NORWALK CANCELLED! – THIS WEEK’S BLOG

No, not really, but the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals will be completed this weekend minus any of the sportsman classes. First time I’ve seen this – again, not really, but it can set a scary precedent. But of course, this is the BIG NEWS this week.

Apparently, the wet conditions have caused the areas where sportsman racers pit to become unusable, or at least wet enough which could cause more than a few rigs and/or race cars to be pulled out, not to mention the damage to the grounds themselves. And as I sit here and watch the weather forecast for the week, the rain isn’t over yet. The only question I might have (okay, not the only question but one of them: “What about the spectator parking areas?”

And then if the sportsman racers are to be rescheduled to later in the year, when? (There’s another question) I think Norwalk’s schedule is pretty full, which begs to ask another one: With the Bader family’s penchant for caring for their customers, I wonder how much of this decision was prompted by them? My guess… A lot! Interesting video by a local newspaper, an interview with Bill Bader Jr.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkhuLngzdqY&feature=youtu.be.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a national event run where sportsman cars were absent, but it is the first time I can ever remember where they were notified prior to most of them ever leaving home. A very proactive move on NHRA and Summit Motorsports Park’s move.

I can remember being at the old Springnationals in Columbus, Ohio when after a day’s worth of time trials, the pits became flooded after rain and a dam broke in the area. The entire race itself was cancelled and the pros returned on one date, with sportsman run later in the year by themselves.

There was also the time at the Keystone Nationals in Reading when tech inspection was done at a nearby mall and word filtered over that the pits were in such sad shape that no sportsman rigs were allowed to even enter race track, instead scheduled to be run on another date.

The same happened in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd roared through the pits at Maple Grove Raceway which caused more than a few rigs to be under water up over their trailer axles. Certain sportsman racers were moved to a nearby mall until the pits could be dried out enough to allow them to return and continue the race.

And what about the year in Gainesville where the sportsman classes were contested in Orlando while the pros ran in Gainesville all on the same weekend?  Precedent? Some of it has already been set.

It’s also happened at other events around the country – kinda starting to sound like a broken record. But as I stated earlier, this is the first time it was done ahead of time, that I know of. This allows racers a chance not to have to spend money on travel expenses along with wasting precious vacation time away from work, only to not be able to race. Good move on whosever part made the decision.

From what I understand, the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional event in Norwalk last month was also somewhat plagued with the same issues. Racers weren’t allowed entrance to the facility until late in the schedule. It has just been wet no matter where you live. In the northeast here in Pennsylvania, we’re already ahead of the rainfall amounts to-date from last year, and last year was a very wet year.

But all this brings up another point I’ve spoken about over the years. I’ve long said it’s my belief the NHRA should ask themselves, “Are we in the entertainment or sanctioning body business?”

In an interview with NHRA president Glenn Cromwell in the Performance Racing Industry magazine about a year ago, he was quoted as saying he agreed to either being in the entertainment business or moving in that direction. If that’s a fact, I’ve suggested they eliminate sportsman racing from certain national events. Treat those races entirely as a show.

Of course I’m a sportsman racer myself, but I believe there are instances; national events if you will; where sportsman racers aren’t needed. There are what I consider to be “major” events where every class should be run; Pomona, Gainesville, of course Norwalk, and naturally Indy; but I think there are some which could be run as pros only, along with alcohol cars. Let’s face it, the idea of sportsman racers graduating up into the pros just isn’t happening. But it does happen with alcohol racers and the sell could be that they will be the next Top Fuel/Funny Car racers.

I seem to remember back when the Columbus event was cancelled, making the comment that “they” could learn something from that. A national event can be run without sportsman cars. But that’s not what has happened. Sportsman cars have always been a part of the “show.”

In speaking years ago with Len Imbrogno who was then NHRA’s sportsman liaison; I forget what his official title was if that was even it; I mentioned the same things to which he suggested “Never happen, because when Wally set up the national events, he envisioned them has one big car club gathering which included sportsman racers. That was why they’ll always be a part of the national event show.”

Pretty admirable but as we all know, times are changing. Could this be a good evaluation of a pro-only show?