A unique policy instituted last season by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) that technically remains in effect could in theory produce the first ever (that we know of) co-champions in a professional Camping World Drag Racing Series category.
The NHRA’s COVID-19 driver replacement policy was created last July, prior to the series’ return from a lengthy hiatus due to the pandemic, that granted points to the car rather than the driver — or rather, to any replacement driver in said car — if the original driver has to be replaced due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or order to quarantine due to a close contact with the virus. The policy ultimately proved to have no bearing on the 2020 championship battles in the four pro categories (nor Pro Mod or Top Fuel Harley, which were also included in the policy).
Jeffrey Young, NHRA’s VP of Marketing and Communications, confirmed that while the COVID driver replacement policy previously expired, a similar driver replacement policy with virtually the same parameters that replaced it will allow, again, for replacement drivers to accumulate points and hand them off to another driver.
This season, the policy could actually play into the outcome of the championship.
Don Schumacher Racing driver Matt Hagan entered the Dodge/SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals as the Funny Car points leader, but was stricken by COVID-19 in the days leading up to the event and was forced to miss the regular season finale. In his place, former DSR stablemate Tommy Johnson, Jr. took over the controls for the Indianapolis event. Johnson ultimately failed to qualify, dropping Hagan’s car to fifth in the standings entering the Countdown.
An inquiry sent to DSR regarding Hagan’s status for this weekend’s race in Maple Grove was not responded to as of this writing, but he remains on the official entry list. But, depending on how you look at the statistics, Hagan had the best Funny Car in the class this season and so the real possibility exists that if Hagan misses another race or two, he and Johnson could go Batman and Robin, Ben and Jerry, Starsky and Hutch on the field and team up to win the championship together in the same car.
And really, with seven races to go and virus cases on the rise, it’s a reality that could befall any of the 43 drivers in all that are a part of this year’s Countdown to the Championship. Two drivers on the awards podium at season’s end raising the same championship trophy…wouldn’t that make for an interesting story?