By David G. Firestone
For my first My Thoughts On for 2018, I’m going to focus on some news stories and other things that got my attention while I was on sabbatical.
The big story, at least to me is the indication that the NHRA is throwing in the towel on Pro Stock. It was announced that starting in 2018, any legal body may be used with any legal engine. This goes against one of the principal rules of the category, where the engine and body must be made n the same place. In short, a Chevy engine could be used in a Dodge, or a Ford, and vise versa.
If destroying one of the core tenants of a specific category to boost competition isn’t a move of desperation, I’m not sure what is. The NHRA is trying to extinguish a tire fire they themselves started, and now they are resorting to extreme measures. It may actually work in the long run, but it’s not a good look for a category that has been thrown to the wolves for two years.
While we are on the subject of the NHRA, there was an article by NBC Sports’ Jerry Bonkowski concerning changes that he thinks need to be made by 2019, when John Force’s contracts will expire, and he turns 70.
He makes some valid points, but a couple of points that he makes seem tone-deaf at least to me. For example: “Do we REALLY need three-day pro race weekends? Do Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock teams REALLY need four qualifying passes (typically two on Friday and two others on Saturday) in every national event weekend?”
Yes Jerry, we do. Remember that fans go to national events to watch their favorite drivers race. The two passes bring and keep fans in the stands. I’m not going to pay $50 for a ticket to see the national drivers and only watch them race once on a Saturday afternoon, and I’m not the only person who thinks this way.
Here is another gem: “Plus, the NHRA’s old business model of mixing the pro ranks with sportsman classes simply isn’t working any more. Don’t believe me? Have you been to a NHRA national event over the last few years? What happens when the pros finish up a particular round and hand the track over to the sportsman drivers?
Answer: the stands typically empty by at least half. Usually the only folks left in the stands are either fans or friends of some of the sportsman drivers. When the sportsman drivers attempt to show their skills, most other fans go out to the food court or product midway. Sure, those racing fans eventually go back to the stands, but usually not until the next pro round of qualifying or eliminations.”
According to Jerry’s “logic” I paid for my ticket, but I’m not allowed to do what I want when I go to a national event. I’ll check out the sportsman categories, but if I want to get something to eat, or buy some stuff, or go to the bathroom, I’ll do it during the sportsman categories.
Also, if you take the two points he made above into consideration, splitting the sportsman from professional categories, and reducing the number of runs,, going to a national event wouldn’t be worth the time or effort. Sure Sunday would be fun, but Saturday would be slow. Also, what would happen between rounds? What would be done to keep the racing fans attention? I don’t see this working out well.
Moving on to Danica Patrick. Danica announced that she will run the Daytona 500, and the Indy 500 in 2018, and then she will retire. This was followed by an article on IndyCar’s website about how she should be sent off with appreciation, not troll comments.
Reading the article, it’s clear the author, Jeff Olson, is a Danica fanboy, and he doesn’t like that people say bad things about her. He tries to compare the achievements of Brittany Force, Shirley Muldowney, Hellé Nice, Pat Moss, and Michele Mouton, to Danica Patrick. Here’s the difference between them and Danica, every other woman has found success by winning, as opposed to crashing, and racing in the mid-pack. Danica Patrick was always more hype than talent, and as a result, fanboys like him think she is better than she could ever be.
Here is a line from the end of his fanboy rant: “Someday, a woman will win consistently in motorsports. She’ll win multiple championships. She’ll drive for the best teams, race the best cars and beat the best competition. Hopefully when that day comes, gender won’t define her. She’ll simply be a racer.” Have you paid any attention to the NHRA in the past few years? In the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series, between the 1976-2017, women have won 145 national events and nine championships in four categories:
Shirley Muldowney-TF-18 wins-3 championships
Lucille Lee-TF-1 win
Lori Johns-TF-4 wins
Shelly Anderson-TF-5 wins
Angelle Sampey-PSM-42 wins, 3 championships
Cristen Powell-TF-1 win
Karen Stoffer-PSM-8 wins
Melanie Troxel-TF/FC 5 wins
Peggy Llewellyn-PSM-1 win
Ashley Force Hood-FC-4 wins
Hillary Will-TF-1 win
Erica Enders‐Stevens-PS-23 wins, 2 championships
Courtney Force-FC-9 wins
Angie Smith-PSM-1 win
Alexis DeJoria-FC-7 wins,
Brittany Force-FC-7 wins, 1 championship
Leah Pritchett-FC-5 wins.
If Jeff Olson did more than five minutes of research, he would have realized that women are very well established in the NHRA, and that’s just the top 4. He mentioned Brittany Force and Shirley Muldowney, but failed to mention any other woman in the NHRA. How could you not even mention Peggy Llewellyn, the first woman of color to win in the NHRA? He’s a fanboy, and he is upset that the public doesn’t respect his driver.
Fanboys annoy me on a profound level. Let me be clear here, there are differences between fans and fanboys. A fan is someone who roots for a certain driver, but is able to understand that said driver isn’t always going to win. Fanboys worship their driver, and whenever they don’t win, they can’t stand it. Their favorite driver is the best driver, and nothing can convince them otherwise.
Some of Matt Kenseth’s fanboys really got on my nerves at the end of the season last year. Many of them were up in arms because Dale Jr. was getting a bigger sendoff. First off, at the beginning of the season, nobody knew that Kenseth would retire. Second off, Dale Jr. getting a bigger send off than Matt Kenseth is for one simple reason: merchandise sales. Dale Jr. was always the big guy at the merch table. Of the 10 best selling die casts, 5 of them were Dale Jr. cars. Matt Kenseth didn’t make the top 10. Kenseth also didn’t make the top 10 in terms of top selling drivers.
Dale Jr. is to racing what Hulk Hogan was to wrestling. Kenseth is more along the lines of Bret Hart. Kenseth and Hart were more skilled in their respective careers, but Dale Jr. and Hogan were more popular, and sold more merchandise. NASCAR celebrated their most profitable driver, because, in the end, they are out to make money. Kenseth is a better driver than Dale, Dale sold more merchandise, that’s why Dale got the big sendoff. That’s why fanboys are aggravating.
That’s enough for now, I’ll be back next week.