this?

MILLICAN: To be honest I haven’t seen a lot of change. For me, from
my little Werner pit area, it looks pretty much the same. I kinda
miss the Hooter participation. It’s never good when a company that
size leaves the sport, but at the races it’s been pretty much
business as usual.

COMPPLUS: Do you think the inclusion of Nitro Funny Cars has helped IHRA?

MILLICAN: Oh, absolutely. I think the grandstands have definitely
had more people. I think there are a lot of people who never went to
IHRA races before, and some of them that can this year was because of
the Funny Cars. I think it was a great addition.


DON SCHUMACHER – MULTI-CAR TEAM OWNER/PRO BOARD MEMBER: You mean the Chase for the Championship? I’d say I disagree with the change after 17 races, but we’ll see how that is. But, I do not agree with the change prior to Las Vegas (when the contenders are cut from eight to four) because only four cars will run for the championship and only
have two races to do it in.


COMPPLUS: Did you know about this in advance; were you consulted as a PRO Board member?

SCHUMACHER: No, I was not.


MIKE EDWARDS – PRO STOCK OWNER/DRIVER: Well, I think some parts of it are good, but some of it ain’t. I don’t mind the Top 8, but I’m
not sure about that just four cars with just two races to go. I
don’t particularly care for that. I kind like changing it up a
little bit, but I don’t like changing it down to four cars with just
two races. I they oughta let the 8 guys go after Indy, pair ‘em up
and see what happens.