PRESERVING HISTORY

Back from the Charlotte national event. No I didn’t win. Was a first round runner-up actually. But ran into former NHRA VP Graham Light who “retired” last year. Apparently he was slumming, but as he related, it’s tough to just walk away when your whole life has been attending 24 national events a year besides whatever office work was a part of his life.

“It’s really about the friends I’ve made over the years,” he said. And isn’t that what this sport is all about.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “the cars are the stars,’ but they’re really not. It’s the people who have made this sport what it is. We’ve all spent quite a bit of time at the races and because of that, we’ve all made friends, friends that come together at each race to enjoy the racing but also see each other. It’s probably a toss-up as to which is more important and I’m sure it changes from person to person. But regardless, it’s the people.

When my son was growing up, he had two sets of friends, “school friends,” and “race friends,” and neither the two seemed to cross. It can be sometimes hard to explain to the uninitiated just what the attraction is to driving all night to a race, sweating it out throughout the day, race, win, lose, whatever; load up and drive back home, sometimes all night to get back to work on a Monday morning. But that’s exactly what it’s all about. And I’m sure if it wasn’t for the people, the friends; those drives back and forth wouldn’t be as inviting.

What is Graham Light doing today? He’s helping the Wally Parks NHRA Museum to raise funds to allow the Museum to preserve the history of the sport. Light pointed out that the NHRA as a sanctioning body and the Museum don’t share any of the money either one raises. They’re two entirely different entities, which is something I didn’t realize and I’ll be willing to bet, neither do a lot of other people. Racers might believe they pay NHRA enough in terms of membership fees, entry money and the like; but not one dime of that ever transfers over the Museum. And the importance of having someone or someplace to preserve the history of our sport is vital.

I hated History in school and I’m guessing some of you did too. What did I care about who fought in the Spanish/American War? (The main issue of the war was Cuban independence – yeah, I had to look it up.) Or what it’s importance to me in later life would be? But the older I get, the more I have started to appreciate the things and the people who have come before us. No, truthfully I still don’t think I care about who fought in the Spanish/American War, but I do care about how we got to the point in drag racing where we currently are. I’m also very much interested in artifacts which have been preserved and handed down through generations. I have what I believe to be some sort of permission slip for my grandmother to travel from her home in Italy to the United States back in 1923. In addition, I have her Italian birth certificate. Pretty cool stuff.

Graham Light informed me that the Museum just received a package which contained a resignation letter dated in either 1950 or ’51; Light wasn’t sure; from Wally Parks to Robert E. Peterson of Peterson Publishing fame. Parks was the editor of Peterson’s Hot Rod magazine then and was resigning to work full-time in order to build the NHRA. In addition, was a letter from Peterson to each of his employees stating the resignation of Parks and that everyone at Peterson Publishing should do everything they can to assist Parks and the NHRA. Once again, pretty cool stuff.

Speaking of Charlotte… It’s fairly often the NHRA gets slammed for making questionable calls. Sometimes it’s warranted and others not. But the call they made Saturday to complete the sportsman portion of the national event show was undoubtedly the right move. The original plan was to run the sportsman to the quarterfinals and complete between pro rounds on Sunday. With the call for impending rain on Sunday, they made the decision to run sportsman to completion on Saturday night, which actually turned out to be Sunday morning at ten minutes past midnight, but it was the right move.

I really believe that should be done more often. Think of it in this regard: When you win on Sunday afternoon, by that time most of your friends had probably already left in order to be home for work on Monday morning. In addition, you too end up having to do pictures and load up right away for the same reason. Now win on Saturday night and… what did I say earlier about this sport being about our friends… now no one has to rush to leave and everyone can hang around to party. For those wanting to actually race in front of the crowd, how about bringing the sportsman winners back on stage for Sunday morning pre-race? Maybe they’ll be a bit hungover, but that always makes for a good show.

Over and out! -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO