MY CRYSTAL BALL

Saw an eerie thing written lately. “We’re as close to the year 2050 as we are to 1990.”

For a lot of us, 1990 seemed like… okay, only yesterday. I was still racing the Puerto Rican Dream Super Gas car, only a short eight years from being married and seven from having our first kid. Was a Tech Editor and doing other freelance writing. Our son was racing Quarter Midget cars and Jr. Dragsters were just a thought in Vinny Napp’s eyes. Was drag racing any different than it is today? What’s it going to be like in 2050? Okay, what’s it even going to look like in 2021?

No one has that Crystal Ball, so it’s hard to imagine what even tomorrow will look like. However, if the past is any indication of the future, I doubt much is going to change in a very big way. Yeah, you’re going to see some new things on the horizon, but overall it’s hard to even dream and see something different.

Well, now wait a minute. Jr. Dragsters. There’s something that has changed the face of drag racing since 1990.

When my son turned four-years old, we happened to be at a car show and noticed these “small” circle track cars. I’d never seen them before and when we questioned about them, they were for kids starting at age five. When I asked if my son thought he could drive one, his eye’s lit up as if Santa Claus appeared right in front of him.

Apparently for those not familiar, Quarter Midgets have been around since before World Warr II in the ‘40s, so they’re nothing new. But it’s sort of been known as the Little League of motorsports, which until Vinny Napp birthed the Jr. Dragster movement, drag racing didn’t have. Now we do.

My son raced them until juniors came along after which he wanted one of those, probably because it was what we did as a family. But having “raced” and driven a motorized vehicle since he was four, by the time he got his state driver’s license at age 17, he already had 13 years of experience handling a car. When he got his license and wanted to go out with his friends, my only request was that I wanted him to drive because I knew he could handle the car in case of a problem. By age 17, he’d already won several races, been on his head in the Quarter Midget a number of times and knew what it was to slide his way around a track.

I don’t know that the majority of kids getting their state driver’s license today fully understand that scenario. I look at Doug Herbert’s BRAKES school which does exactly that; gives kids the opportunity to slide a car around, have it run off the edge of a road and other things, which gives kids the chance to react to any problems they might encounter.

My daughter is a graduate of the TCR (Teen Championship Racing) program begun by Beaver Bob McCardle at Beaver Springs Dragway, next door to me here in Pennsylvania, and she has also attended Herbert’s BRAKES. But as for TCR, it’s a program where kids 13-years of age, race “big cars,” street cars with a parent as a passenger. It started under the IHRA banner and has grown to NHRA under the class name of Jr. Street. But it teaches the kids not only starting line principles, but also the finish line as well; which we know is just as important.

Today, she’s wheeled our dragsters as well as full-bodied cars along with driving our rig back and forth to the races. She can handle it well, but the thing which scares me sometimes is that – thank God – she’s yet to be “in trouble,” meaning an out of control race car or rig. I believe that kids needs to be “hurt” in order to learn, and not always in physically. I pray she never has to learn in that way but it might happen someday.

And much the same goes for anyone. I realize not as many kids today are as excited about getting their driver’s license as we were, but you have to wonder if they too aren’t “experienced” in actually handling a vehicle when trouble arises.

Okay, got a little off topic there but before I jump off my soapbox, what will drag racing look like in 2050? - JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO