I wrote this before the St. Louis race and had almost decided to NOT post it here but as long as there is another 'four wide' race in the future, there are STILL things which need to be worked on and worked out. Thank you Arlene Johnson! Arlene sent me a link to the www.nitromater.com message board where I made headlines with my 'Four Wide? Why? (Why not?).' I never understood why some people who don't know anything about drag racing want to get on a message board and let the world know how little they know. You can keep your mouth shut and people won't know how stupid and ignorant you are, but you can open your mouth and let the whole world know! Posting on internet message boards is the WORST place in the world for talking about things you know nothing about! Most of the comments on nitromater.com were good. ALL the emails I have received agreed with me. But I kind of get a kick out of being talked about on TV, especially when the people doing the talking are AFRAID to say who they're talking about! At least they did pay me a few compliments and said some really not-so-nice things about some other writers.
Anyone who has ever read anything of mine KNOWS I believe there isn't a lot of difference between a racer who runs 4 seconds and a racer who runs 40 seconds. Some people may think that is off the wall, but just think about and you'll see just how true it really is. Even sponsors know this…if they were just advertising for the big guys, they'd be out in a heartbeat…there aren't enough 'big' guys to keep them in business, the sponsors are just using the 'big' guys to get to the little guy racers AND the spectators! The biggest difference between the 4 and the 40 is money. Top Fuel is not necessarily more dangerous than Street…they just have more and better rules and more and better safety equipment. Money is the name of the game…the Pros just push the envelope harder.
IF I WERE A RACER AND SOMEONE TOLD ME I WOULD HAVE TO RUN 4 WIDE FOR WINNER, RUNNER UP AND THIRD AND FOURTH PLACE, I WOULD TELL THEM TO KISS MY YOU-KNOW-WHAT! The following is a quote from someone on nitromater.com, "Let me make it as simple as possible. Why should the guy in lane 1 worry about what is going on in lanes 3 and 4 if lane 2 is beating him to where he needs to lift? He can't see them in lanes 3 and 4. HE HAS NO IDEA WHERE THEY ARE!!!! There is a wall there. He is going to drive it thinking he has a chance for second place when he has no chance at all. KABOOM!!!! WRECK!!!! If points are on the line they (racers) will do things to (maybe) be second when they should not have done it in the first place. If points aren't on the line they lift, knowing they just load up and get ready for the next race that means something…POINTS!!" What kind of an idiot race is that? If you want to run for third and fourth, just bring them back and run for third and fourth. I think any racer who had to run this way got scrued…except maybe the winner. MY opinion. How would YOU like to do it that way?
Were the Sportsman racers running at ZMax's 4-Wide happy with it? Were they more upset with track conditions and the way eliminations were run than anything else? Were they more upset because Super Stock, Stock and Comp were parked on the one side of the track and Super Gas, Super Comp and Super Street were parked on the other side? Were they more upset because Super Stock, Stock and Comp had to run the two left lanes? Were they more upset because Super Gas, Super Comp and Street had to run the right two lanes? Were they more upset because track conditions were poor to start with and sometimes, there was more than an hour of NO run time on two lanes at a time? Were they upset because there was little, if any, track clean up or prep between rounds and they let the track get cold, etc. If running four cars at the same time is so safe, why couldn't officials take some of that down time and clean and prep the track???
Were the Sportsmen racers upset enough for a whole group to go to the tower and complain? Yes. Did they get the standard, "Don't like it? So what? Run anyway!" Of course! Were there many who said they would not go back? Yes. We know they will, but who always gets the shaft at a race like this? Yes, I know they keep racing, no matter what they have to put up with, but it is the love of the sport that keeps racers coming back…certainly NOT the way they get treated (OR the money)! It's a proven fact racers will put up with just about anything to get to race. Was NHRA advised they could not run 4-Wide in Sportsman because it is important to take your opponent through by as little as possible at the finish line just as in bracket racing and that's impossible to do with 4-Wide and 3 competitors to watch at one time? It can't be done safely OR sanely!
It doesn't matter the Pros voted 61 to 2 to NOT run a 4-Wide again. It doesn't matter they've even said they will boycott the next 4-Wide for points. They will run it, even though most are very much against it…for ALL the reasons I outlined in my FIRST 4-Wide. But one of the MOST important things I left out are the sponsors (a whole paragraph didn't get put on the blog…still learning). Maybe that's because they got left out of this race…at least by NHRA. AND to top it off…racers did not get the chance to mention their sponsors as much as they usually do because they just didn't get the air time. When four cars are going down the track at the same time, how are the announcers going to mention sponsors with all the other information they have to talk about? It IS a consideration and it is a VERY important consideration…what would we do without them? Announcers only have a few seconds, it's hard enough for them to say what they need to about TWO cars! I think ALL the sponsors got scrued more than anyone. Did someone say, "We're going to have this track locked down by 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon!?" Duh! Y'all heard that on TV, right? I thought the whole point was to keep everyone there spending money as long as possible…NOT have them out on the road on the way home three or four hours earlier than you need to! Right? Well, maybe not.
Every racer knows the difference from lane to lane...track condtions, rollout, something moves a photocell, not to mention the fact that in one lane you're looking right at the tree and in the other lane, you're having to look at it over your hood scoop..how in the world would you ever be able to figure FOUR lanes when you can't even depend on two? Especially Pro Stockers? I can't even imagine what they were going through at that race. You start out a race on Sunday and the right lane is the best lane and all the faster racers are lining up to run it. Then something changes...weather, sun, clouds, a tiny bit of water, a car gets sideways and messes up the sticky and the groove. Then they're all trying to get the left lane. What about four lanes? Would you feel confident racing that way? I wouldn't! And I know you guys and gals well enough to know you wouldn't have any confidence left either! It was all a good advertisement for ZMAX and NHRA but for no one else!
It has taken NHRA YEARS to get the TV coverage and the fan base they have now. They have, of course, ALWAYS catered to the top 2% of their racers and, YES, that 2% brings the spectators. But you have to make (and keep) those fans happy. And, "NO," I didn't see any spectators leaving after seeing 4-Wide! I wouldn't have left either. It was a history-making race, no doubt about it…if only for the controversy. But I would not go back, I would feel cheated. It was just too confusing. I know a lot of spectators only go to see wrecks and drink beer, but there are serious fans who actually go because they love drag racing…not to mention all the TV viewers. They DID vote 70% to NOT come back! If THEY don't come back, we are in deep doodoo. Why take the chance? You can have all the exhibition and show races you want in a year's time. In the process, IF you have good announcers who really know the sport, they can train your fans all the ins and outs of drag racing so they can eventually understand it better. But to try to do it at an NHRA race where championships are on the line…that AIN'T the time and place to do it.
Yes, I watched the qualifying and the race on TV. I did not enjoy it. It was confusing, even for me and I've been involved with and watching drag racing for over 50 years!!! Most of it in person. When it's confusing on TV and you have a kazillion cameras hanging over every part of the action bringing it all to you right in front of your eyes, announcers trying to keep you up on what's going on in every shot and it's hard to understand, think about the spectators! Of the fans who took the time to vote on whether they liked it or not…a whopping 70% said they did not! Any way you look at it and no matter how much you discuss it, IT HAS NOT RECEIVED GOOD REVIEWS. A new movie or a Broadway play receiving reviews as bad as this race did would shut down in a heart beat! Got comments? Post them here. And please give your name…don't be afraid. I'm not! IF you would like to email me a letter you want me to comment on, send that to my email address firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer your letter, THEN put it on the blog with my answer. Make sure you put in your letter you want it and my answer to be on the blog…I won't put it on here otherwise.
I had trouble believing the stuff I heard from people at the Las Vegas race! I understand most of it though. Racers have always had to back down. I like what Morgan Lucas said more than anything else I heard and I wish I could quote it but I didn't record it! These Pro racers keep talking about what Bruton has done for drag racing??? Would someone PLEASE tell me what Bruton Smith HAS done for drag racing? Yes, Bruton HAS 'spent' a LOT of 'money' IN drag racing but I can tell you right now, if it had not been for Jeff Byrd, none of that would have ever happened. I will NOT go into details because of Jeff's illness and my respect for him and his family, but NHRA and you racers have Jeff to thank for all this! One day, I will explain all that to you, but not right now. I respect Jeff Byrd and Bill Bader Sr. more than I respect any other people in drag racing so I will just keep my mouth shut for now.
It was said NHRA got bulldozed into this race by Bruton. I can understand that. Bruton Smith has already gotten so big in drag racing, NHRA is afraid of him. Soon, he will control NHRA (IF he doesn't already)…after all, he couldn't BUY NHRA, so he just set about putting himself into a position of control (think about NASCAR!). He started building the biggest and best drag strips in the country…tracks NHRA really cannot do without now because of the TV coverage. If you know ANYTHING about NASCAR, you will realize history is just repeating itself…only the name of the game has changed. The France family would not let Bruton get involved in NASCAR in any other capacity than as a track owner, so he built the biggest, the best, the most expensive tracks in the country to have control over the organization. Some smaller tracks, he bought and shut down just to get their race dates…North Wilkesboro Speedway…the HOME of circle track racing is one of them. It doesn't bother Bruton Smith to DESTROY the history of round track racing as long as he gets what he wants which is what happened with Wilkesboro. Look around guys…it's happening again…only NHRA is the target. He already has a strangle hold on them because of TV coverage…it's ONLY gonna get worse.
I will say this…there were a lot of comments about the safety aspects of 4-Wide. But when I wrote about all those people standing around on the starting line all the time, no one said a word! If you are all so worried about safety, what about that part of it? I would NOT be afraid to BET there were…at the very least, 30 people on the line during the final run of Top Fuel and it was probably more like 40 or 50! You want dangerous? That's it! The insurance companies used to have rules about how many people could be standing around starting line during a race. Any more comments? These are just my opinions. I am still… 'drag racing's most dedicated fan!'