The four-wide NHRA race in Concord, N.C., created so much excitement. It was a lot of fun – it was a challenge for the drivers, and it was something we've never done in our careers.
When I say we, there's some drivers who have been racing as long as I've been alive who have never done anything like that. I hear stories of way back in the day before I was born, that a lot of tracks had four-, five-, six,- seven-, even eight-wide races when drag racing first started.
I think not only did Bruton Smith demonstrate great marketing skills and forethought in building the track to run four-wide, but I think racing four-wide is going to make a great, exciting All-Star race of some type. I don't think it's a race we probably should run at a points event or or during the Countdown to 1 playoffs. One four-wide race isn't conducive to helping decide a championship.
All in all, it was a great time and the most important part was being able to do a burnout, back up, and look up at the grandstands and see how packed they were. That was very rewarding.
At the same time, I'm glad that it's over because it sure created a lot of challenges for the drivers. I saw a lot of drivers walking around in circles trying to figure out the Christmas Tree, the extra blue lights that were on top for the other lanes, and just a lot of things that threw a lot of drivers for a loop. But, now, looking down the road at other races coming up, it'll be back to normal racing.
I have to touch on the amount of talk I hear about getting back to quarter-mile racing. I know the NHRA has said that they're working on an engine combination that will slow the cars down so that we can go back to quarter-mile racing.
I want to remind all the people who are adamant about having quarter-mile racing, there's a few things you need to know. First of all, I'm not so sure that it's a great idea that we slow the cars down and go back to the quarter-mile, because I don't think the excitement that you'll see from cars running 4.8-4.9 seconds in the quarter-mile (1,320ft) will equal the power and the good racing that we're seeing right now racing to 1,000ft.
Racing to 1,000ft, the fans are seeing the closest racing they've seen in years and the best side-by-side competition. It's also created quite a bit more excitement for the drivers, because the reaction time has become more important than ever.
You don't have the time or the real estate to run a big speed and make up the difference in reaction time to reel in your opponent and pass him in the last 300 feet. So, the shortened track has created more importance on the driver doing his job on the starting line. I really think the close racing is what's best.
Looking at the big picture, the most important thing is safety. You have to remember that, yeah, we're going faster. We hear people talking about us going over 315mph now at 1,000ft, but we also have up to 320ft of shutdown we didn't have before.
And, to hear Houston Raceway Park come out with an announcement that their fans want drag racing back to a quarter-mile at their track was a little disturbing to me, personally. I can understand a track as nice as a Bruton Smith track, whether it's Concord, Sonoma, Vegas, Bristol, and even some of the other NHRA tracks, coming out with a statement like that. But Houston is a track that hasn't prepared its surface well enough so that it still creates problems. It's been a one-lane racetrack for the last few years. Yet, they were able to build new hospitality areas and other amenities. On top of that, this is a track where we still have to endure mud in the pit area if it rains. If there's any rain, teams can't pull the trailer and cars out of the pit area.
More than anything else, it's not the drivers who are complaining that the quarter-mile is too fast. We're racecar drivers. It's a double-edged sword for us. This is the reason I drive a nitro Funny Car. I want to go as fast as I can possibly go. These are the best cars to be able to show the talent of a crew chief to be able to catapult the car to over 300mph in four seconds.
Most drag strips were built several decades ago, if not more, and the shutdown areas can be a problem. When these tracks were built, there was not sufficient land to add space.
These tracks were built when racecars were going 280, 290mph and the shutdowns were built for cars going 280, 290mph. Now that we're going over 315mph at 1000ft, and over 330 in a quarter-mile, you just can't expect these cars to slow down as fast as in the past. So, it's not the speed the drivers have been worrying about, it's the ability to slow down the cars.
Instead of these tracks complaining about getting back to the quarter-mile, they need to work on the track surface and make it the best track they can make it for 1,000ft racing, in my opinion.Ron