DAVE DENSMORE SPEAKS (COMMENTARY): - IS IT STILL SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE TO GIVE EVERYONE A FAIR CHANCE?
Over the last 40-odd years, first as an NHRA employee, then as a PR flack and finally as an unapologetic fan, I have proposed dozens of ideas for improving the sport and you know what? I can’t recall a single one that ever was adopted or even adapted by the NHRA, the IHRA, the PDRA, the ADRL or any of the other HRAs and DRLs on the planet.
Which begs the question: Is it me?
Regardless of the answer, the truth is I’ve reached a point where I don’t really give a crap. So, you can either indulge an old man another opinion or you can suck eggs although I’m sure there are other options.
The Traxxas Nitro Shootouts are upcoming at the 62nd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and CompPlus publisher Bobby Bennett sent me wondering if there might be a better way to fill out the fields for those popular eight-car bonus races than with social media campaigns that obviously favor the DSRs and JFRs and other heavily-funded teams.
Despite NHRA declarations that those final positions are determined by lottery drawing, the truth is that the process is so heavily-weighted toward the big teams and their use of the various social media platforms that it is ludicrous to think that someone like Scott Palmer or Terry McMillen has a legitimate shot at making the Top Fuel field.
Nevertheless, it seems like those are exactly the kinds of guys to whom you would like to give a shot at the $100,000 top prize. Of course, the beauty of the current program is that it provides fan interaction and drives voting traffic to the NHRA website. Certainly, the NHRA does not want to lose that aspect of the program.
So, is it even possible to formulate a best-of-both-worlds scenario? I think it is.
Here’s what I would propose: (1) retain the fan vote and continue to encourage the teams with significant PR resources to mount the kind of on-line campaigns that have made the process so much fun the last five years; (2) after the fan vote winner has been revealed, place the names of all the remaining eligible drivers in a helmet and draw a name; (3) pair the popular vote winner with the lottery winner in a one-run duel for the eighth starting position during Friday night qualifying at the U.S. Nationals.
I can’t see how this isn’t a win-win for racers, fans, Traxxas, the media and the NHRA.
Not only does it retain an element popular with net-savvy fans and sponsors, it also opens up an opportunity for drivers previously all but excluded from the process. Finally, it creates a Friday night focus for fan and media attention. Call it the “Race for a Place.”
Significantly, it doesn’t add length to an already-busy schedule. The Funny Car race could be run to end qualifying in the Funny Car session. The Hemi Challenge would follow immediately thereafter and that would lead into the “race for the Top Fuel place.” After that, it would be the rest of Top Fuel qualifying. No extra runs for anyone.
As for eligibility, instead of requiring participation in every race, it would be far more beneficial to make the requirement six or seven or eight of the first 17 races. By making eligibility less restrictive, it might even encourage greater participation at some regular tour events.
That’s just the way a guy with cataracts sees it.