‘Track rescue’ and ‘bar rescue’… similar? I think so!
We all have a local track that we call our "home track", right? If not, that is unfortunate as having a home track is pretty damn nice. It is like having that friendly neighborhood bar where you see friends and have a good time. I was watching TV the other night and one of my favorite shows is "Bar Rescue". John Tapper is invited to a failing bar and uses his experience and knowledge in the bar business to help a struggling bar owner get things "back in order" so it can get profitable and remain a viable business for its loyal patrons and the community as both an employer and a part of the community.
I live just four miles from Iowa’s Cedar Falls Motorsports Park and have raced there since 1970. I was also the owner/manager from 1983-1996. It has evolved, like so many tracks, over the years. It started out as a Sunday only venue and then was eighth mile for a while under the lights then back to more quarter mile recently. The track has hosted NHRA Winston Divisional races, several ET Finals, and many of the first big bucks events in the region.
The track has struggled the last several years with new owners trying to figure out the area. Different managers and the unstable economy didn't help either. I have always tried to support the track by racing there as often as possible, and then a "light went off" in my old brain a few weeks ago. I thought why bitch and moan about the way things are going at the track when if I get off the couch and physically help the track it might get better and return to 200-car turnouts instead of 40-50 cars. I do not want to lose the local track and I do not want to see it forsake the idea of increasing payouts and lowering entry fees. Both of those ideas are possible if the racers support returns.
To me, this was a "track rescue" on a personal level. I contacted the track manager and discussed some ideas that I knew would work to make this upcoming event, held in memory of a great friend of mine, Terry Stumpf, a better experience for the racers (customers). I think this is what gets overlooked by so many track operators: customer service.
Like the TV show Bar Rescue, this Track Rescue is just a format and a beginning to use as a launching pad towards growing the track participation. Maybe you can do the same thing at a local track near you? Do you want the track to get batter or do you want to bitch about it all the time?
Here was what I did to achieve my own personal goal of a track rescue. I helped get an event flyer designed that told every racer what was going on that weekend and what they could expect. It also made a "special announcement" about the 2016 season (more $2,000-to-win races planned), run orders, etc. Now every racer knows what to expect, not just the local racers who are used to the procedures. Again, part of improving customer service.
NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series, Group 2 - Nostalgia Fall Championships at Bakersfield, Calif.
RABENER SWEEPS, TURLEY BAGS SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP
Mike Rabener won both the event and the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Championship at the Auto Club Famoso Raceway Nostalgia Fall Championship/Saturday Night Nitro while Roger Turley scored this second series championship in Nostalgia Eliminator III. NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Group 2 classes wrapped up their season and celebrated both event and series championships in the winner’s circle celebration.
Rabener’s win in D/Gas clinched him the championship over three-time series champion Ed Carey who finished second in the points. Rabener, Paso Robles, Calif., knocked out Don Fournier with a 10.639-second lap at 125 mph in his ’67 Camaro. The win, combined with a runner up finish at Rocky Mountain Raceways, gave him the championship by 22 points.
Turley, Wales, Utah, had one win in two final rounds on the way to his NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Championship having won the series in 2013 as well. His semifinal appearance this weekend kept him out in front of former NHRA Lucas Oil Series Champion Ed DeStaute who held on to second in the points. Turley lost in the semis of NE III to event winner Wes Morris of Boise, Idaho, who finished the season with a win and a runner up as he took out former series champion Lindsey Lister who broke out by a hundredth of a second.
UBDRA Black Sunday at Gateway Motorsports Park
Gateway Motorsports Park hosted a St Louis area tradition, the United Black Drag Racers Association’s Black Sunday event on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12-13. On Sunday, Eric Barach of Bethalto, Ill., defeated Ron Mergel of St. Charles, Mo., for Super Pro honors. On Saturday, Terry Lacey (shown) of Edwardsville, Ill., defeated Jason McKague of Chamois, Mo., in the final round of Super Pro eliminations.
Sunday winners also included Artie Schneider (Pro), Jason Phillips (Sportsman), Scott Leonard (Super Pro Motorcycle), Al Jones (Street Bike), Kayden Koehler (Jr. Dragster) and Anthony McGraff (Jr. Dragster Consolation).
Saturday winners also included Handy Hartline (Pro), Jeremy McKague (Street – with a perfect reaction time of .000), Californian Rob Linders (Super Pro Motorcycle), Phil Humphrey (Street Bike), Jakob Richardt (Jr. Dragster) and Brandon France (Jr. Dragster Consolation).
The Black Sunday event included drag racing, exhibition racing a hip hop car show, hydraulics contest and free cancer screening from the St. Louis University Cancer Center.
Final-round elimination results, Sunday, September 13
Indicating driver/rider, hometown, vehicle, elapsed time (E.T.) and top speed.
SUPER PRO: Eric Barach (Bethalto, Ill.,) 2003 Nelson, 4.821 sec., 140.61 mph def. Ron Mergel (St. Charles, Mo.,) 1968 Barracuda, 6.163 sec., 109.58 mph
PRO: Artie Schneider (St. Charles, Mo.,) 1971 Camaro, 10.275, 130.33 def. Frankie Radake (St. Louis, Mo.,) 1968 Camaro, 9.247, 143.17
SPORTSMAN: Jason Phillips (Granite City, Ill.,) 2002 Mustang, 14.119, 96.87 def. Jeremy McKague (Chamois, Mo.,) 2000 Mustang, 14.404, 92.37
SUPER PRO MOTORCYCLE: Scott Leonard (Glen Carbon, Ill.,) 2009 Suzuki, 9.377, 138.47 def. Charles Willis Jr. (Collinsville, Ill.,) 2003 Suzuki, 9.893, 137.53
STREET BIKE: Al Jones (Markham, Ill.,) n/a, 13.653, 96.20 def. Mike Reed (Florissant, Mo.,) Harley-Davidson, 9.729, 138.78
JR. DRAGSTER: Kayden Koehler (Festus, Mo.,) 8.020, 79.94 def. Lauren Chamberlin (Troy, Mo.,) 9.242, 68.61
JR. DRAGSTER CONSY: Anthony McGraff (n/a), 9.599, 66.66 def. Kayla Watkins (Madison, Ill.,) 8.726, 68.73
Final-round elimination results, Saturday, September 12
SUPER PRO: Terry Lacey (Edwardsville, Ill.,) 1969 Camaro, 6.029, 112.70 def. Jason McKague (Chamois, Mo.,) 1969 Nova, 6.339, 103.97
PRO: Handy Hartline (Granite City, Ill.,) 1986 S-10, 11.389, 117.05 def. Artie Schneider (St. Charles, Mo.,) 1971 Camaro, 10.279, 130.99
STREET: Jeremy McKague (Chamois, Mo.,) 2000 Mustang, 14.453, 89.20 def. Larry Wilkerson (St. Charles, Mo.,) 1987 Mustang, 12.701, 107.44
SUPER PRO MOTORCYCLE: Bob Linders (Mission Viejo, Calif.) 1982 Suzuki, 8.960, 143.78 def. Janie Palm (Bunker Hill, Ill.,) 2008 Suzuki, 9.569, 134.36
STREET BIKE: Phil Humphrey (Collinsville, Ill.,) 2006 Kawasaki, 9.381, 150.31 def. Scott Leonard (Glen Carbon, Ill.,) 2002 Hayabusa, 9.569, 134.36
JR. DRAGSTER: Jakob Richardt (Festus, Mo.,) n/a, def. Brylee France (Astoria, Ill.,) 12.305, 49.88
JR. DRAGSTER CONSY: Braxton France (Astoria, Ill.,) 8.761, 72.83 def. Lauren Chamberlin (Troy, Mo.,), 9.513, 65.35
NHRA Northwest Division Summit ET Finals
No cookie cutter cars here
It is safe to say that at the highest levels of drag racing in the professional ranks of the Big Show -- and not being disparaging -- that the cars really do all look alike. Some might even say “cookie cutter”.
The Labor Day weekend NHRA Northwest Division had its annual Summit Racing Equipment ET Finals. Sixteen track teams from the Northwest Division made the journey to Eagle, Idaho, and Firebird Raceway. There were some very dedicated racers driving as many as eighteen hours one-way to make the trip to Idaho and represent their respective tracks.
Each team is limited to 60 cars from each track. Not every track brought that many racers, however; in many cases it is quality over quantity. Winning is the most important thing.
For the Race of Champions held on Saturday, each team brings the top six from each of the four classes of Super Pro, Pro, Sportsman, and Bike/Sled. This is where the prestige comes into play as the winner in each of the four classes gets to compete as part of the NHRA Auto Club World Finals at Pomona, Calif., in a special class run off during eliminations on Sunday.
In addition, points for each round win during eliminations are awarded to the winning team and the team with the most points at the end of the day on Saturday wins the Track Managers Cup.
Also on Sunday there is another race that is open to all team members and, once again, points are awarded for each round win. The team with the most points wins.
What makes this race so interesting and entertaining is that it is the real grassroots of drag racing, where ingenuity and gumption are just as important as a fat check book. But it doesn’t hurt to have a fluffy check book. (That is a Gabriel Iglesias reference.)
You will not see the staging lanes filled with twenty similar looking Camaros all in a row.
Jok suggests taking a cue from Street Outlaws. What?!
I have an idea; think it could work? Look, even if you are a diehard drag racing fan, race where the pits are full all the time and you think national events on TV still have some level of interesting content, how about this:
You have to agree that the Top Fuel and Fuel Funny Car classes are nothing but a "corporate outing", right? Teams all dress the same with black pants, imprinted fancy shirts they put on for the sponsors, dining area next to the pit areas with A/C in the tents, catered food, etc. They all do the exact same things to their cars and in most cases they all get their parts and pieces from two or three huge teams that supply the parts. No personalities, no "outlaws", no verbal challenges, just smiles and styled hair and a list of sponsors to mention. OK, it is what it is, a corporate outing in front of a very small TV audience.
What about this idea: (I am leaving the pros out of this idea because I think it too late for them to change.) We all know the auto manufacturers have "bought in" to the idea of making a limited number of bad-ass muscle cars. Why not make those some of the featured cars at the national events? There is some work to do but if you want fans paying to watch and the entire sport building excitement, then look no further than to what "Street Outlaws" has accomplished. (I want to thank a close friend who "lit my fire" about this opportunity I think we are missing. I won't mention his name but thanks, DG!)
We need a new Factory Outlaw class that has the baddest factory-built cars of each brand running the other brands of cars. We need car names and characters to build fan appeal with cars that look exactly like young and old people can buy at a dealership. Current year Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers.
We need "characters" and "car names" for identity and to build a fan base with like "Boston Strangler", "Snake Venom", etc. and names people will remember like we remember Garlits, Prudhomme and others that established what we are watching today being wasted away right now. We need open match races at national events and local tracks. No wheelie bars, no traction control and no bullshit; just head-to-head racing with mandatory burnouts across the line, T-shirts for sale at the race car trailer, and people crazy enough to make the effort to save drag racing.
Sure these cars are Stock and Super Stock cars so what? Stock and Super Stock was just fine before the $150,000 cars came onto the scene and we started watching 9-second Stockers dragging the brakes to protect their horsepower rating and 8-second Super Stockers with a basically stock bodied car!
Change the class and make them a featured attraction. It will be up to the car owners to lose the "corporate look" too. The drivers or owners need to challenge each other to match races -- social media will be a huge part in this. They have to travel more to smaller tracks and run with no track prep on occasion. Local tracks have to be part of it as well.
I can see a couple Ford Cobra Jet guys challenging a couple of the COPO car owners in a best of three grudge shoot-out. Live streaming over young people's iPhones, laptops and maybe local media will jump in there as well. Make these match races a two-hour show for $20 admission and spend some time getting sponsors to host the “Production Car Challenge Series".
Bottom line -- will it work? It isn't up to writers and dreamers like me. It is up to the car owners, the auto manufacturers and the drivers to get some "attitude" and become interesting again. Just because you have a fast Cobra Jet doesn't mean anybody cares. Now if you got on Social Media and challenged a couple COPOs to a match race, say at Muncie Dragway, Friday night after racing is over for the day at the U.S. Nationals ... you might see a string of headlights pouring into Muncie like a "Field of Dreams".
IHRA Summit Series Pro-Am Tour at San Antonio Raceway
The IHRA Summit Series Pro-Am concluded on Sunday, Aug. 16, with another complete race program following one round of time trials and qualifications. It would be another scorcher in the central Texas sun as drivers in the 10 Pro-Am classes fought it out on the quarter-mile strip near San Antonio.
With only one time trial/qualification run, first round saw track temperatures only around 120. By the time final rounds began kicking off it had risen to 140, topping out at 150 for the final few races.
These Saturday nights winners were looking to double up for the weekend: Ronnie Hughes (Top Dragster), Steve Harvey (Top Sportsman), Jarrod Granier (Super Stock), Hunter Pierdolla (Stock), Bryon Turner (Super Rod), Kevin Picha (Quick Rod), Alan Bracey (Hot Rod), Shallon Broussard (Jr. Masters), Aaron Jordan (Jr. Advanced), and Ashley Wenske(Jr. Beginner). Of those drivers two were able to make it to the Sunday afternoon finals, but no one was able to do a two-day double. There were two runners-up from Saturday that went on to win on Sunday and a couple that only doubled as the runner-up.
Two local veteran drivers, both named David, were paired off for the Top Dragster finals. David Johns (Floresville) in the Johns Automotive, Waynes Paint & Body, Worthy Chassis used a .009 light to get a slight edge on David Bills (San Antonio). Both ran within 2/100ths of their dial in with Johns scoring the victory.
To get to the finals Johns took out Terry Pollard, Curt Harvey, Andy Mears with a round 1 bye. Bills got wins over Mike Crader, Saturday’s winner Ronnie Hughes, Peeps Pennington and took a bye in round 4.
NHRA Sportsman at Seattle
McKernan, Whiteley Lead Northwest Winners
KENT, Wash. – Megan McKernan and Annie Whiteley outran the guys in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car to take the wins at the Aug. 7-9 NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.
McKernan (far lane), coming out of the No. 7 qualifying position, ran 5.30’s and 5.40’s in qualifying and eliminations, then met up with No. 5 qualifier Garrett Bateman in the final with both drivers having a runner up finish here in Seattle in recent years. Bateman, Albany, Ore., left before the tree was activated, handing the win to McKernan out of Sierra Madre, Calif. McKernan reacted to Bateman leaving early, did the same causing neither driver to get a time. The win was McKernan’s second on the national series.
Whiteley (near lane), Grand Junction, Colo., was looking for her third NHRA national event trophy but would need to get by Shane Westerfield who had beaten Whiteley all five times they have faced off. Westerfield was out first but immediately went into bad tire shake as Whiteley raced off for the win with a nice clean 5.546 second pass at 265.43 mph.
When you spend your money, spend it wisely
From the start Project 10 has been about "building a competitive bracket car on a budget" (originally it was "10-seconds for 10 grand"). Don't confuse that with building a cheap competitive bracket car, OK? I don't think, in these times of such tight competition, a "cheap bracket car" can be competitive on a regular basis in the S/Pro and PRO brackets. Maybe somewhere, but not where I race, in my opinion.
It has been a few months since the last update on our "Project 10" Firebird. We have only been out four or five times this year but so far I am very happy with the results. I would guess that I have the least expensive car in the S/Pro brackets (most of the time) and probably the slowest car in both S/Pro and PRO most of the time. That does not mean it isn't competitive. I have been in the S/Pro finals once, semis twice so far and got to the finals twice in PRO The car has been extraordinary and the driver (me) has been average on the bottom to slightly above on the top bulb. Still getting a handle on the finish line at only 98 mph in the 1/8th and 122 in the quarter, running against 170+ mph cars is a tad difficult. I am getting better and look forward to next weekend at Brainerd's two-day bracket race.
The when you spend your money, spend it wisely theme is carried out through the "Project 10" Firebird. Here are the parts we focused on that I knew would create the slow but consistent bracket car I wanted.
You cannot, in my opinion, build a junk yard engine and expect to win against $50,000 cars.
Engine: This was my "parts list" on the 415" Chevy that so far has 193 runs on it. Only part we changed was a timing chain that had a piece of the link break off (we were lucky and found it on the drain plug magnet before anything happened.