THIS OUGHTA BE DIFFERENT

It’s Indy week, although we now have to clarify which Indy after three previous outings this past Summer at the place which is most notably known as the home of the annual U.S. Nationals. For a massive collection of old photos from past U.S. Nationals, check out Richard Brady’s assortment by clicking over to our Photo Gallery.

For 69 years, the U.S. Nationals has been drag racing’s Daytona Speedweeks, The Indianapolis 500 and the Super Bowl all in one. The race which everyone wants on their resume, yet is just as hard to win as maybe any of the other now 23 events a year. Except for this year. The U.S. Nationals will only be the sixth national event of the year, seventh if you count the Gatornationals which only crowned sportsman champions. It’s still the one race a year which “everyone” goes to. If you’re in the industry, this is the one you attend.

For competitors, Indy; once again clarifying it as the U.S. Nationals; is typically a marathon. Parking of sportsman rigs can be a madhouse with some ending up almost in another zip code away from the starting line. But then that’s what you have when you allow sometimes as many as 900 race cars into the race. Stacking of sportsman rigs usually begins the previous Saturday as people line up to hopefully get that “special” spot. Actual pit parking would start on Monday and continued on Tuesday.

Prior to the ending of an actual tech inspection by an official two years ago, tech inspection at Indy could sometimes take all day. Wednesday began time runs and qualifying, Thursday more time runs and/or a first round matchup for the super categories, along with class eliminations for Stock Eliminator. Friday was Super Stock’s chance at class eliminations along with another round of super eliminations.

And class eliminations was everything to those racers. After Thursday’s Stock class runoffs, a certain number of those racers were “invited” to the teardown barn on Friday, sometimes requiring a complete proctologist’s exam; engine out, pistons on the ground, etc. On Saturday, some of the Super Stock racers were “invited” for their own peek up the “lower portion of a person’s anatomy.”

It’s not unusual that the maybe scariest round of any event might be the first round. Lose then and your weekend was over. It changed from year to year, but for the super class racers, often there would be two or three time runs followed by a first round on Thursday or Friday and that’s it for the day. Another first round; so to speak; on Saturday followed by one or two rounds Sunday before Monday’s finish. All of which means you could expect four “first rounds” before you get the chance to let it all hang out for several rounds in a row. Although that too has changed to where now the sportsman fields are whittled down to the semifinals and only those rounds are completed on the final day.

Add in several “special” events and it amounts to a week-long affair, one that needs to always be that way. As I mentioned, it is our speed week and it should always remain. This year is going to be different though. Some stupid a$$ guy named Covid threw our whole lives in a turmoil. To begin with, it’s only a four-day race – Thursday to Sunday.

There is no “real” class eliminations for Super Stock and Stock, replaced by the fastest two cars in a class running off for the class trophy. No Monday eliminations now with the finals of all categories to be completed on Sunday. Yes, there is the JEGS All Star runoffs, the HEMI Challenge and whatever else they can fit into only four days, but it’s just flat going to be different.

As I sit here and write this, the gates haven’t yet opened to parking so it’s a little unclear as to just how much different it will be. Competitors have all been asked to fill out and submit tech cards ahead of time online along with signing umpteen waivers for everything from COVID to having hot coffee spilled in your lap; obviously I exaggerate a little, but you get the idea.

There’s also talk about no time slips handed out maybe to make the process contactless??? Supposedly you’ll have to get your time slip on your phone or computer through live timing??? Live timing that isn’t always reliable and up to speed. What is wrong with good old-fashioned paper? I hope everyone is given instructions as to how to access this (yeah, right!). And that should go over well with anyone who has a flip phone ( a what?) or doesn’t have a computer with them.

Nonetheless, it’s Indy. Let’s see just how different it is in a couple of days. As a noted associate used to end his exposé, “Film at 11.” -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO