I understand the vast majority of “Mainstream” Drag fans are fans of the Mello Yello Pro series with the Pro classes, but there is a whole other world of racing that happens between those cars. The last National event at Wild Horse Pass in Arizona an incident occurred that has sent shock-waves through the sportsman pits.
In the quarter final round Jerry Emmons was disqualified for “excessive braking”. Allow me explain why that is so alarming. As a driver, braking at the finish line is as much a part of index racing as cutting a light on the starting line; you have to be able to judge your opponent and decide in a fraction of a second what to do, take the stripe, ride it hard to the line or cut them loose and let the cards fall where they may. You show me a bracket racer who cannot drive the finish line and I’ll show you a driver who is always at the buyback window, or loading up after first round weekend after weekend.
If the NHRA is going to start making arbitrary judgements regarding National event runs, it throws all past knowledge up in the air. If racer X is racing hard in the late rounds the last thing they need to worry about is “If I get hard on the brakes am I going to be DQ’ed?” All while going 100+MPH. This is huge, because when I and every racer I’ve spoken to look at Jerry’s run, it’s a masterful job of driving. He was in control and at no point did he appear to have an issue. To me it was a clean run, about as good as could be done, as a matter of fact it was what I have coached people to do in that circumstance.
No one wants to see results like the run above, but Thomas Fletcher at the time was a relative newcomer, not a rookie but not with the experience as Jerry Emmons. That run, according to the rules was a disqualifying run, he crossed the centerline.
I am aware that there were “warnings” issued. OK, he was warned and according to Jerry himself (as heard on WFO Radio, Link at the bottom) he addressed the situation, checked that the car was mechanically sound and continued on. That’s all he could do, and should have been expected to do. You could no more tell John Force in the semis he had to not exceed 315 MPH then to tell a sportsman racer he had to make a wholesale change to his setup on the car for any given round.
Here’s the thing, I’ve never heard of the NHRA seeing a pedalfest between 2 Nitro funny cars and going to the drivers to issue a “warning” for dangerous driving. It could be argued that a sideways tire smoking Nitro car is exponentially more dangerous than a Stock car hard on the brakes. So if that’s the reason, it rings hollow. I’ve had a couple people tell me that it was done because the NHRA wanted to send a clear warning to the sportsman racers that on Sunday, you don’t jeopardize the show and screw up the pros when they would be live; in other words, “don’t mess up our schedule”. I have 2 problems with that, first I really really don’t want to believe the NHRA has that level of disrespect to the sportsman racers and two if that was the case would they use one of the Emmons brothers as an example, with Lucas Oil on the car the same Lucas Oil that is the series sponsor? It just seems like that would a bad business decision to me.
At the end of the day, the whole situation has many scratching their heads, and all racers who roll through the gates at a National event need to have clarity. The rule book is vague at best on this issue and literally hundreds of racers out there need to know what is and isn’t acceptable finish line driving? Clearly and without the risk of an arbitrary call.
Below is the link to the WFO radio interview with Jerry Emmons
Be 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.