ENJOY THE RIDE
A couple of things about changes and no, I’m not talking about the many changes I’ve had in my life this year, one of which is coming along nicely, feeling better every day, thank God. However, the change I’d like to address are some of the changes in our sport I’ve witnessed; more specifically today on how bracket racing has changed.
Oh, it’s still the same ol’ put a dial on your car and receive or have to give up a handicap to your opponent. In basic terms, that hasn’t changed. But it may just be how it’s all come about.
When I began racing in the ‘70s, I seriously wanted to run a Super Stock car. I ordered all the right engine pieces and began to put together the engine. While doing so, one of the first mentors I’ve had in racing, Rich Halverson, invited me to drive his Chevelle station wagon bracket car. Unbeknownst to me at the time though was that the body of the car was paid for by my not yet future wife Dottie, which is about the time we met.
After a couple of wins with that car in bracket competition, I was hooked and shelved the idea for a Super Stock engine. Bracket racing was fun and required little in the way of finances. Oh, has that ever changed! But it really doesn’t have to.
Naturally, everything in life has gotten more expensive; gas, bills, cars, etc. However, it doesn’t seem as if our incomes have grown along with those expenses. That imbalance is partly to blame for a lot of things. And maybe even growing up as had an effect. But let’s get back to drag racing. And is the age of the computer to blame?
When I started, time slips were mostly hand written pieces of paper that timed your car to a hundred-of-a-second. Maybe they recorded beyond that but you rarely knew if you lost by a thousandth or two. If you ran a slew of 10.23s, you were a happy camper. Today, a 10.231 versus a 10.239 has you scrambling for a problem. Likewise, we didn’t really understand a hole shot win, but we took them nonetheless.
It always intrigues me that we can measure our cars to ten-thousandths-of-a-second when the simple blink of an eye takes as long as approximately two-tenths of a second. Think about that when you look at your next time slip and see that you took .005 at the finish line for the win. One year at Indy on the Super Comp 8.90 index, I had a perfect .000 reaction time, running an 8.913 on the 8.90 index. My opponent? He had a .013 reaction time running a perfect 8.900 on the index. When you factored in the fourth digit beyond the decimal; which typically racers don’t see; I got the win light by .0001! Are you kidding me? Naturally I’ll take the win but just amazed we can measure something that precise. Or can we? (Loaded question.)
We’ve also seen a great increase in prize money paid out at some of these races. Sometimes it seems as if promoters are playing the “see if you can top this” game. Of course, that’s great for the competitors but does the influx of money tend to change the attitude of the racers.
One unnamed track owner suggested to me he didn’t feel as racers were having as much fun as they used to. I don’t know that I truly agree with that but it does bring up a point. Having fun racing can sometimes be lost when a lot of money is put out on the table.So what’s the real point of this rambling? I don’t really know, other than to point out how some things have changed in our world. But the one thing which shouldn’t is our ability to “enjoy the ride.”