By the time you’re reading this I should be on the left coast for the first race of the year; the NHRA Winternationals; and it can’t come any sooner. I’m tired of winter but I was tired of it in November of last year and it hadn’t even begun yet.
Surprisingly, NHRA put out the detailed run schedule for the Pomona event a week earlier than they ever have. I heard some grumbling when it was listed that the Lucas Oil classes; (and I hesitate to use the term “sportsman” because that might sort of insinuate a less-than-professional approach even though by definition, we’re all sportsman); but the grumbling might have begun when those classes were only getting two time runs on Thursday followed by first round of eliminations on Friday morning. Last year they did the same thing but that was set in stone only a couple of days before the event when it was becoming apparent Mother Nature was going to wreak havoc with the event. At least that’s what I remember, but the truth is I have a hard time remembering what I ate for breakfast sometimes so take that with a grain of salt.
Here’s the facts: They; NHRA; keeps adding classes to the national event schedule, this year Super Street is added. Anytime that happens, it’s bound to screw up the schedule. They’re also giving the alcohol classes two qualifiers on Thursday where they would typically get only one. Just like a lot of the national events; make that all of them; it’s becoming like attempting to fit 10-pounds of “you know what” into a five-pound bag. When you’re trying to do that, something has to give.
Now on the other side of the coin so to speak, and in general terms, it really should only take two time runs to get your combination dialed in to a track. Two time runs and let’s go racing. Of course though, with Pomona being the first race of the year, in most cases no one has yet to turn a tire so this race might be a little different. It might take a little more than two runs to knock off any rust which may have set in over the winter. But it comes down to the aforementioned ten-pounds of s—t in a five-pound bag. I’m certainly not privy to any scheduling talk but when you’re attempting to cram the schedule tight with runs, one or two little hiccups can ruin the day.
I hesitate to bring this up but I’ve mentioned this before. Is it time to answer the question, “are we in the entertainment business or the sanctioning body business?” From the outside, it appears to me NHRA national events are leaning more toward the entertainment side and if that’s the case, it very well could mean that the sportsman classes are getting in the way.
I might have spoken of this earlier last year when the sportsman classes at the Norwalk national event had to be cancelled due to the wet grounds. What transpired was three days of mostly professional class racing along with the alcohol classes. When they [NHRA] can successfully pull of an event like that, you have to ask yourself, “Is there something which can be learned from that?”
However, they seem awfully hesitant to do away with any of the goings-on that have made the national events what they have been for 50-60-70, I don’t know how long; a long time nonetheless. I had made the very suggestion years ago to a high ranking official about separating the sportsman from national events. His response was, “That’ll never happen. When Wally Parks set up the national event scene, from the beginning he wanted it to be sort of like one big car club gathering where everyone comes together to enjoy the atmosphere and comradery.”
That’s all pretty admirable but times are changing. Truthfully, as a sportsman racer myself, I would hate to see those classes eliminated from every national event, but maybe some of them??? With 24 national events on the circuit, there certainly are some I consider “majors,” the two Pomonas, Gainesville, Norwalk, naturally Indy and probably a couple more. Those events should always stay that way, but the others? Maybe it’s time to rethink scheduling.
I know one thing is certain. I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make those kinds of decisions. How about you? - JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO