Thoughts from the 1000’ Marker
by Stormy Byrd
In my last opinionated column in Nostalgia Drag World I was by my own admission hard on NHRA for not “getting it or their fan base.” While 95%+ of the feedback was positive for that rant, it was not meant to bash NHRA.
I was called on the carpet by one of those five percenters as to why I was always bashing NHRA. This person is someone I’ve known for years and I highly respect his opinion and his knowledge of the sport; in fact, he is one of the best voices in all of drag racing. His identity will however stay a mystery. Whoa, Stormy… are you backpedaling or softening your stance against NHRA? Mea Culpa? No way! My “friend” made me think about the constant bashing of NHRA. And how about some constructive criticism?
Stormy Byrd with Revelation; photo courtesy of Stormy
First, let me make this very clear - I am not anti-NHRA. I don’t care for the way a lot of things have changed in the organization but these issues can be fixed, I believe. I have been a proud member of NHRA for nearly 40 years. Proud? Yes, the NHRA I grew up with was started by a gentleman named Wally Parks and his wife Barbara who always stood by his side.
Wally worked his ass off trying to give hot rodders - namely drag racers - a legal and organized place to gather and legitimatize them as good working family people. NHRA’s motto was and always has been “Safety First,” and this is the organization I came to love, not the corporate monster it has become.
Just the Facts Ma’am:
NHRA is the largest automotive sanctioning body in the world with over 80,000 members and 20,000 licensed drivers! No other sanctioning body can hold a candle to that.
Let’s talk safety: Tell me of any other automotive racing association that has cars that can literally blow to pieces at 330+ mph, crash and have the driver walk away, then compose himself and give an interview with the media. Yes, I know there are always the freak exceptions but 99% of the time drivers in NHRA/SFI certified chassied cars live to race another day. I realize that some of the rules may get a little overzealous. Example: NHRA wanted us in NE1 to be required to use “blower bags” just like the ones on John Force’s nitro-burning funny car. Calmer thinking prevailed and with representation at NHRA for our group they realized 7.60 alky cars with supercharges were not having issues with blowing off superchargers. Thanks to Joel Gruzen on this one for saving us a lot of unnecessary $$$.
While the 95% of the people who agreed with what I stated in my last NDW column, my ego is not so huge as for me not to take some constructive criticism, so let’s look back at my past thoughts about the NHRA…..
When Tom Compton was chosen as the President of NHRA, many had their doubts about a man who was in the pet food industry for a large corporation; one who I might add is worth billions. So….if NHRA has a product that needs to be sold what does it matter if the person sold tires to Ford or turbojets to Boeing? They needed a salesman, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
There was also an incident over a decade ago where Mr. Compton had some personal issues. My response at that time was “he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Everyone deserves a second and even a third chance, I believe. This is something I put out on the internet in support of Mr. Compton a decade ago. So you see, you have to have some balance and fairness as “my friend” would ask for, and I did. From my sources I have heard that Mr. Compton is not only a very intelligent gentleman but loves the sport and has a great sense of humor, something you need sometimes when dealing with a bunch of whining drag racers.
Frustration often overtakes us when - as NHRA fans, members, and drivers – we see half-filled stands at our events. So what is the answer? I’m not a business man just a dumb racer, but people seem to listen to my rants. Instead of saying NHRA sucks, perhaps we as fans can agree that NHRA has a problem with bringing back the fan base for what I believe is the greatest show on earth.
I have often called those in Glendora “Bean Counters,” as many are fresh out of college and hired because of their expertise in business. Many have come to enjoy NHRA drag racing and frankly how can you not? Should a drag racer be the head of NHRA? Hell no! Anyone that would work week after week to save enough money just to go out to the strip and blow that money up should be locked in a rubber room, not a Glendora office. That being said, I believe the input from a Kenny Bernstein, John Force or Gary Densham-type could add something to the melting pot at NHRA that you just can’t get with a Bachelor’s degree.
As a fan, member and one who holds a NHRA competition license, if I were ever asked what I think might help the situation, this would be my response….
First: Lower general admission from $60 to $30 immediately and this is my thinking: If you have a grandstand that holds 100 people and only 50 show up because of the current economic situation, you made $3000 and have half-empty grandstands for your sponsors and the TV public and these fans have less money for NHRA baubles & beads.
At $30 admission you have now have Joe Average interested because he doesn’t have to use the rent money in order to watch a race, and just by cutting the price in half you attract more fans. Now, let’s say you have that 100 people in those stands, you are now at $6000. You have stands that are full and the people have a few bucks for food, baubles and beads. Let’s face it, you can’t sell those NHRA trinkets to fans that don’t buy a ticket. Furthermore, you attract potential sponsors that see those grandstands full of screaming fans. New sponsors also equal more money!
Second: In Top Fuel and Funny Car, immediately implement the “Armstrong rule,” and with 6-1 compression and 35% on the blower, the cars will run 4.90’s @ 299 all day. NASCAR implemented a compression and air restriction rule years ago and look what happened - the teams did what they were told. NHRA needs to inform the well-funded teams that this is the way it is, and if you don’t like it…try another ball park. Lower-funded fuel teams will fill those empty qualifying holes now that there is a handle on blowing these things up in less than four seconds.
Second & a ½: One engine rule (hey, NASCAR does it). You qualify and race with ONE block! The engines should now last with the “Armstrong rule” in place. Exceptions would be ONE block extra, so in case of blackening a crank and tearing up the line bore, you get the ONE block replacement. If you kicked the rods or anything else out or torched the block, you’re done.
Two sets of heads - one on the engine with the other being rebuilt. The same with superchargers - one on the car, the other being rebuilt. Piston-rod-ring-bearing changes are okay as are clutches and floater replacement.
Third: Go back to 1320’ of racing!
Fourth: As of yesterday ALL bodies on funny cars will be taken from a plug from the actual cars on the showroom floor! No more than 5% modifications to any part of the body. Front grills must be an exact copy with stock angles. Lights and grillwork may be painted but no angle, height, width, length can be modified more than 5% and roofs must be within 5% of original (no bubble tops). The exception to the 5% rule would be to the height of the sides of the cars and the size of the rear wheel wells because of the huge Goodyear tires.
NO front spoilers deeper than 4” and the rear side spill plates and spoiler half of the currently allowed size. This will make the driver drive these things and the fans can see a Toyota or Mustang that looks like what is on the showroom floor. How do you expect Ford-Chrysler-GM-Toyota to sponsor something that looks absolutely nothing like what they manufacture.
Fifth: New Fuel Class - AA/Fuel Altered. That’s right, the return of the original hot rods! Rules are simple: Anything goes as to engine, transformer or 100” wheelbase old-school types and run them on a 6 second flat index.
Index? Yep, if you didn’t see the class at the super successful 2014 March Meet with the Bowers re-introduction of the class you missed out on some great racing! As NHRA does with certain classes, AA/FA would be run at limited events, 10-12 races. The class would be an 8 car open qualified field.
Fans love these animals because they look like life-size Hot Wheels on steroids. continued on next page
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