Earlier this month, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway conducted the first four-wide NHRA Mello Yello Series national event in the modern era west of the Mississippi River. Originally constructed with the very idea of a four-lane dragstrip in mind, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith finally brought the concept to fruition over the winter. Smith, widely regarded as one of the brightest and most calculated individuals in the art of motorsports entertainment, was convinced this was a homerun.
If you were to take what you read on the internet as truth though, the perception—the unanimous perception—would be that this was a highly unpopular move on SMI’s part and that, like the now-eight-year old Four-Wide Nationals at the zMax Dragway in Charlotte, was a vision that never should have been acted upon.
But perception is not always reality.
For the third straight race in this young season, the National Hot Rod Association recorded a sell-out crowd at the inaugural Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals. Not only that, it recorded two, on back-to-back days (Saturday and Sunday), marking one of, if not the largest spectator turnouts in the 19-year history of the spring national event in Sin City. According to LVMS President Chris Powell, the sell-out was the first for this event in nearly a decade, and its Friday crowd was the largest fan turnout since the very first national event held there in 2000.
Said Powell: “It’s clear that drag racing fans wanted to be a part of history as we brought four-wide drag racing to the West Coast. This success is a testament to the vision of Bruton and Marcus Smith as well as the months and months of hard work by our staff and contractors who made this event a reality.”
I’d love to see nitro cars on the quarter-mile again, or Radial vs The World cars running out the back door just as much as the next guy, but if they don’t, it isn’t going to change how I feel about this sport.
While the internet had its opinions, so too did those who attended this historic event—who voiced theirs with their disposable income—and those who tuned in on television around the world. I’m convinced that those who hold a negative opinion on something tend to say the most and those with positive commentary the least, and so, again, if you were to take the internet to heart, you’d be led to believe that not a single individual out there enjoyed what they saw in Las Vegas.
The four-wide concept has been among the most contentious of topics in the sport since the first race held in Charlotte in 2010…right along with eighth-mile and 1,000-foot drag racing.
Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, and every opinion has value and merit. As the Editor of this publication, I field a lot of them, and I always welcome the opportunity to hear and read a range of different vantage points on our sport and engage with the public in healthy conversation. But just because you don’t enjoy or prefer something, doesn’t mean someone else—or many someone’s—don’t enjoy it.
As they say, variety is the spice of life, and drag racing has variety in spades.
This is the most diverse motorsport on the planet. It’s racially and ethnically diverse, and it unifies people from all walks and social classes of life, across several continents. But also, from the vehicle makes and models, drivetrains, tires, and so on and so forth, it provides something for everyone. And that extends to the racing itself—there’s a place for eighth-mile and 1,000-foot drag racing, and go to any dragstrip on any given weekend and you’ll find fans passionate about it no matter the distance or the number of lanes.
I’ve long contended that our sport could benefit from variations in race distance. Drag racing is the only motorsport—including its other iterations like drag boats and mud drags—where the race course is always the same. Sure, the surfaces differ, as do the conditions, but when you get down to it, a given category or series always competes over the same distance. Imagine if you will, the professional nitro teams transitioning to different race distances over the course of a season, from eighth-mile to quarter … if you want to know who really has their stuff together, that’s how you find out.
Get out there and enjoy drag racing for what it is, and if what you’re seeing ain’t your cup of tea, well, I’m confident that this sport has something to offer you that is.
Obviously, such an idea ever becoming reality is far-fetched, but it just goes to show that drag racing can be exciting over any distance and with any number of cars—at the end of the day, it’s about entertainment and competition. I’d love to see nitro cars on the quarter-mile again, or Radial vs The World cars running out the back door just as much as the next guy, but if they don’t, it isn’t going to change how I feel about this sport, and it shouldn’t to anyone else who is truly passionate about it either. So get out there and enjoy drag racing for what it is, and if what you’re seeing ain’t your cup of tea, well, I’m confident that this sport has something to offer you that is.