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The latest update as of July 7, 2010

So much to write.... So little time

The topics just keep on coming. I could take my pick from any of the associations: the A, I, or N boys. Then there's the continuing issues of sportsmanship at the races; really, the lack of it. Trouble in cyberspace for some of the local websites. Some very successful races in Canada recently and finally, the coming of summer weather to the west coast. What could be better than great weather, great racing and lots to write about at this time of year?

Topping it off has to be the 23rd annual Northwest Nationals, starting in less than 48 hours at storied Pacific Raceways in suburban Kent, Washington. It's been five years since I last attended the event and well past time to put in an appearance at the race. In fact it's been over four years since I've been to any NHRA national event. To say it's time to see another installment of the "big show" would be a major understatement.

Through the benevolence of SpeedZone major domo Murdoch, I've been chosen to be one of three photojournalists covering the Northwest Nationals for the magazine and website. Now all I have to do is produce some great stories, reports and catch a photo-op or two to justify the faith shown in me. While it always seems like an impossible task when I attempt to write something significant, in the end it almost always turns out well. Let's hope this event is not the exception to that rule.

For the next five days our updates on this page will be limited as we concentrate on providing coverage of the Northwest Nats for SpeedZone. Simply click on over to SpeedZone to keep up-to-date over the weekend. Oh sure, you could always go to Drag Race Central for their up-to-the-minute coverage of every pass, or Drag Racing Online or Competition Plus or NHRA's own website for professional coverage of the race, but that would be just too easy. Live dangerously, on the edge, and risk your eyesight trying to absorb our version of the event.

The first coverage of the Northwest Nats is already up at SpeedZone, and over the next two days all the previews, press releases and preliminary coverage will be posted. Then, starting on Friday we'll be bringing you as much detail as possible as often as possible for the rest of the weekend. It truly will be a time to stay tuned. But for now, it's time to catch up on a few stories we've been putting off or just ignoring for the past week or so.

Stuck inside of Victoria... with the Mission blues again

Horsepower Heaven Navigation logo

With my abject apologies to Bob Dylan for (ab)using one of his great songs for a headline. Anyways, on to the story, For the past few months the longest running and one of the most popular drag racing websites in this part of the world, Horsepower Heaven has been more or less in a state of limbo. The navigation page referred to two new websites under construction but gave no idea when, other than "soon" for their appearance on the 'net.

Then, in a sudden change earlier this week, a rather ominous invitation to either sponsor the site for a minimum of $10,000 or watch it disappear forever(?) was posted. Barely 24 hours later, the sponsorship invitation was taken down and now the navigation page is virtually blank. Can it be that the formerly "go-to" drag site might be closing down after 14 years - pretty much as long as the internet has existed for the public - and going to become silent/blank forever?

I've known the webmaster Larry Pfister since the early 1990's and while we're not really close friends, it would sadden me greatly to see this ground-breaking site and work by Pfister vanish into the nether regions of cyberspace. Please say it ain't so Larry. Even if you could keep the site going on a part-time basis or at a much slower pace than you formerly kept up, almost anything from HH3 would be better than the current nothing. You've supported and encouraged me in the past Larry, many times in fact, and now I'm trying to return the favour.

While I realize you need to earn a living and trying to do that through drag racing photo and video work, website work and other related endeavors is almost a sure road to financial ruin, you've still managed to keep doing it for over a decade now. Even if you have to dial it back to part-time and take on a "real" job, still being out there on the 'net would be such a bonus to everyone who's followed you over the years. 'nuff said?

Sportsmanship in Drag Racing?

While most of us have proudly upheld the values of sportsmanship and fair play in drag racing at almost all levels for as long as the "sport" has existed, there's been a rash of recent incidents of less than sportsmanlike actions at races in Alberta and Nevada. The first incident was covered in depth on the SpeedZone website after the recent NHRA Division 7 Lucas Series event at Fallon, Nevada. The situation revolved around the actions taken before and during the Top Alcohol Dragster final. Read the editorial and related comments here.

The dust hadn't even settled from that incident when another series of less than sportsmanlike displays were witnessed at the Top Alcohol Shootout at Medicine Hat, Alberta on the same weekend. It all started when what I believe was a misunderstanding between drivers and crewchiefs resulted in a slow stage (or burndown as some were wont to describe it) between an alcohol dragster and a funny car. Part of the problem was the .35 second differential in the tree to handicap the race and the dragster driver was told to stage last. Last turned into nearly the seven-second limit of the autostage system and led to some more than hard feelings at the end of the track.

The discord continued all the way back to the pits and beyond and was kept up in varying degrees for the balance of the weekend. Adding more fuel to fire was a situation in staging the next day when a damaged, but apparently repaired, funny car lit the stage lights with its nose instead of front tire as required by the rules. More hard feelings and arguments ensued and the atmosphere became very strained for a number of the Top Alcohol racers. Adding to the charged atmosphere were some, in my opinion, childish displays by some of the parties.

While I haven't heard all the details about what occurred, and can't start throwing accusations around or blaming any particular person, I can write the following. Racers must remember that they are ALWAYS on display, at the track, in the pits, in public, at the hotel, in a restaurant, in short: everywhere. They've got to act with dignity and show respect for their competitors at all times. This is not the early days of drag racing, where everyone was expected or at least assumed to be rough and ready. Today's world of fans, sponsors, and promoters dictates that the face the racers show to every one of those constituencies must be the same.

Displays of poor sportsmanship, outbursts of temper, physical acts, all of that are just not acceptable in 2010. It's time to look in the mirror and see who you're hurting when you forget how you should act. The person being hurt is yourself and your team. Remember that, because the people who witness your displays of bad acting will always remember it too.

Before I close this little rant, I've got to relate one more incident that I personally witnessed at the Rocky Mountain Nationals in Edmonton last weekend. It occurred in the first round of eliminations in the Elite 8 Top Sportsman Shootout. Dean Branham in his absolutely wild '64 'Cuda (looks nearly stock, runs 6.90's at nearly 210 mph) went to do his burnout prior to his first round match in the shootout. The tires hooked too quickly and didn't spin so his crew motioned him back to the waterbox to try again.

This positively incensed his opponent's crew who vociferously protested to the nearest IHRA starting line official in an attempt to presumably have Branham disqualified for doing a second burnout. Meanwhile, the car (actually truck in this instance) in the other lane was sitting just out of the water, not even having started his burnout. The crewmembers were told very forecfully by the IHRA officials to basically shut the f%$# up and get on with the race. Branham did his burnout, the truck did its burnout, the two cars staged, his opponent red-lighted by a tonne and Branham advanced to the semi-final. The crew of the losing racer went away mad, still grumbling about the situation.

I was stunned that people could be that stupid and self-centered to think that they had a case for disqualifying Branham. There was no harm, no foul as the cliche goes and Branham's actions didn't cause any undue hardship to the other racer. People who could find fault with his actions should give their heads a serious shake and re-examine just why they are involved in drag racing. Is it to prove a point, scratch out a win by any means possible, or is it to simply go out, run hard, have fun and do your best?

That's the questions that all the perpetrators of the outbreak of poor sportsmanship lately should be asking themselves. And answering them honestly. Either that or consider getting involved in a different sporting endeavour.

Give me an "A" H - R - A ?

While there were two events run last weekend with the AHRA banner at least partially affixed to them, the results from Marion County and Toronto Motorsports Park couldn't have been more diametrically opposed. The chairman of AHRA, Troy Moe reportedly (according to a post on a well-known drag racing forum) was in attendance at Marion County for what was described as a less than successful bracket race. Track prep was an issue, the constantly moving goalposts involving entry fees, payouts and field sizes was another irritant and in all, the race could have been any old weekend bracket race at any old small-town dragstrip anywhere in North America. It certainly didn't rate anything like a Reunion Tour designation.

Originally, just a few short months ago, the reunion tour events were supposed to include Top Fuel dragsters and nitro Funny Cars, along with a mix of Fuel Altereds, Pro Mods, Alcohol Funny Cars and Dragsters, Pro Stocks, Jets, wheelstanders, etc. etc. The fastest car seen at Marion County over the weekend probably wasn't capable of even a single digit e.t. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this latest farce shows just how far the AHRA has fallen since it's much ballyhooed reincarnation last fall.

On the other hand, the Canadian Nitro Nationals at Toronto was nothing short of a major success. The place was packed with spectators all weekend, the weather was great, a world record in Pro Mod was set - 5.80 at 255 mph! and the fuel cars booked in (six of them) and two jets all ran well. Vernon Christy who helped salvage the Father's Day Classic at Calgary two weeks ago, prepped the track beautifully and the results speak for themselves. And as Vern said so eloquently: "The only AHRA involvement in the event was one ex-employee. Me."

For those not in the know: Vern was hired by AHRA early this year to manage the Shreveport track and held the position until the week before the first scheduled reunion tour event. Then AHRA bailed on the track by failing to pay the rental and bailed on Christy by failing to pay him either and left everyone high and dry in Louisiana (that seems strange for that state, doesn't it?). Since then Vern has been helping other tracks like Calgary and Toronto that have been sucked into the evil vortex that the AHRA is becoming.

That said, we're only two days away from the first AHRA Sportsman Series event at Ashcroft, BC's Eagle Motorplex. The Canadian director of the association appears to be personally guaranteeing the race purses and is providing his own Jet Car (Rollin Thunder) as part of the show. The weather shouldn't be an issue, other than being too darn hot, and we're anxiously waiting to hear how things go. In any case, it should be interesting and if this race falls on its head I'm sure it will be the final nail in the coffin that the AHRA is currently operating out of.

On the other hand, if it works out for all concerned, then maybe the AHRA can go back to square one, quit making grandiose plans and statements that have no substance and start again to build something from the bottom up. Don't hold your breath, and cross your fingers on this one. More on Monday, or sooner if it's bad news.

And that's about all we've got time for tonight as I've got to start packing for Seattle and get a few things organized before we leave tomorrow afternoon. Next update tomorrow night.

A few more bits and "bytes"

Before I forget, the other local (west coast) website with trouble this week is SpeedZone. The site itself is fine, but the webmaster lost an external hard drive - it was a "concussion-related" issue - earlier this week which contained every photo he'd taken since the start of the 2010 season. All the web files are safely stored elsewhere and on the SuperWebHost server, but the original photos are gone, unless the data recovery experts can save them. Or Dean can afford to have them saved. Bad news all around but a lesson learned and something for everyone with irreplaceable data to keep in mind.

One of Murdoch's photographers take it almost to extremes with not two, but three external hard drives to back up the data already stored on his desktop and laptop computers. After each event he covers, the original photos are backed up on all three hard drives, then the third drive is placed in a home safe. No kidding. Serious, or what?

So what does Northern Thunder do with all their "valuable" data? How about a $9.95 London Drugs special flash drive and a couple of old hard drives on the desktop computer. At least it's a big step up over the box of 3.5" diskettes that we used to store the website on. Back when a gigabyte of storage was something reserved for military or large corporate computers. Amazing how far computing has come in such a short time, isn't it?

One more item before I forget. Thanks to Moe Jones for keeping me in the loop about TV broadcasts, beer deliverys, wheelstanding backhoes, and such like. I've followed his instructions and discovered that the ESPN coverage of the Northwest Nationals will be broadcast on TSN in Canada next Tuesday, July 13 at 11:00 am - 1:00 pm (pacific time). My cable provider shows "To Be Announced" in that timeslot on the on-screen recording program, but I'll have to check again when I get home from Seattle on Sunday night. This year has seen some last-minute changes to the schedule and it pays to keep an eye on it. And I'll try to dig up the link Moe sent me to keep abreast of the TV broadcast changes.

To see previous updates go to the What's Old page