NHRA Mus­ings

Hot Rod - - Finish Line -

For 25 years, I’ve had a strange near-far re­la­tion­ship with the Na­tional Hot Rod As­so­ci­a­tion.

Near, be­cause the NHRA was founded in 1951 as a spinoff of this mag­a­zine cre­ated by thenEdi­tor Wally Parks, who later ham­mered me to in­clude more NHRA in HOT ROD. I’ve met many drag-rac­ing stars of the past and am ac­quainted with a hand­ful of the cur­rent pros. I’m tight with NHRA an­nouncer Brian Lohnes. David Kennedy, a HOT ROD editor of the re­cent past, now works in me­dia for the sanc­tion­ing body. NHRA has al­ways been on the edge of my pro­fes­sional life.

Far, be­cause I never em­braced Wally’s de­sire for HOT ROD to be a voice of the NHRA. Rea­son: Pro­fes­sional dra­grac­ing cov­er­age wasn’t sell­ing mag­a­zines, and the au­di­ence seemed un­in­ter­ested. I was on the band­wagon of “NHRA has jumped the shark” ver­sus the so-called golden years. I even did a story about how I’d re­write rules for many classes. I’d lost the pas­sion I had as a teenager when I’d sprint from the park­ing lot to the start­ing line to watch every sec­ond of classes from Top Fuel to Stock Elim­i­na­tor. In the days when I ran HOT ROD, I prob­a­bly didn’t at­tend more than a half dozen NHRA Na­tional events, and when I did it was for me­dia rea­sons, san­i­tized be­hind the wall of VIP treat­ment.

Maybe that was the prob­lem. Over the past three years, I’ve sensed a pos­i­tive shift to­ward the NHRA. As much as the sanc­tion­ing body may be loathe to ad­mit it, its past drama over ban­ning Street Out­laws stars brought some much-needed at­ten­tion, as did the gen­eral in­ter­est in drag rac­ing brought about by that TV show. Pro

Mod has helped. Fox live has broad­ened the au­di­ence. The grand­stands are packed again.

In Fe­bru­ary, I took my 10-year-old to the NHRA Win­ter­na­tion­als in Pomona, where as a lit­tle kid I’d be­come a fan. I bought gen­eral-ad­mis­sion tick­ets for me and my son, who two years prior de­clared drag rac­ing bor­ing be­cause “drag­sters don’t look like real cars, there are too many peo­ple on the start­ing line, and it takes too long be­tween races.” That was his opin­ion from the tower suite. Turns out he needed a blast of ni­tro from cars pass­ing him at 330 mph in the top-end grand­stands. All of a sud­den, he got it. In the sec­ond Top Fuel pass he ever watched from track­side, Brit­tany Force piled into both walls and there was a 45-minute break. My kid waited.

NHRA puts on great en­ter­tain­ment. They play mu­sic Wally would have never ap­proved and they keep the in­for­ma­tion rolling on the Jum­botrons. The driv­ers are in­ter­est­ing once again (though you have to dig deep to get to know them and, in my opin­ion, so­cial me­dia and driver name brand­ing are still ar­eas for im­prove­ment). The cars are be­com­ing more in­ter­est­ing as well with the pop­u­lar­ity of Fac­tory Stock, which you should look into if you’re not a drag­ster/ flop­per fan or if you think

Pro Stock is lame. Ge­off Turk ran the first 7-sec­ond time for an NHRA Stock-class car as cer­ti­fied at the NMCA Braden­ton event, and ev­ery­one is look­ing for a 7 in NHRA com­pe­ti­tion.

It’s worth fol­low­ing.

I can crit­i­cize NHRA for

Pro Stock rules, hand­i­capped classes, low cov­er­age of Stock classes, and so on. I choose not to any more. I’m stoked by what’s hap­pen­ing that’s pos­i­tive and it makes me want to be a fan again. I think you should, too. Go to a race and find out why.

[Above: Here I am on the show-open­ing track walk.

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