The Ready Line: Competition Eliminator

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Competition Eliminator is Cool, end of story. This is one of the last bastions of true racing creativity left anywhere on the motorsports landscape. Where else can you chose any combination and do what it takes to make it work? In Comp, you can find anything from a Blown Big Block Chevy to an Air Cooled VW Bug engine. Cars, Altereds and Dragsters all competing together. Can it be confusing? Yes. The CIC system that’s necessary to level the playing field can be tricky to explain to the novice, but at the end of the day, it’s cool to see a 4 cylinder turbo Honda racing a 500 cubic inch Pro Stock motor powered dragster.

The problem is it’s obviously expensive and the fields are shrinking. For example, at the current (As I’m writing this) Regional in Gainesville There are 14 cars to fill what should be a 32 car field and the entry list for the Gatornationals event next weekend again has 14 cars entered.

But we can do better. It’s time to revise the Comp rules to be a little more inclusive. There are cars out there, some even at the track being sent home. Let’s look at the landscape and see what changes we can make to improve the Comp show.

Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. These guys run 32 car qualified fields and send home any car that does not qualify. This weekend that means 8 Top Dragsters and 2 Top Sportsman are going home without even taking a green light in competition. It should be relatively simple to make a couple accommodations in the schedule to ensure that the last qualifying session for them takes place before the first round of Comp. And whoever wants to can roll their times into the Comp field and if they make the cut run first round as a Comp car. Why send cars home that could be used to fill the field if they qualify and meet the rules? In my opinion, most of the T/S and T/D cars can be as diverse as the current Comp cars. Nitrous, Turbos and Blowers in many combinations.

Pro Stock. It’s no secret that P/S is struggling as well. Let’s introduce classes in Comp similar to the Pro Stock truck and Pro Mod rules. Some of the part-time guys could really benefit from this move. I’m thinking of guys like David RIvers and John Gaydosh. Part-timers who could almost certainly use more track time. When you can only get to a few National events a year you’re always going to be behind the 8 ball in terms of passes down the track, let’s open it up so they can at least run at the local Regional and Divisional events. Give them a chance to get the cars out on prepared tracks and work out bugs on a slightly smaller scale race.

What about the rest? I applaud the NHRA for bringing some of the other racing into the fold on an exhibition basis. The X275 and No Prep guys for example. But couldn’t we take it a step further and look at making some adjustments in the Comp rules to give them an outlet to compete on the larger NHRA stage in a “proper” class? What about looking for instance at the PDRA classes, couldn’t we make some accommodation in the rules to attract the Extreme Pro Stock guys to give the NHRA a shot? Or Pro Boost or really any of the exciting classes they have to offer.

The point here is there are plenty of drag cars out there that don’t fit into the class spectrum the NHRA currently runs and some truly amazing pieces of engineering involved, which is now and has always been at the heart of Competition Eliminator. There’s no reason to see it have short fields when the answer might be to simply open it up to a few more types of cars. They’re out there, let’s give them a place to race.

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While we’re on the topic of simple rules changes to help improve car counts, how about Alcohol Funny car? We only saw 2 cars show up for the Belle Rose Regional last weekend and as of now only 15 cars on the entry list for the Gatornationals. It’s time to change the rules to allow injected nitro cars to compete in the Funny car class similar to the Alcohol Dragsters. It’s a proven combination that’s shown to be relatively safe and the parity between Alcohol and Nitro Dragsters is pretty good. There is already a history of Injected Nitro funny cars so it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Given the current state of the IHRA doing away with its pro classes (well, in truth all classes. But that’s another column) they’ve left an awful lot of funny car racers that want to run Nitro with no place to race except for a couple events through the season. Let’s consider giving them a home, even if it means no blowers on the car.

Be Safe and Have Fun.

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Sportsman Hall of Fame.

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Recently on the Sportsman Racing Podcast with Luke and Jed, they discussed and listed their picks for a first induction class for a hypothetical Sportsman Drag Racing hall of fame.  What a great idea. Sportsman racers are the back bone of drag racing and some of the most unsung heroes of our sport. For every John Force or Steve Torrence, there are a couple hundred sportsman racers slogging it out week after week around the world. Very very few people start off in the whiz-bang world of the Pros. At one point or another, we all make our first passes down our local track, running whatever we could afford.

So, let’s get started.

Track Owner/Operator/Promoter

I have to go with George Howard, how can I not? At a time when if you knew drag racing you almost certainly knew the NHRA Pros. But if you had a toe in racing at all everyone heard of the “Million Dollar Bracket Race” and for that alone, putting Bracket racing on a bigger map, not even counting his other achievements he has to be my pick.

Media Member

Dale Wilson/Bracket Racing USA This man and the magazine he created were a staple to back yard racers. columns by Dale himself, the chassis guru Dave Morgan and Frank Hawley to name a few was a godsend to the guy with an open trailer and a car. The knowledge we gained from Dale and his magazine is priceless.

Member of Automotive Aftermarket Industry

Jeg Couglin Sr. THE catalog. What do you need? Tires. intake. delay box? Jegs had and has it all. In the days before the internet and social media, Jegs was there and is still here today for whatever you need. And he’s not just here to sell you parts. A stout supporter of the Sportsman classes by sponsoring events and drivers.

“Legend” a name from the past that has either passed or is no longer in active competition.

Ronnie Davis. 5-time IHRA world champ who had more than 25 years behind the wheel, and a vocal supporter of fast bracket racing. It’s in a large part due to Ronnie’s lobbying that Top Sportsman got its start in the NHRA and spread to the rest of the country.

4 racers (past or present)

It’s easy to say guys like David Rampy and Dan Fletcher belong in, and they do. It should almost be named “The Dan Fletcher Sportsman Racing Hall of Fame presented by David Rampy” But I digress, the truth is these two guys aren’t done yet. Dan is on track to become the second winningest driver in the NHRA ever and David will certainly get over 100 wins this season. So I say let’s wait on putting them in, let’s see where they wind up in the annals of racing history and when they do get put in, let’s be able to fully recognise their achievements.

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Sheldon Gecker One of the first to run with some substantial sponsorship, Who can forget his Fel-Pro King Kong cars.

Mike Federer Consistent winner spanning decades. Top notch equipment just a class act all around.

Ted Seipel Early Pioneer in Super Gas. West Coast legend in that Austin Healy.

Larry Morgan We forget that before Pro Stock Larry was a sportsman stand out in Competition Eliminator and Super Stock. He had an impressive career before he even got to Pro Stock.

There you have it. As to where to locate a possible Hall of Fame/Museum? I have to say Indy. Pretty centrally located and a mecca for any racing fan. As a proxy home of the NHRA away from California, it’s the perfect place to show the sportsman racers the support they deserve.

I’ve said it before. If you only go to the local National events during the year, then you’re missing out on some amazing racing on the Regional and Divisional level as well as the Bracket program the local track runs. Do yourselves a favor and get out and support your local tracks..

You can hear the full episode here

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https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sportsman-drag-racing-podcast-w-luke-jed/id1180988317?mt=2

Follow Luke and Jed on twitter

@jp11x

@lukebogacki

The Ready Line: Pro Stock

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It’s assumed that with the new “any body any engine” rule change in Pro Stock that everyone is going to go with the DRCE GM engine that is currently the dominant engine in the class. But it occurs to me that it doesn’t have to be this way. In the past, if you had a Dodge program, you were pretty much a solo single-car team. Any expense you incurred was for you and you alone. But not so anymore. Let’s say you have an engine program for your Dodge that shows promise, now you can lease those engines to anyone and defray some of the R&D work. Look at KB racing, for example, they don’t just build engines for Line and Anderson. They have 4 KB powered cars out there. (Butner and Kramer)

Is this a likely scenario? Almost certainly not. But we can hope. Maybe some enterprising engine builder will see a market to disperse the cost of a Dodge program amongst several cars. Or a Ford guy will resurrect a long-dormant Ford program. The parts are out there. I heard recently that Derec Kramer had no problem selling his Dodge engines to a couple GM guys and somewhere, someone has the remnants of Larry Morgans Ford program. And with an increased presence at the track maybe, just maybe Ford and Dodge will be enticed into investing into a Pro Stock program and reintroducing factory Pro Stock parts.

Let’s wildly speculate a minute. Let’s say that Allen and Roy Johnson are slaving away on the dyno as we speak, and they find something, they overcome the 10500 RPM limiter and are ultra competitive in the horsepower numbers. Do you think Dodge would be happy with Dodge engines winning in Chevy bodies, or would they want to come back with a factory team, and get the glory for themselves?

We can hope

On a side-note. It seems to me it would be a good idea to create classes in Competition Eliminator for Pro Stock cars similar to the classes for Pro Stock Truck and Pro Mod. Some of the low buck guys who can only get to the national events near them could really benefit from this move. Instead of only getting to hit the track a couple times a season, most Divisions have 6 or 7 events. with most being at National events tracks. This would really open up the possibility for those part-timers to get needed seat and actual on track time in race conditions. I’d set it up with a moderate index so they don’t need to kill their stuff. There’s no way that a part-time Pro Stock team can be hurt by having a 7 event divisional and 3 national event season.

Racing Rigs and you.

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Ever since PRI there has been a lot of talk about the legality’s of the tow vehicles. Since Dec 18th when the new ELD (Electronic Logging Device) mandate came down, a lot of people are asking questions about being in compliance with the rules and we can discuss the needs for exemptions, the law is the law for now. Since my living is made out on the road lets look at a few things that do concern you.

Lets look at some definitions here. If your rig has a weight of more than 26000lbs and or your trailer comes in over 10000lbs, you are a commercial vehicle. You can make the argument “but it’s my personal truck and I own and operate it privately” well sorry. I hate to break it to you but the laws don’t define it that way. Putting “Private, Not for Hire” on the truck means nothing to the officer or inspector at a scale. If you are on the road and you meet the definitions of a commercial vehicle, you better be legal to be safe.

The quick answer that I hear over and over again is get a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and run an ELD. And yes, that’s what I would recommend. But hang on. it’s not that easy. IF you are going to run those things, you better be aware of the requirements that those entail. Are you aware of the HOS (Hours of Service) rules? No more crazy cross country trips to make races, unless you have more than one qualified driver to team up with (and yes, there are special rules for running as a team). Are you aware of what you need to do for a Pre Trip inspection, or a Post Trip inspection?

This looks and sounds complicated, but it’s really not. A little homework on the DOT website can answer most questions. But the fact is if you run any kind of log book and or pull out that CDL at a scale or inspection center you better know what you need to have done to be compliant with the laws. If you blindly declare on your Pre Trip that the truck is safe and sound, you better not have half the lights burned out, or bald tires. It better be as you declared. And yes, to answer the question I’ve seen debated several places, They DO have the right to inspect inside the trailer. Proper load securement is a mandate in the laws, and they have a right to ensure the load is safe.

In the era of so many Pro and Semi Pro Sportsman racers on the road it’s time to step up the game, the rigs are huge and dangerous in inexperienced hands. Is a Volvo Toterhome and a Stacker infinitely safer than a dually with a tag? Yes of course. Proper brakes, possibly an engine brake (Jake Brake) the power to climb and descend hills. But with that comes the need for responsible operation. Remember, these things can kill others as quickly as they can save your life. Are the rules regarding their safe operation heavy handed at times? Of course. But the benefits outweigh the hassle.

The appearance that more racers are getting stopped, from what I witness on the road is true. As Drag racers we look at things in a vacuum. But remember their are more than just us out there. The stock car, dirt track, road course and just anyone hauling cars in general are on the same roads with the same equipment. Just by sheer numbers I see more dirt track guys stuck at scales than drag racers, but for whatever reason their are more of them. So yes, it is a problem across the board, but then in this era of trucks being the bad guys on the road it’s tough for anyone with a big rig.

If I was advising a racer out there, I would recommend getting a CDL and an ELD. Know the laws regarding both. Get a permit service to ensure you have all the right permits for the state or states you will be travelling in. As well as checking with an accountant as to how to handle the IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) stickers. Personally when I cross a scale or inspection center I always know i’m in compliance and any document they might need is right at hand, Be nice to them and more than likely they’ll be nice to you. Those guys never want to deal with a hassle, the easier you make it, the better it will go.

https://www.donlen.com/blog/dot-compliance-cmv-regulations

http://protecttheharvest.com/2017/11/29/eld-mandate-will-impact-the-horse-industry/

A little sidenote on the inspection. I know the majority of  you are racers not truckers. But how many times do we need to see guys on the side of the road with problems that could have been easily avoided with a little maintenance. I had a guy ask me, at the track, in a toterhome I know he’s had at least 2 years, how to open the hood. This is a Freightliner based rig. You have got to be at a minimum once a week checking basics like oil and coolant. Even if you don’t put tons of mileage on your rig these things can deteriorate just sitting. Just as I would never pull a trailer out of the yard that’s been sitting a couple weeks without a detailed inspection you shouldn’t leave the track after a weekend without checking at a minimum, Tires, hubs, lights, fluids and double check the hitch or pin.  Here’s a short list of things that will take you Out of Service. Flat tires, Air Leak, Broken suspension parts. And it’s unlikely for you but overweight. And if you been driving more than 11 hours, you’re most likely getting parked for 36 hours.

Bob Glidden

bob 1I’ve always been a GM guy, grew up with my Moms daily driver a 57 Chevy. Had them my whole life. But there was a time early in my racing career that I ran a Ford Mustang. My reasoning was there were tons of them and parts were plentiful. It was seemingly simple to make it fast and a nice street/strip ride looked easy to achieve. But, I could not make that 302 live. It kept breaking connecting rods and I couldn’t figure out why. Too much compression, too many RPM’s? I was baffled and quickly sinking into a money pit.

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Early Days of the Mustang. circa 91 with a short lived Capri nose.

So, I asked questions from who I thought was the go-to guy for Ford products. Bob Glidden. We had a chance to talk after Q4 at Sanair on a lazy Saturday evening. And he told me 2 things. No 1, if I was building it with a GM mindset I needed to pay more attention to the connecting rods, stock rods at higher RPM’s were a bad idea. Go with the best rods I could afford. And No 2, keep an eye on the oil pump driveshaft. It was a weak point. The rods were spot on and after I changed them I never broke another one, until I did break the oil pump driveshaft leading to another broken rod. But that was my own fault. I should’ve changed it. Shortly after I sold the car rolling and started my Vega project.

To me, what can you say about Bob Glidden that hasn’t been said? He’s a legend in the truest sense of the word. To this day more than a decade since his last Ford start when you say Ford Motorsports, I think of Bob. 85 National event wins and 10 Championships speak for themselves. But it was more than that. He was a great guy. Always nice to the kids at the rope and as I related at the start, quick with advice if you needed it. It was a sad day in Pro Stock when Ford stepped away and all but ended Bob’s career. But regardless it was always cool in the recent years to see him at the track with a quick smile and hello.

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Mr. Glidden, you will be missed, I hope wherever you are, you and Lee, Gordie, Grumpy,  Scott, Joe and all the others are bench racing up a storm.  Rest In Peace.

Pro Stock, 5 points.

On this weeks WFO Radio Nitro, Joe Castello had a pretty in depth interview and discussion with Alan Reinhart and Richard Freeman about Pro Stock. (link to the show at the bottom.) The conclusion was a call out for a 5 point plan to reinvigorate the class. As you know if you follow my column, I’ve already written 2 about this issue. In response to Joe’s call, lets have a fresh go at this with some new perspective.

Dodge

#1 We need to accept the fact that Pro Stock isn’t the King of the Doorslammers class anymore, that cats out of the bag. Currently there are 2 classes that are faster. Pro Mod and Top Sportsman. If we just look at this weeks race, Pro Stocks field was stretched between a 6.564 to a 6.924 and the top 16 spread in Top Sportsman was 6.201 to 6.811. 2 different classes to be sure, but if you want quick Door cars you now have several options.

#2 Body styles. It’s been said before by many, including myself, we need to get back to stock body lines, simple as that. The drift away from using the classic “Body in white” that was the norm for so long needs to be reversed. Stock rear quarters, roof and a pillars at a minimum. The classic Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday is really hard when the cars at the top of the “Factory” class don’t resemble whats on the showroom floor.  With one caveat, conversion from a 4 door to a 2 door must be acceptable.

#3 Pro Mod or Factory Stock will never replace Pro Stock, they will always take up their own unique niche in the Drag world. As great as it is, factory stock is already in danger of drowning under ever increasing development costs, and unless the manufacturers want to keep sinking endless sums of cash into going faster and faster it will start to suffer. The Pro Mod racers have already expressed they are happy with the space in the NHRA they already have, a 24 race schedule for them would be too much.

#4 The NHRA itself. The NHRA as a sanctioning body needs to get out of the mindset that the Nitro classes are the most important class out there. Are they great? for sure, do they attract the fans? for sure, but they’re supposed to, that’s how they’re hyped; all the advertising is built around them.  At any given National event there are several classes running, and any given class could use more exposure. This goes for not just Pro Stock, but other classes as well. What about Competition eliminator? My point here is the NHRA needs to balance how they advertise and promote the races better. If they believe it or not there is a significant number of fans who attend the races for more then just the Nitro classes.

#5 Drivetrain. I see 2 options here. So pull the belts tight and hang on, don’t pull the chutes until the end.

500 cubic inch spec engine based on the DRCE(Drag Race Competition Engine) block the Chevy guys use. We already have a precedence for this; the nitro classes. They can badge it however they want, Toyota, Chevy, Ford but the reality is they’re all based on the Dodge Hemi, a variant to be sure but a Hemi nonetheless. No offence to the Dodge guys or the lone Ford guy i’m aware of but the Chevy guys are kings right now, and have been for several years. Without major corporate support the Fords and Dodges will never be competitive. It may be great when a Dodge picks up a Hundredth but if they’re still a tenth behind they have a long costly way to go. So take that all out of the equation and run a spec block and heads like the nitro guys do.

358 Small block with a spec blower. Richard Freeman floated this on the WFO radio show and when you stop and think about it, it might be a really good idea. There are already several readily available 358 combinations out there from the NASCAR guys, Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Toyota and boosted with a supercharger makes a pretty interesting possibility.  Plus it has the advantage of fitting under a more stock appearing hood line then what we have now. In my opinion, this is the way to go, coupled with a manual clutch and a 5 speed this could be cool.

Pro Stock is an iconic class, and it’s demise would be a great loss to the sport. But as you know manufacturers have drifted away for various reason. But if they don’t want to jump in as it sits now, we have got to make some wholesale changes to reinvigorate the class. If we increase participation who knows, maybe they (The manufacturers) will take a second look and if  we can make changes to welcome them back, we can address that in due course. But trying to keep them happy is part of the reason we are in this situation.

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Honda V8

One last thing. Lets assume for a minute we go with the body specs and 358 engines I’ve suggested as the best options, those open the doors to more then Dodge, Ford and Chevy in Pro Stock. As mentioned, Toyota has a stout 358 program and Honda had a V8 in production for Indycar until 2011. If Toyota and or Honda wanted to jump in, and Toyota in particular has shown a strong commitment to the NHRA, then I say welcome, the more the merrier.

Here’s a link to the WFO radio Nitro show.  http://wforadio.com/wfo-radio-nhra-nitro-07042017/

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac

 

As always, Be Safe and Have Fun.

All Stars, Can it be better?

zmax

You know, after the All-Star race it’s always the same refrain “It was boring” “It was confusing” and I get it..it is boring. At the end of the day, it’s Stock cars running around in a circle, making pit stops once in a while. This year, it seemed to be amplified, and why? Because we already have stages at every race as it is, so there’s nothing different there.  For some reason NASCAR added a bizarre twist this year by adding an “option tire”,  and (as NASCAR loves to do) put a damper on the tire with a new rule. You have to put on 4, but you can take off 2 if you want, once you take them off, you can’t put them back on. Yeah, I didn’t get it either.

So what can be done? Well if we look at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as a whole, we see the complex has the 1.5 mile oval sure, it also has a 1/4 mile dragstrip, a 4/10’s dirt oval and a road course in the oval infield. So why not explore the options available?

Wouldn’t it be cool to see the “Stars” of NASCAR on a dirt track? We hear every year after the Eldora Truck race that the Cup cars would be awesome on a dirt track, so lets try it. They run the Trucks on dirt at Eldora, and more than a handful of drivers have experience on dirt, so it’s not like the know how isn’t there, heck Goodyear even makes a tire for it. Eldora is a half mile oval, and the Dirt track at Charlotte is only slightly shorter –  It can be done.

Then there’s the road course. We already run 2, and with this road course on the schedule to be part of the season in 2018 it might be nice for the Cup cars to see the road course in advance even in a limited sense. It’s there, may as well use it now.

Now we come to the Drag strip. The “Wildcard”. Honestly, outside of Kurt Busch i’m not sure how much Drag racing experience Cup drivers have, but it would be pretty cool to see the Cup cars on the Dragstrip. Run them 4 wide like the NHRA pros. Top 2 move on and other 2 are done. Single eliminations with 2 qualifying sessions. To me, this track is the most interesting. Let the crews set up the cars as they see fit, to accelerate 1/4 mile at a shot and see what happens. I would expect to see mid 10’s at between 125 and 130 MPH, maybe more, who knows.

It really wouldn’t need to be 1 or the other of these ideas, In my mind it would be a combination of the tracks. Maybe Thursday at the dragstrip, Friday at the Dirt track and the finale on Saturday on the big oval. No extra travel involved, same car all weekend (of course they always have a back up on hand). Each track awarding points for wins and positions, with the finale a lets say 200 mile shootout on the Big oval. Who knows what we might find? Maybe Matt DiBenedetto is a master drag racer, and wins his way into the finale, or maybe Danica turns out to be a dirt track whiz, and wins her way in. One thing for sure it would spice up the All Star race.

What about ticket sales? The drag strip seats way less than the oval, and the dirt track even less so,  tickets would be at a premium. I for one would love to see a drag race between Logano, Johnson, Earnhardt and Busch. Given the opportunity would definitely go, and dirt tracks are popular across the country. If the tickets to these events were a little more exclusive then the oval, and they sell out, all the better.

The crossover aspect for the NHRA and NASCAR are unreal, for 2 sanctioning bodies on the rebuild, the possibility to grow into other markets would be amazing, put some hard core drag racers onto NASCAR and put some NASCAR fans onto the NHRA. For sure if needed, we could get some NHRA pros there on a Thursday night (even if it’s a NHRA race weekend, they don’t race until Friday), heck for that matter get a couple NHRA officials and announcers to help out.

At the end of the day, given what the All Star race is, it would be great to see it expanded and use the facility’s available to NASCARs advantage. Mix up the show and create some excitement where it is sorely lacking. Throw the Cup guys a curve ball and see who comes out a true “All Star”

Ba safe and have fun.

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac