By David G. Firestone
Editor’s note: I’m on vacation this week, so this is just a quick post, but it is an important one.
The crisp air hangs low, as the sun slowly rises. The employees scurry about their busy affairs, some cooking, some repairing, some preparing. The fans take their seat, as they await the sound that has eluded them since late November. The National Anthem is sung, the flyover happens, and then that sound echos throughout the land in an unmistakable signal. That sound is two 10,000 horsepower engines, the location is Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the event that fans have waited so long to see is The NHRA Winternationals.
It seems like just yesterday that I was so bummed that the end of the drag racing had just happened, but here we are! Tony Schumacher, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders-Stevens, and Andrew Hines look to defend their titles. John Force Racing looks to stage a comeback after some 2014 woes had some impact on their overall performance. With new sponsors and a new manufacturer, John Force has high hopes. I also wish Don Schumacher the best of wishes, as it was recently revealed he is dealing with cancer.
The Winternationals history dates back to 1952, when a group of young drag racers, the “Choppers of Pomona” were able to convince LA county to allow a parking lot to be used as a drag strip, to avoid racing on the street and traffic fatalities. The strip itself was not ready until 1953, but that April, the first NHRA event took place, and with 15,000 attendees, it was a success. In 1961, the NHRA season was changed so that the first NHRA event took place at the place where it all began.
The first race of the season is always interesting, as while there is testing and practice over the winter, the first event of the year is the first chance the teams actually compete against each other. Obviously there is some rust, not with the cars, but with the teams. I haven’t heard any significant changes to rules this season, so that will help things.
This is one of a number of events where Pro Stock Motorcycle won’t be racing, so I’ll miss them, But Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock will run. While I will be on a train from Tuscon to Chicago, the DVR will be working, and I can’t wait!
Looking at the whole season, I’m looking forward to it. One thing I have to wonder about dates back to what happened with V Gaines at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte in September, at the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals. The track was impassable, and the event had to be canceled. This is not the first time track issues have plagued events at zMAX, it happened in 2013. Is the track ready for racing? That is the $1,000,000 question. I would hope changes of some kind have been made. I know the fans were disappointed, and the drivers were upset. We can only wait and see.