THE 60th WINTERNATIONALS - MY TAKE

In the midst of last week when I mention I may have been wrong; I might have failed to report on the 60th running of the NHRA Winternationals. But for an event which holds a lot of great memories for people, I do have to admit that the 60th didn’t appear to me anyway, to be too much different than the 59th, 58th, or maybe even any of the previous events.

Growing up, I remember seeing photos of that famous Winternationals banner flying high over the starting line. That banner was as iconic as the Hurst bridge; not that it’s named that anymore; over lanes at Indy. I’m a little surprised the powers-that-be didn’t try to place that banner back over the starting line again. Maybe there were some logistical problems in doing so. A little tough to find out when that banner stopped being displayed, but I think it would have been a great touch.

I’m sort of afraid that if you close your eyes, every national event just looks like all the rest. I don’t know what could be done to make each one different, but… Three classes of nostalgia cars were scheduled to make exhibition runs, only to be cut short with only the Nostalgia Pro Stocks making runs, due to some unforeseen on-track incidents.

Of course though, I don’t want this to sound depressing because it’s not. It’s racing season and that’s never a bad thing. I’m glad it’s begun and it’s going to be interesting to see how the NHRA season all plays out. It seems so far that racers are interested in racing as the quotas for the various sportsman categories are filling up fast and that’s a really good sign. Add in the fact that the bracket events which in some cases are going to pre-entries are also filling up fast. The K&N Spring Fling at GALOT filled up with 400 entries in about four minutes online. It’s going to be an exciting year and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel myself a couple of times.

In addition to having photographic help in Pomona by Richard Brady, who’s on his Last Photo Tour before he retires, I also had the pleasure of working with Pennsylvania’s Michael “Mashie” Mihalko. The last time Mashie had been at the Winternationals was in 1967 when he was in the Navy and stationed nearby. Mashie brought along a photo album from the event that year along with the original sweatshirt he purchased then. Something told us all either he was a lot smaller then or the shirt has been shrunk too many times. But boy, what changes he has seen.

MASHIE’S PHOTO ALBUM FROM THE 60th

Friday’s crowd was… bad. Saturday was okay and of course Sunday brought with it cold temperatures and wind which had to have an obvious effect on the crowd. Sunday morning’s pre-race ceremonies had to be moved up an hour to avoid the chance of late day showers, which really never came. That time change I would assume affectively eliminated the Track Walk and the crowd in front of the pre-race stage was probably the lightest I’ve ever seen.

Speaking of the Track Walk, I seem to remember that ceremony getting started in Gainesville years ago where in order to take part, it was required you paid a fee; whatever that was. However, the money from that fee was donated to a charitable cause. I don’t think too many people would bitch about that and I don’t know why we don’t consider reinstituting that practice.

One of the things I notice at some sporting events; most notably golf; is that the sanctioning body; if you will; and the players give back to certain local charities. It’s an effort to not only give back but also get those groups to become part of the event. There are certain charities the NHRA and racers do of course donate to and I certainly wouldn’t want to take anything away from them, nor disregard the fact that racers do give back. But there has to be local charities at each event on the tour which we could help benefit. Just a thought.

As for me being wrong, one comment I heard was that I don’t speak for all sportsman racers and that’s true. Any opinions I publish here are my own and mine only. However, having been in this sport for a long time, I and others who have been around even longer, have all seen drag racing at its finest and maybe we don’t think it’s like that anymore.

But I urge each and every one of you to speak up and let your voices be heard. Here’s something I’ve always said, if you go in a restaurant or store and receive bad service, chances are you’re either not going back or at the very least, speak to a manager. Why should NHRA Drag Racing, or any drag racing for that matter, be any different? -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO