Qualifying Controversy - The NHRA’s decision to re-open professional qualifying after officially locking the fields on Sunday has been one of this week’s most controversial topics. Those in the racing community have accused officials of making up the rules as they go and catering to their “bread and butter racers” that were unqualified. For some teams, this even proved to have Countdown implications.
The truth of the matter is that professional drag racing — Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle — is a show, and the U.S. Nationals is the biggest show. Completing the race on Tuesday (and likely part of Wednesday) would’ve been a complete disservice to the most prestigious drag race in the world.
The NHRA made the right call, albeit a understandably difficult one.
This race deserves to be witnessed by the fans, and if that means re-opening qualifying, then so be it. Contrary to what the critics have had to say — most of whom probably weren’t even at Indy — the NHRA had already made it’s plans known on the re-opening of qualifying should the event become a wash. It was no secret to anybody in the pits.
Just 54 cars turned up at Indy, led by Bruno Massel’s sand-bagging 6.59 effort in his new turbocharged I/Dragster.
While Indy is only a singular event, the record-low car count is certainly an indicator of the health of a category that was strong as an ox just a few short years ago. For comparisons sake, there were 61 cars last year, 76 cars five years ago in 2007, and an equal 76 cars five years prior to that in 2002. In the late 90′s, it was nothing for 90-110 cars to enter at Indy in Comp.
That Indy Magic - Given the aging of the NHRA’s longtime fan and the toll the economy has taken on the sport, it’s hard to say if that “Indy Magic” will ever return to the Big Go, but this year’s lineup of bonus races certainly went a long way toward making Indy stand out from the rest.
The event schedule this year included the inaugural Factory Stock Showdown on Thursday, the Mopar HEMI Shootout on Friday, and the Traxxas Nitro Shootouts for Top Fuel and Funny Car on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
If Indy is to maintain it’s claim as the biggest, richest, most prestigious drag race in the world, it’s going to take special races-within-a-race just like these. Increased payouts and/or double points wouldn’t hurt, though.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now? - Certainly one of the biggest questions on the minds of the NHRA brass as they pondered postponing the race a full week was just how many racers would be able to return.
Keep in mind that the majority of the sportsman racers began arriving at Indy last Sunday or Monday, after traveling from from their homes located in every corner of the country. Many of those racers also attended the Bowing Green divisional the weekend prior, meaning several of these racers had already been on the road for close to two full weeks by the time the call was made on Sunday.
Despite the lore of winning Indy, this makes it very difficult for the working, blue-collar racers to stick around for another week. Add to that the fact that the NHRA’s divisions 1, 5, and 6 are in action this weekend, and that gives racers more reason to pull out of Indy.
At present, Competition Eliminator (54 cars) and Super Stock (128 cars) have yet to run one elimination round, while Stock Eliminator has 16 cars, Super Comp seven, and Super Gas eight.