What’s Old is New Again
by Ed Miller
The past really isn’t dead. The past is not actually even past, not by a long shot. A lot of us are still very much living, thinking, and certainly drag racing there. While contemporary times seem to be looking ever more grim for drag racing, the past appears to hold out whatever genuine possibilities of hope there may actually be for the future of our sport.
Drag racing crowds are shrinking. Even the NHRA Big Show national events are playing to grandstands hosting an unprecedented number of unoccupied seats instead of standing-room-only crowds. Used to be you had to go stand along the fence line because you couldn’t find a place to sit down. Now, those along the fence at big national races have left their seats and just want to get down closer to the nitro fumes.
It’s a sad thing to see, and it appears to me that a lot of people are living in denial of the truth. Crowds for contemporary drag racing are shrinking steadily. And to speak plainly about it, those spectators that do come seem mostly interested in the nitro classes. There used to be a lot of spectators excited about seeing the stock cars, gassers, and altereds run, back in the day when those classes still existed. Now, there is a mass exodus from the bleachers whenever Pro Stock, Super Gas, and those amorphous Bracket and Index classes are called to the starting line, with fans climbing back up the steps to their seats only after the acrid odor of nitromethane begins to waft out over the track from the burn-out box.
You can see it at the big drag races almost every week on TV. You can see it even more clearly at the shorter, narrower, smaller tracks that can only accommodate the bracket and index cars. While there may be a group of door car runners in the pits, the bleachers at those tracks are nearly empty almost all the time. No nitro = no crowd. Even someone who doesn’t have much of a mind for formal mathematics can calculate the outcome of that simple equation. It’s just a realistic 21st century fact of life.
The only really visible ray of sunshine lighting up this ever-darkening scenario comes from behind us. This glimmer of hope glows from what was discarded as many folks took off in a mad rush for the future. As it turns out, the promise of this highly touted future has ended up being something of an empty fantasy. The future used to be the coming thing. Now, it looks in a lot of ways like that coming thing may not have amounted to much when it arrived and is quite possibly now leaving or nearly already gone.
How many of you readers will pay your hard earned cash to attend a motorsports contest for acceleration where the competitors leave the starting line at different times, use electronic devices to deliberately slow down their cars after they launch, and then run along towards the finish line only to slam on their brakes to keep from getting there too much ahead of the other car? Going too quick in a drag race? A lot of us just aren’t really even able to comfortably get our heads around such an illogical and outlandish concept.
Start cars in a drag race at different times and make sure they don’t go too quick? What were they thinking? Eliminate such wildly popular classes as Factory Experimental, Super Stock, Top Gas Dragster, Junior Fuel Dragster, Competition Coupe Sedan, Modified Roadsters, and Supercharged Gas classes? Replace all that visually fascinating hot rod historical diversity with look-alike late model cars that don’t really even resemble the models they are supposed to be? Again..what were they thinking?
Do you suppose that the NHRA Bigshots and others really don’t understand why car counts are down? Why there aren’t as many butts in the bleachers as there used to be? Why the headcount of TV viewers watching the Big Show is steadily decreasing? Why the members of the younger generation are no longer developing an early interest in drag racing? Why some of the traditional big bucks event and racing team sponsors are throwing in the towel and bailing out? Do you suppose the ‘Honchos’ really just don’t get it?
Where are the car counts up? Nostalgia drag racing. Where are spectator counts up? Nostalgia drag racing. Where are the fans really happy about the events and competition? Nostalgia drag racing. Some people are coming back to it. Many of us never left in the first place. Others have just now discovered it. It seems to be the one bright spot in our beleaguered sport that prophesizes all-important future growth. What’s old is once more new again.
Nostalgia Drag World - by Ed Miller; photos courtesy of Connell Miller