Contrary to popular belief, the NHRA did not invent the travelling circus. The real trick will be to reinvent itself.
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Starkly juxtaposed against trillions of fading particles, the imagery remains beyond vivid. It still triggers emotions visceral and immediate. The greatest show on earth! Supercharged Gassers, seemingly shot out of the gate by Beelzebub's own cannon. The ultimate doorslammers. Until, in an unimaginable leap of "evolution", Funny Cars were granted classhood. It was a thrilling spectacle - so much so that many racers and fans soon sensed a whiff of theater when the class was called into the lanes. Hot Rod magazine itself regularly referred to the Funnies in circus terms. But drag racing was already so inherently dramatic that altering it to suit the masses seemed a redundant and blasphemous betrayal - a sellout. Within a year, a Civil War erupted in the sport. Event promoters attempted to play both sides by blasting calliope music from track speakers and hawking discount popcorn. The naysayers were not amused, but we all know who won the war. The show must go on, until the last dog standing has bought a ticket. And even the surliest junkyard dog in town can't resist the lurid seduction of nitro guzzlers challenging the laws of physics on a drag strip.
As rules changed to accommodate advances in technology, a parity-driven stagnancy slowly infected the pro classes. About twenty years ago, the inevitable backlash arrived on the scene and spawned the nostalgia movement. Two decades of hand wringing have finally delivered the circus to its Waterloo.
This year's Silly Season has already proven itself the silliest ever. And just in time. Much needed change is in the air and it's smelling a lot like teen spirit. Frustrated racers, fans and entire sanctioning bodies are going proactive, with dramatic results already. And wouldn't you know it, the fuss once again is all over the evolution of fast doorslammers:
Last fall, a group of Pro Mods invaded the sacred NHRA Hot Rod Reunion and stole the show. Haters be damned, the fans in the stands raved about the Pro Mods, positioning them nicely for negotiations-to-come, with a merry-go-round of players.
About that same time, the principals at the rogue American Drag Racing League made off with the Pro Mod purse after the Championship event, leaving the ADRL's future in question. This debacle prompted a debate among Pro Mod owners in survival mode, regarding the plausibility of escaping the "Pay to Play" status quo. That argument was interrupted by news of king-sized purses being competed for in the Arabian Drag Racing League (yes, it rhymes with ADRL).
At the PRI trade show in Indy, Rockingham Dragway owner Steve Earwood announced the formation of the Professional Drag Racing Association as a restructuring of the ADRL, only to return home and find that ADRL Pro Mod racers Jason and Mitchell Scruggs, Gene Hector, Roger Henson and Tommy Franklin had beaten him to it, and named their entity the National Drag Racing Association - the result of Scruggs fronting purchase money to Kenny Nowling, who bought out Sheik Kalid Al-Thani and Al-Anabi, who have been incommunicado since the infamous Championship race. Al-Anabi's status as an NHRA team owner is unknown at press time.
Meanwhile, the IHRA has announced the formation of its Sonic Rush Tour - a veritable travelling thrill show of jet cars, wheelstanders and other exhibitionists, who will visit nine states in 2014.
And just on today's wire, SGE was notified by the National Muscle Car Association of a mandatory Electrimotion Shutdown Transmitter to be used in conjunction with a corresponding Electrimotion Safety Box in all Pro Mods. These devices will automatically kill fuel and ignition systems, as well as deploy parachutes as Pro Mods cross the finish line.
In the midst of these developments, the NHRA released a bulletin announcing that the Circle K grocery store will sponsor this year's Winternationals.
Not being an industry insider myself, I read most of these accounts on the Competition Plus website and relayed them here as best as I could remember them. I probably should have taken notes.
Thrill seekers delight. The circus appears to have gone completely off the tracks. This image could represent the ADRL, PDRA, NDRA, IHRA, NMCA, or NHRA. It most definitely represents SGE. Chances are, you have an opinion on this. You're always welcome to leave it in the COMMENTS box, below. Just know that to the best of our knowledge, no scale figurines were injured in the making of this photograph.
CONNECT THE DOTS! It's Fun!
And Todd Miller's more modern interpretation of an Altered. I haven't heard from Todd lately, but assume he's prepping for more records in 2014. (Photo by Paul Grant)
Thoughts of Altered evolution took me back to 1965 and Marlowe Treit's Miss Demeanor Turbonique-powered trike. I've really been missing this kind of wildcat innovation. (Photo by Gary Reynolds)
I tell ya, this kid's going places! (Images courtesy of Motormouth Ray)
SQUIRREL AND TOOLBOX