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Nitro Shots: NHRA Does Some Things Right, Some Things Wrong

Last week this commentary space was occupied with some thoughts about social media and the effect of negative comments in particular, especially on people who are new to the sport. The point of the commentary was to talk about social media, not about what NHRA does right or wrong, however, along the way I noted that “NHRA drag racing does face some very real issues and there are valid points of criticism, but there are also many things that NHRA does right.” I did not expand any further on that concept.

As if to prove my point about negative comments, someone commented on the article “Quote ‘NHRA is doing many things right’ but author couldn’t list any.” I have two points I need to make in reference to this comment. First, there is a difference between couldn’t and didn’t. I could have, but I didn’t, because that was not the focus on my article. Second, I did not discuss what they are doing right, but I also did not discuss what they are doing wrong, something not included in the comment as the commenter chose not to include that half of my quote. It should have been included to keep the context, but it would have spoiled what the commenter was getting at, which is their thought that NHRA doesn’t do anything right.

In the interest of covering the subject fully, as I did in my response to the comment last week, I will now go ahead and name some of those thing, both good and bad, to prove that I could name them, I just didn’t. They do exist, both good and bad, right and wrong.

Off the top of my head without thinking about it in my response last week, here is what I came up with. NHRA stays on the advertised schedule, unlike so many other events that run hours behind. Supposed to end at 4 p.m. on Sunday and you are scrambling to make it before curfew 10 p.m. Sunday night. Weather excepted, this does not happen at an NHRA event. Nor do fans climbing into the stands to watch Nitro classes generally have to sit there for an hour while things run behind.

Nitro and Pro Stock aside, car counts are good in other classes. 27 Pro Mods, give or take, show up on a regular basis trying to get into the 16-car field. (And I’d argue that class is one of the best shows in all of drag racing right now.) Both of these were among the big complaints at the non-NHRA event I reference attending in my article.

We are no longer having to watch eliminations at 11 p.m. on Sunday night and that’s only if girls’ softball doesn’t run overtime. FOX Sports does a much better job of showing eliminations in better time slots, including more live coverage. Sure, qualifications still get stuck in the middle of the night, but it’s progress. And yet, I have still seen people wishing ESPN were back. I wonder if they are the same ones who yelled for ESPN to be gone?

Diversity, a hot-button issue in so many places, is not an issue in NHRA. NHRA has diversity in spades on the track, in the pits, and in the stands. You could say that’s true in drag racing on the whole so it’s not something that NHRA is making happen, but it’s certainly not suffering and might be even more entrenched in NHRA than even in other forms of drag racing.

Safety is top-notch and always on the radar. Drivers are still accessible to fans, as are pits on the whole, making for a great fan experience at track. Granted accessible pits are a staple at all drag racing events. Tickets are not, in my opinion and compared to other events, racing and non-racing, ridiculously expensive and kids get in free, making it reasonable for a family to go to the track.

All that being said, yes, there are issues. Pro classes are too expensive, leading to low car count and dominance by a select few mega-teams that have the money to compete like Don Schumacher Racing or John Force Racing, who account for most of the cars in the Nitro classes in all honesty.  The complete disconnect between return on investment for a potential sponsor versus cost to compete in these classes is a direct result of the ridiculous costs. The shamefully small purses paid to these classes does nothing to help with the aforementioned costs that sponsors won’t cover either.

Whatever the hell is going on with the mess that is Pro Stock is another big issue. I don’t have the answer to that. No one else seems to be able to figure it out either and it almost seems ever effort made in that direction just makes things worse. The total inability to identify cars with manufacturers or competition among manufacturers is one part of that problem and extends to Funny Car as well. It’s a Chevrolet? OK. It is if you say so.

I’m not here to be a cheerleader. I’m not on the NHRA payroll. That’s not my job as a journalist. I’m here to report, both good and bad. I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses, and I also said specifically in the article, “NHRA drag racing does face some very real issues and there are valid points of criticism” although the comment didn’t include that half of the sentence. As far as naming some things they do right specifically, challenge accepted. As far as naming some things they do wrong specifically, challenge never made, but still accepted.

Hey Y’All, Watch This:

Hang on Tommy all right! This is from a couple of weeks back in Sonoma. Tommy Johnson Jr. had an anxious moment in the first qualifying session when his rear axle sheared and the left rear tire came off at speed.  Johnson did a masterful job bringing his car to a stop on just three wheels, only making contact with the wall with the right rear. That could have been a lot bigger.

NHRA on TV:

ProgramDate/TimeChannel
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS
QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)

About Toni Montgomery

Toni Montgomery

A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni freelances with both writing and web design in North Carolina.

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2 comments

  1. I’m not a hard core drag racing fan so I have no dog in this race. But from the sound of this well thought out column it seems drag racing, like all forms of motorsport these days, is searching for relevance. Sadly, we are likely looking at the waning days of the sport that I have loved above all others for almost 60 years. The world is changing, the next generations are completely changed and show little interest in motorsport. If motorsport survives, it will likely be whizzing E-cars and the skill of coders that decides who wins. Drivers will not exist anymore. And that fact alone makes it no longer a sport, just a techo-challenge between techno-wienies. Sadly, the end of an era is fast approaching.

    • Yes in deed Motor Sports as a whole is suffering from lost interest , By the new generation of viewers.
      We the old fans from the 50 thru 60 ties , Saw a whole different kind of sport that was born in the garages at a lower cost to compete. Now days it’s all Rich folks that can compete without fear of cost.
      So they have kill the sport for all others , only thing left are the weekend warriors at local strips and tracks.