Times Are Changing…And so is the competition
This week’s guest not only comes from a renowned East Coast racing family, she then decided to marry into an equally illustrious family. This week we are proud to present none other than Jeanne Linke Northrop. When she is not at the track racing one of her vehicles or cheering on her husband and the rest of the Linke/Northrop fleet, she is behind the scenes working on marketing strategies for other racers and event organizers to acquire sponsorships as the owner of JLP Race Promotions.
A topic that is coming up more and more: the young guns versus the has beens. We’ve heard debates about this during Podcasts. We witnessed an organized race that featured the best of the best from different generations. But wait…when did I suddenly become a has been? Where did these has beens learn to race? And who did they look up to? And are these young guns crediting the has beens as racers they now look up to?
I have a huge appreciation for the sport of drag racing and how far things have evolved. My father-in-law sits at the dinner table on Monday nights and talks about what it was like dropping off chicks at home and street racing late at night. And then for safer measures, flat towing cars to various racetracks that don’t even exist anymore. I once had the privilege of scraping rubber off the underside of Crazy Jake Crimmins Funny Car body. He shared stories about what it was like touring with Jungle Jim. Stories like Pop’s and Crazy Jake’s are particularly interesting to me, mainly because things seemed so different but so similar “back in the day.”
It’s time to accept that trends in drag racing are once again changing. Big dollar bracket races are becoming the norm, and instead of watching Top Fuel on a Saturday night avid fans want to know what is going on in the garages of Jeff Lutz, Kye Kelley and JJ Da Boss. DragChamp’s Top 10 list is filled with names younger than some of the contingency decals on the family Mega Vega. Eight-year-old kids are whomping 5 or 6 times in their junior dragsters up top end. Side note: All I learned to do in a junior dragster was hit the tree and not barrel roll my car making the turn off the track. Okay, now I’m sounding antique. “Back in my day…”
Point of mentioning this is that drag racing has come so far, between technology and the opportunities available. And while I don’t disagree with Luke Bogacki’s comments about the lack of turnover from Junior Dragsters to “big cars,” the next generation of racers, aka young guns, who are popping up in the National Dragster’s “Who to Watch” are fierce competitors with a ton more experience than previous generations. And in just a few short years they’ll find themselves in my shoes, also feeling like a has been.
This past year I helped a younger family of racers develop a marketing plan, sponsorship proposal and organize a big dollar footbrake race. When I was first approached and explained my relationship to racing, one brother said to me, “Who is Dan [Northrop]?” Guess what, Dan? Your legacy is over. I didn’t bother asking if he had ever heard of Scotty Richardson, the Emmons Brothers or Dan Fletcher.
I’ve been competing more recently at big dollar bracket races, racing against a different and much younger crowd [in comparison to NHRA Stock Eliminator]. Again, times are changing, and this type of racing seems to be “where it’s at these days.” After I beat young gun Matt Ricchezza, someone you are likely to pair up against in late rounds, he gave me a high five and said, “Not bad for an old lady.” Thanks, Matt.
Brandon Michaels, another foot braking machine on the East Coast, complimented me earlier this season after we battled against each other 3 different times at one race. “Your family members are pretty much legends in this sport,” he said. While this was totally meant to be nothing more than a compliment, the word legend popped up and makes me realize that he perceives my name in racing the way I perceived my competitors names 15 years ago. I have to wonder if the guys and girls I grew up watching race have felt the same way watching me evolve? What does Mr. Warren think? Could you ever imagine telling Jim Harrington he is on the has been list?
Obviously, I write this article based on the perspective of a 36-year-old from the East Coast, and someone who grew up in the NHRA sportsman scene. There is plenty of talent, past and present, to recognize across the country, or world, honestly. Think about the roots of Drag Racing versus where it is now. PDRA, ADRL, NSRA, IHRA, NHRA, Imports…the list can go on and on, but you get the point. So while I shout out some names that stick out in my own mind, your list is likely to be much different. The moral/point of this story is that there are SO many somebodies in the history of Drag Racing, and I think we all have someone on our mind, as we read this article, that may be a has been to you but played a significant role in your own racing. Dot can probably dig through Johnny D’s photo albums (lord only knows how many there are) and find photos of everyone you and I could list if we sat around bench racing.
I look forward to seeing this article publish online, mainly because I’m excited to share this across social media and ask people their thoughts. If you are a young gun, who motivates you to be the best racer you can be? And, who do you consider to be a has been? And even if you are on this has been list, who from a previous generation taught you everything you know?
Let’s hear it…Tyler Bohannon, Nick Hastings, Johnny Ezell, Matt Dadas, Rylee Speer, Kyle Bigley and Lucas Walker, who motivates you? I’d ask has been Anthony Bertozzi to chime in after his recent accomplishments, but Big Chief already told me he taught you everything you know.