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To: flattorney
NHRA 2009 Season News and Key Changes
Complied with Additions & Comments by FlA & Co.

02.05.09: The NHRA and ESPN have agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series on the air through 2016. The NHRA's developmental Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will also continue to air on ESPN2. Terms of the deal have ESPN2 and ESPN2HD showing the qualifying and finals for all 24 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events. This year, 18 of those events will be telecast during prime time. ESPN2 has carried the series since 2001. Terms of the deal also have the NHRA's second-tier Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series airing on ESPN2 and ESP2HD. ESPN is a unit of Burbank-based The Walt Disney Co. The National Hot Rod Association is based in Glendora, California. It was founded by Wally Parks in 1951. In the motorsports world, NHRA is second to NASCAR in terms of attendance.
- - NOTE: NHRA pays ESPN to broadcast it’s races. Only major National sport I know that does this. That stated, the coverage is excellent and superior to NASCAR. – fla
02.07.09 ESPN Video: Paul Page & Mike Dunn's ‘09 NHRA Preview

NHRA 2009 Season Changes
NHRA Rules Committee | Amended Rules | Top Fuel & Funny Car Testing | Oildown Penalties Suspended
(1) The NHRA Championship Drag Racing series is now called the Full Throttle Series after the energy drink's parent, Coca-Cola, switched its drag racing sponsorship from its POWERade drink.
(2) Top Fuel and Funny Car categories will continue to race at 1,000 feet, instead of 1,320.
(3) There will continue to be no awarding of bonus points if nitro drivers set race elapsed-time records. Bonus points were suspended after NHRA changed from 1,320 feet to 1,000 feet nitro racing following the June 21, 2008 death of funny car driver and two-time NHRA Top Fuel World champion Scott Kalitta.
(4) Both Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars must have a specific NHRA approved electronic controlled safety shutoff system that senses manifold burst panel failure and simultaneously activates the fuel shutoff, shuts off ignition, and deploys the parachutes. This change was mandated for Funny Cars for the last two 2008 events being the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals and the NHRA Finals, Pomona. It is mandated for Top Fuel starting with the first race of the 2009 season being the Winternationals, Pomona. The purpose of the new regulation is to stop runaway nitro cars in the event the driver is knocked out, injured, or otherwise cannot manually perform these functions on a timely basis. - fla
(5) “Christmas Tree” Race Start Procedure: The tree will be activated, after both cars are properly staged (all pre-stage and stage lights are on), in a random variable between .80 to 1.30 seconds for Top Fuel and Funny Car, .80 to 1.10 seconds for Pro Stock, and no change for Pro Stock Motorcycles. Previously it was activated at a constant .93 seconds. NHRA will evaluate any further changes needed during the season. The change was made so drivers could no longer anticipate the timing lights in an attempt to “cut” a low starting reaction time. The new rule will significantly level the field as to reaction times. All other tree and driver starting procedures remain the same as last season. - fla
(6) Increase winner purses more than $1.3 million.
(7) NHRA plans on cutting Full Throttle Series event ticket prices for tracks they own in Pomona, Gainesville, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and other participating tracks. This is mostly a marketing gimmick, as NHRA is only offering discount tickets for the general admission "event filler crowd". - fla
(8) Like many major motor sports, NHRA is experiencing the worst loss of sponsors financial backing in twenty years. In the off-season, there were major changes among and within racing teams. The positive is that the 2009 season will be interesting and unpredictable. For example, in the nitro divisions, championship winners cannot be reasonably predicted. - fla
02.05.09: Road is rough for NHRA in hard economic times, plus 2009 Season Preview. Note: There are some article inaccuracies but it’s still a reasonable general overview. - fla
02.04.09: NHRA Battles Shaping Up Across Division Lines. ~ Previews for the NHRA Full Throttle Series Four Divisions

The severe economic downturn and loss of sponsors has been brutal for the start of the 2009 NHRA Top Fuel season. The Funny Car teams and drivers are in much better shape. Here’s a quick TF run-down I threw together. - fla

Top 16 NHRA Top Fuel Drivers, 2008 Final Points
01. Tony Schumacher
02. Larry Dixon
03. Cory McClenathan
04. Hillary Will (N)(X)
05. Antron Brown
06. Rod Fuller (N)(X)
07. Brandon Bernstein
08. Doug Herbert (N)
09. Doug Kalitta (O)
10. Dave Grubnic (N)
11. J.R. Todd (N)
12. Morgan Lucas
13. Bob Vandergriff Jr. (N)
14. Troy Buff (O)
15. Steve Torrence (N)
16. Clay Millican
(N)ot driving in 2009 due to loss of sponsorship
(O)nly has sponsorship for part of 2009 season
(X) On a lighter note, the cat is out of the bag. Hillary and Rod are having an off-track relationship which I heard about late last season. The love birds wanted to keep their situation under wraps due to worries about how their respective team owners might react. Currently, neither has a ride for ’09 so it’s not an issue. - fla

NHRA issues 10% pay cut to all employees In an emergency company meeting on Thursday, Feb. 12, at the NHRA Museum on the Pomona County Fairgrounds, NHRA president Tom Compton announced in a brief statement that the entire workforce of the NHRA --including himself and the board of directors -- would be taking at least a 10% cut in pay. Unconfirmed information indicates that those in management have been reported to taken a larger than 10% pay cut. This is a sad day for the National Hot Rod Association and its members, and yet another indicator of just how bad the economy is and how it is affecting all of motor sports. <> Some of NHRA’s corporate members deserve an immediate 100% pay cut. - fla

FlA’s Comments on Selected ’09 Rules Changes

General: As all major motorsports, NHRA’s 2009 strategy is to try and maintain their core fan base and not experience a major financial loss in an extremely difficult market. NHRA's likelihood of success is poor. Some of the rules changes that are needed, or need to be repealed, are being deferred to 2010 when there is a clearer picture of the economy and the depth of the recession. However, NHRA is still not doing enough to properly manage drivers safety, and these matters cannot be delayed. NHRA reminds me of where NASCAR was on ignoring driver, car and track safety issues before four drivers were killed at the track in nine months culminating with the death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on February 18, 2001. I was at the 2001 Daytona 500 and saw Dale die. I walked away from attending or having anything to do with NASCAR racing until the 2003 Daytona 500. Every veteran NHRA member knows the sad fact that if John Force had been killed in his horrific 2007 accident at Dallas, NHRA would be a much safer sport today. If we have a third straight year where a NHRA Championship Series driver is killed or critically injured due to safety issues, I don’t care how much NHRA cuts ticket prices, many veteran fans, including myself, will walk away from the sport. There’s a major difference between losing a driver because it’s a high risk sport, and losing a driver because the sanctioning organization continues to ignore serious safety issues.

UPDATE NOTE: NHRA has already amended the 2009 rules three times with the lastest being March 5, 2009
1. 1,000 Feet Nitro Racing: After Scott Kalitta's untimely June 21, 2008 death, the NHRA mandated 1,000 feet, verses 1,320 feet (quarter-mile), racing for Top Fuel and Funny Car. This was probably the most controversial decision since the NHRA banned the use of nitromethane from April 1957 until the 1964 Season, except for the 1963 Winternationals. Informationally, the only reason the NHRA lifted the ban for the 1963 Winternationals was to increase fans attendance and interest for the '63 season. The owner of the legendary Lions Drag Strip lifted the tracks nitro ban in January 1962 and it was hurting NHRA's business.
      The reason the NHRA's 1,000 ft. nitro racing mandated is so controversial, is that the length of the track and shutdown area had nothing to do with the horrific top-end crash/death of veteran driver Scott Kalitta(Funny Car) in the NHRA POWERade Racing Series, or the horrific March 8, 2008 top-end crash/death of veteran driver John Shoemaker(nostalgia Top Fuel dragster) in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series. Based on the unpublished and confidential end-track photos and videos I have of both Scott's and John’s accidents, neither driver had any real chance of survival. The bottom-line is, that if a nitro driver is knocked out by a top-end engine explosion(Scott), or passes out at the top-end of a run(John), and the throttle hangs wide-open/driver doesn't lift off the throttle, a shorter 320 feet official track length, or another 500 feet in the shutdown area will not save the driver's life. And, it doesn't matter if the dragster is going 320 mph(Scott) or 260 mph(John). Due to forward motion crash physics, the chances of surviving a top-end runaway nitro dragster crash, in these circumstances, are between slim and none. - See my FR "Straight Talk" NHRA Drivers Memorial section for more info
      NHRA will continue to see major attendance decreases, due to 1,000 feet nitro racing, for the simple reason that the majority of veteran fans, that annually support NHRA with multiple event attendance, don’t like it. And, NHRA “brass” knows it. Further, serious nitro drag racing fans don’t give a [beep] what Don Garlits, John Force, Kenny Bernstein, and other NHRA corporate mouthpieces have to say in their MSM statements that NHRA made the right decision going to 1,000 feet, it’s good for the sport, the fan’s like it, and all their other erroneous comments. All this does is further alienate and insult NHRA's core fan base.
      Further, the NHRA's belief that 1,000 ft. nitro racing will reduce top-end motor explosions, fires, and expensive internal motor damage is total nonsense. And, every NHRA veteran with a basic understanding of nitro motors knows it. Crew chiefs will just build/tune nitro motors to lean out and "nose over" at 1,000 ft., instead of 1,320 ft., and we are back to square one as to top-end explosions/fires. From track reports, this is exactly what transpired during off-season testing here in Florida and Arizona.
      What I loathe about 1,000 ft. nitro racing is it's for candy-ass drivers and fans - no fans disrespect intended, but drivers disrespect intended. Any honest top nitro or alcohol dragster driver, which I've driven the latter(both blown gas and blown alcohol dragsters), will tell you it's much harder to drive 1,320 ft. than 1,000 ft. due to the engine's power/acceleration curve. It's amazing how the final 320 feet changes everything. Some drag racing organizations only race an 1/8 mile, which is 660 ft. Is this the direction of NHRA with nitro dragsters already running 320+ mph in off-season 1,000 ft. testing? NHRA has always been the elite drag racing organization. Bottom-line. . ., you run 660 ft. and 1,000 ft lengths in drag racing school, until you get the experience to make full 1,320 ft passes. That's where these shorter distances need to stay.
      After attending the 2008 NHRA Finals in Pomona, and talking to some of the "they really know" crew chiefs and drivers in the pits, there appears an above average chance that NHRA will return to quarter-mile nitro drag racing in 2010, or a mixed 1,000 ft/1,320 ft format depending on the track. Some of the crew chiefs' logic expressed for staying at 1,000 ft racing, for the 2009 season, made sense from a macro perspective. Further, decisions are not made in a vacuum and there is a lot of politics involved in this matter - some that has nothing to do with drivers safety. So, like many NHRA veterans, I'll shut my yap for 2009 except for this season opening statement.
      P.S. I will know more about this situation after attending the 2009 NHRA Gatornationals and Spring Nationals. If there are any major changes I will post an update to my comments. - fla
2. Oildown Penalties Suspended: A totally incompetent decision. This decision does one thing - it encourages crew chiefs and drivers to unreasonably push the limits of their nitro engines which will result in more explosions, fires, and potentially killing another driver. It will also cause more racing delays, while the track is cleaned up, and a more inconsistent track. Instead of suspending the track oildown penalties (monetary fines and loss of points), NHRA should have doubled them for 2009, as part of an emphasis to greatly reduce the out of control nitro engine explosions and fires, which the shear number are the worse in my 30+ years of NHRA involvement. There is no logic in NHRA’s decision. In their press release they twice state the following: . . . The move is designed to save teams money . . .This move is designed to ease the financial burden on the race teams. NHRA position is poppycock. A bad three day racing weekend of blowing up nitro motors and frying dragsters and chassis with major oil/fuel fires can cost team sponsors $100,000 to $250,000. The suspended oildown monetary fine is peanuts compared to these costs. Hopefully, NHRA will reverse this very poorly thought out decision.
3. No bonus points for 1,000 feet nitro National elapsed-time records: Poor decision, but I'll pass comment because there are bigger fish to fry. However, it must be stated that Doug Kalitta lost a NHRA Top Fuel World Championship to Tony Schumacher when Tony set a NHRA national e.t. record and his bonus points edged out Doug's total points for the season.
4. “Christmas Tree” Timing Change: Great decision and well needed change. This helps the less experienced drivers and there will be less races decided by drivers blindly “cutting the tree”. For 2009, we will probably see average reactions times increase and more red lights, even by the seasoned veterans.
5. Electronic Safety Shutoff System: While NHRA gives credit to the company that designed this new electronic system, is was actually my main men Del Worsham and his father Chuck that were the first to design and adopt a system like this in 2008. While this system is an excellent idea, that I support 100%, it is only a detective measure. Protective measures are 100% superior to detective measures. NHRA needs to mandate rules changes to put a stop to the out of control nitro engine explosions and fires. Without question, another nitro driver will be killed by one of these massive explosions and fires, unless NHRA puts a stop to them. It must be remembered that nitromethane produces a high explosive factor than TNT. Further this new system only works if the burst panel blows out. Many serious nitro fires are caused by pushed out head gaskets, and the like, that don't blow out the burst panel. I've also witnessed serious fires because rods were kicked out the side of the aluminum nitro engine block, yet the burst panel was intact. In these cases, the current new electronic shutoff system is useless. Further, this is an electronic system with electrical wires. I question if the system will work properly/timely in some of the worst engine explosions and/or a split second massive fire that destroys the electrical wiring. I'll understand this situation better after attending March 2009 NHRA races and talking with some of the nitro crew members and drivers.
6 posted on 03/14/2009 4:56:23 PM PDT by flattorney (See my comprehensive FR Profile "Straight Talk" Page)
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To: flattorney
      FlA Says: Per below, the NHRA announced a new website. Unfortunately it has a number of problems. I have to agree with what a 32 year NHRA veteran member wrote - “NHRA's new site is a molasses slow and poorly thought out mess. They launched the new web yet it is not finished. It has many urls and pages that do not work. This mess can not make sponsors happy. Except for none of their previous urls work. Sponsors new 2009 web sites will have to be upgraded. If you try to Google for pre 2/5/09 info none of the links work. I tried to logon to with my paid membership access information, it did not work. Someone needs their butt kicked over this!”
      One upset NHRA member bacon spammed the new site.... funny. Oh well, we can’t expect too much from NHRA. It was purchased in the 2007-2008 off-season and is now owned by investment banking marketing weenies. They know nothing about the sport and only care about how much money they can suck out of it. With the severe economic downturn seriously affecting NHRA, along with other major motor sports, the new owners aren’t looking too smart. Maybe we will get lucky and they will have to sell NHRA to somebody that cares about the sport *wishful thinking*.
      P.S. I had our IT manager, here at the Firm, analyze NHRA’s new website as to why it’s so slow, what could be done to remedy it’s technical problems, and how to address/correct the significant number of archive links that no longer work. She got me, and my right hand helper and webmaster, educated on the problems and how to address all the issues. - fla

How ex-site-ing: The new is here
NHRA Dragster Insider by Phil Burgess
February 5, 2009

      Welcome to the new! If you've been around this neck of the woods since we kicked off this whole dot-com craze back in 1995, you've lived through quite a few "new" new NHRA.coms, but this one represents one of the biggest – if not the biggest – wholesale changes to the site in its 15-year history. Developed in conjunction with our new pals at, it's quite a masterpiece and way more than just a shiny new coat of paint. With the fancy new rotating top stories, home-page video and photo galleries, and the slick race interface, it's pretty darned cool.
      I won't lie to you; it's been a massive undertaking, and one that's still under way. When you consider that has been around since Larry Dixon was a rookie driver and that all we've done in the interceding years is add to it, both in terms of content and functionality, you can understand what a deep and wide site is. Anyone who has ever tried to move after living somewhere for 15 years can appreciate the amount of stuff you accumulate throughout the years, and we're no different. We had to sort through all of the stuff, figure out what worked with the new décor, what didn't ,and what could be repurposed, then pack up all of the boxes of stuff and ship it to the new address, where it was unpacked, prettied up, and, in some cases, moved to a different room. Some of it still hasn't been unpacked, and some of it is still waiting to be moved to our new home.
      Having been point man for the initial launch, it has been my baby and my master for a long time, so it has been simultaneously thrilling and chilling to watch the newest incarnation being assembled. Web design is no longer the black art that it once was and is widely understood and practiced by many. Even the earliest teenagers get exposed to snippets of HTML code while they're endlessly rebuilding their MySpace pages (mostly to include horrible backgrounds upon which their prattlings cannot even be read), and free design templates are widely available online. All of this is fine if you're building a gallery of vacation photos or creating a small Web site, but when you're trying to tame a monster like, it's a whole 'nother Oprah.
      During the years, as we have added features to, we have sought to interweave the many pieces, much in the way that a driver's most recent news items or team reports are headlined on their driver-profile pages and how the individual team reports are linked back to the driver profiles. We also worked to compartmentalize the events by adding event-specific navigation on all of the related pages so that you could seamlessly click between the results and photo galleries. We worked hard to maintain those types of user-friendly perks, so the challenge was to find out how to do them with our new system. For the last six years, we've been using the same content-management system to post stories to the site. It started out as a pretty low-dollar program – big-time newspapers use content-management systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – that did the basics, but it has been modified internally during the years by our staff. We've made it do tricks the likes of which its original programmers never conceived, and there's pretty much nothing that we couldn’t do with it.
      The new brings with it a new content-management system and a whole new way of doing things. It's super powerful, and it's going to be fun (and a bit daunting) to uncover its subtleties and mysteries and to find new ways to do familiar things and familiar ways to do new things. For sure, things will look and act differently. You certainly have seen that on the home page already and noticed that some things (Photo of the Week, Quarter-Mile Cuisine, Special Sections, etc.) are in different places, all of which can be easily found under the Features navigation. Heck, just look at this page. It's narrower than its predecessor and has a different background color and different headline treatment. We'll also be able to embed slide shows in the stories and blogs if we choose and do all kinds of other fancy tricks, so be looking for that.
      One of the coolest things about the new site – coming soon! – is the long-awaited live-timing component. Here's a stealthily disguised preview that allows you to get the idea, but suffice it to say that you'll be able to watch the incremental numbers pop up in real time while a simulated pair of cars races underneath the info. We hope to have it fully functional before long. In addition to the usual video highlights from the national events, we'll be co-hosting Full Throttle TV, which will be mirrored on Full Throttle's site. The Full Throttle TV crew will produce interesting features that will play both at the events and online. We're really looking forward to it.
      With any project this big, there's sure to be room for improvement, and yes, even a few hiccups, despite our continual testing, known as beta testing in the computer world. Sometimes developing and beta testing complex components is a little like tuning a fuel car: You mess with the blower and get it working well, and suddenly the fuel system is out of whack. You fix the fuel system, and the clutch starts acting all possessed. I've been on beta-testing teams for a number of video games where one well-thought-out request to the developers crashed the entire game.
      I had a trio of solid NHRA citizens do a little beta testing for me late last week and early this week, each bringing his own special set of skills to the scrutiny. "Bloggin' Bob" Wilber looked at it from a team-manager aspect, making sure that the drivers looked good and that all of the fan-oriented stuff jibed. "Talented Todd" Myers, publicist for Kalitta Motorsports and an accomplished graphic artist (he designed the graphics for the most recent Web site as well as past Web sites, such as the 50th anniversary U.S. Nationals and 40th anniversary NHRA Finals), looked at it from a graphical and functional standpoint, and former webmaster Brent "FlashMaster" Friar looked at things from a coding point of view. Thanks to them for their input.
      On Tuesday night, a small team – current webmaster Jade Davidson, ND Associate Editor Candida Benson, Director of Information Technology Jared Robison, and yours truly -- pulled a Full Throttle- and pizza-fueled all-nighter double-checking links, databases, and images and updating stories with the freshest news and blogs in anticipation of today's launch.
      The plan is to just keep on truckin' from this point. I'd like to officially welcome 'Dida to the Web team. She'has administered NHRA's Jr. Drag Racing League Web site the last few years and obviously has a head for this stuff. She'll be a welcome addition to the small crew that keeps the bits and bytes flowing and take a little pressure off of me so that I can concentrate on making more memories for y'all here. Candida, me, ND Senior Editor Kevin McKenna, and ND Associate Editor Brad Littlefield will be the traveling crew this year to cover the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events, and everyone from the DRAGSTER staff will be offering their story ideas and talents to the site. So, here we are. Take some time to poke around and share your thoughts and constructive comments. We're all about making stuff better.

7 posted on 03/14/2009 4:57:14 PM PDT by flattorney (See my comprehensive FR Profile "Straight Talk" Page)
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