Monthly Archives: August 2010

Where are we heading?

The Question - Where are we heading?During these dog days of Summer, the mind sometimes wonders.  Whether it’s the heat, slow business due to vacation time, light spot in the racing schedule or an uneventful period in the year, I’ve found myself sputtering.  These usual excuses would work normally but sadly I think its something bigger – the economy and business or more generally, the direction our society is going, politically.

Struggling in the motorsports marketing world (with sponsorship) is typical but when the rules keep changing, it gets even tougher.  Business wants to move ahead but politics keeps throwing road blocks, so when I approach business with a partnership program – it usually ends with; sorry, we can’t right now.  Now it’s short sighted on their part but I understand the problem presented – Where are we heading?

SO, my point is the way the two worlds of business and politics could be colliding … and not in a good way.When politics & business collide

In business or politics, everyone “says the right thing” but the two worlds couldn’t be more different.  Both have fundamentals that have worked forever but that’s where these two worlds part ways.  Business is very simple; determination and drive with vision will get you to the doorstep and then it’s how the company treats it’s customers that will invariably reflect on the bottom line.  The proverb goes, “To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art.”

Politics has had for centuries, the basic ideologies of control vs freedom.  Although historically, control always leads to brutality, more often than not (sadly), most humans have had to face this tyrannical living rather than freedom.  Of course the most successful societies have been free (including here in the U.S.), but half-minded elitist, since time in memoriam, have held off free systems.  Politics has the blueprint for success with freedom but the power of control is a devious master.

So WHERE THE HECK am I heading!  Yea, well I ask myself that a lot.

Simply, politics has taken over many of businesses paths and I call it corporate communism – (a oligarchy of sorts) – businesses are run or heavily regulated by politicians – including banks, car manufacturers and mortgage businesses, to name a few.  Politicians, with Corporate Communism - Enjoytheir power, end up never trying to make the customer happy – something they could learn from business.  So business suffers.

In the end, the power to control overrides the power of success, politically.  Business is left with only a partial capitalistic system and they’re confused.  They wonder and even with people like myself, who have great motorsports marketing campaigns (IMHO), the question is still – Where are we heading?

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Is it time to bail?

Last week, we had a beautiful weekend and Sunday was particularly nice with above average temps (finally).  California hasn’t had the nicest Summer this year with too many cool windy days.

The NHRA is a drag – it’s drafty, the ships leaking and that ain’t good, either.

The TV telecast are in short, poor.  Paul Page was all but hated in the IndyCar circles, so they tossed him away over to drag racing which he has very little knowledge of, no matter his experienced background.  Mike Dunn is fine but one man doesn’t make a show.  ESPN, hasn’t done much with advancing their end of it but another problem has been too much John Force (which has blown up in everyones face) and not enough of the other hundred or so pro drivers.

I know, I’ve gone off on this before but it’s getting worse – if that’s possible.  Also, the time slots and/or lack of them has made the ability to watch a drag race, nearly impossible, especially if you want to DVR it.  How about that TAPED womens tennis match that delayed the racing by well over an hour.  You turn on your DVR ready to see how qualifying went and … WTF … Maria Sharapova?  I mean she’s a beautiful woman and all but womens tennis?!  Taped?!  Really?!

The NHRA is really to blame for all of this and it has to do with its non-competitive nature in the organization – it’s a non-profit.  Like a government, there’s little incentive WHEN compared to a for-profit business corporation.  I could go on about this end of the problem but maybe for another day.  And the contract with ESPN obviously doesn’t allow for any controls and that’s pathetic.

The point is this: Do we continue as fans to be abused by high ticket and concession prices (hello, there’s a Recession out here) or sit home and watch little league baseball, beach volleyball or soccer exhibitions?  Yea, not much of a choice.  Or is there?

Titanic sinkingEither NHRA needs to sell itself to a real business outlet or we need a new organization that offers fans value, entertainment and quality production of race viewing.  Time to sh** or get off the pot – for everyone.  The bands playing and were on the Titanic.

Do you feel a draft?


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G Force

ShuttleAtlantis-BlastOff

Shuttle Atlantis

Have you ever stopped to think that while watching a drag race, the thrill of two ear splitting, 8000 hp, nitro burning, ground pounding, fire breathing monsters, blistering down the track side by side at 330 mph in a little over 4 seconds, that there are two drivers in those cars enduring more positive and negative G-forces in that short period of time than most people will receive in a lifetime?  Astronauts (such as those on the Shuttle Atlantis) receive about 3.5 Gs on liftoff, while a Top Fuel dragster driver will experience approximately 5.3 Gs on launch and on occasion, higher than that in negative Gs on deceleration!

What are G forces?  The gravitational force – or G-force – on an object, is its acceleration relative to free-fall.  Accelerations not produced by gravity are termed “proper accelerations”.  In the case of our Top Fuel Funny Cars and Dragsters, at launch, the driver actually experiences both positive and negative forces however due to acceleration the positive forces from the front are overcoming artificial gravitational forces at his back more than 5.3 times.  Instantly, upon deceleration, the opposite occurs.  Due to the negative reaction of the parachute braking system, or any violent deceleration, forces from the back overcome forces from the front and because the driver is steadfastly anchored to the car, sometimes the number of negative Gs experienced on deceleration can be higher than positive numbers at the launch.

Just one example of many, on how G forces can affect a driver:  Legendary champion drag racer Don Garlits, after a long career of driving Top Fuelers, experienced brief sessions of wooziness at the end of runs and eventually developed detached retinas in both eyes due to continuous, extreme, positive and negative G forces.  This ended the active participation portion of his career.

Today’s drivers don’t just “Stab and Steer”.  By necessity, the professional ranks of drag racing drivers are some of the best athletes in the world.

Thanks, See ya’ at the races

Ronnie Hier

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Which decade best illustrates Nostalgia Drag Racing?

This poll slipped through a blackhole and never showed up so here it is again:

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Going off road

“A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.”

Usually I’m discussing something to do with drag racing and most of the time it’s Nostalgia drag racing but a recent story of another motorsport caught my attention – Off-road racing.  The event in question here has received more press than anyone could have imagined, especially for a small organization like MDR Productions, who put on the race.  But that attention and notoriety isn’t the kind this racing series needed.

If you didn’t hear, the race was in the Mojave Desert near the quiet little town of Lucerne Valley in Southern California.  It was a relatively short race and was run at night, which is somewhat unusual.  During the race, one of the trucks went out of control (they are almost out of control all the time) and flipped, crashing into a crowd and killing eight people.  This was a tragic incident that screams simply: What The Hell!

Now I have to say, nobody should be endangered to the point of dying when watching a race. Note, the Bureau Of Land Management oversees all these races. Interestingly, as a side note, when we go to the track, we sign a waver (everyone who’s a race team member) stating we relinquished any rights due to the inherent danger associated with being near or around the racecars and drag strip.   With that said, I have a different take.

This will be short: If you go out into the desert, at night, with race cars bouncing around everywhere and you stand right next to the track (it’s just a dirt trail really), so close you could jump out and touch the vehicles as they race by, do you suppose there might be a danger and risk?  Speaking of jumping out, some of these fans actually do just that, getting their thrill by reaching out to touch the trucks et al that are streaking by.  Now with a modicum of common sense, with race vehicles going over 100 mph, don’t you think you should stay back at least 100 feet and not near a turn (which are stated rules for the spectators)?

If you broke the rules, should you be able to sue this organization, sponsors, the BLM or anyone else?  Are you responsible for any risk?  Are you responsible period?

I feel sorry for everyone including the driver who was incredibly distraught afterwards.  Get this.  The crazy people who were too close to the racing and DIDN’T get hit by the truck, THREW rocks at the driver right after the crash!  Idiots!

There are no winners in this (except lawyers) and I suppose it could be the beginning of the end of desert off-road racing – and it shouldn’t be.

“But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

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When, where and why the “Christmas Tree” was invented

Christmas Tree

Wouldn't those candles burn the tree down?

Aahhh … The beauty of the Christmas Tree.

Is Christmas coming early?  Well it’s nice to hear BP’s Gulf oil spill may finally be stopped.  It also looks like the electronics war has brought us the ability to get reading material (ie Kindle) so much easier, faster and cheaper.  And finally how about this.  Did you know the Leaning Tower of Pisa has stopped leaning?!  So where’s the Christmas Tree in all this?  Well, I’m not going to talk about how the Germans started the Christmas Tree or Martin Luther.

No, the Christmas Tree we’re talking about is Drag Racing’s Christmas Tree.

Did you know the “Christmas Tree” starting device for drag racing was invented by W.H. David of Lafayette, Louisiana in the late 1950s?  Mr. David was only 15 at the time and became actively involved as a starter in the Louisiana area.  Due to the fact that back then, there were not enough cars to fill each class, associations such as the NHRA developed bracket racing, where the slower car leaves ahead of the other.  This involved having the starter stand down track ahead of the slower car, as at that time, they placed the slower car a few car lengths down track depending on elapsed time, a dangerous situation to say the least.

Starting with a traffic signal, being both inventive and analytical, he invented the starting device that evolved into the “Tree” as we know it today.  It included an electronic delay mechanism for either lane, thus allowing both cars to line up evenly and also put the flagman in a much safer position.  The device is called a Christmas tree because for his prototypes, he used small, colored glass Christmas tree lights.  Shortly thereafter, he sold the rights to the invention to the Chrondek Corp. who then mass-produced the product.

So there you have it.  It’s part of the beauty of drag racing and the next time someone asks about a Christmas Tree, you have the when, where and why.

See ya’ at the races.

Ronnie Hier


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Look what we have to show for it.

The birthplace of drag racing?

Goleta – 1949

It’s never argued as to where the roots of drag racing started.  It was at the salt flats of Southern California’s deserts – dry lakes racing. After World War II, young men took to the dry lakes, to get their thrills,  which transferred over to the streets and then voila, drag racing.  It was a sight.  Dad always tells about how you could race essentially year round and there were so many tracks, nobody would go wanting – and never leave Southern California.  So it was.

The 50’s and 60’s were the heyday of drag racing especially in California, but even through much of the 70’s, I remember hearing Sunday, Sunday, Sunday for much of the year.  Even though interest was still high and weather was always good, tracks like Lions, Orange County & Irwindale all went by the wayside.  We had Pomona, but limits established by local cities, would keep racing to a bare minimum at the fair grounds.  Urbanization of the Greater L.A. area would strangle any other racing.  Heck, the last bastion of regular quarter-mile racing was in the desert (Palmdale), which was no one’s favorite with wind, dust and extreme temperatures – and we’d take it, but it too was eventually consumed by sprawl.

One day, you looked around for a 1/4 mile drag strip and there wasn’t any.  It’s as if some director came along and decided to write out a part of history (can you say Oliver Stone?)  Yes, there’s Fontana, but most will admit that it’s not a high speed or nitro track – sportsman only.  So the birthplace of drag racing has nothing to show for itself.  Famoso (in Central California), which is over 2 hours north of L.A., is the closet thing anyone has to a regular 1/4 mile track.  OK, some of you might say: Hey what about the new Irwindale?  What about it?  It’s 1/8 mile, end of story.

I mean, it’s getting a little scary to think if Famoso should ever go, God forbid, there wouldn’t be a drag strip within 6 hours of Los Angeles (in another state!).  Geez, we’ll all have to take up reading Kindle’s?!  I’m not sure there’s any answer although with a Recession, that doesn’t look like it’s letting up anytime soon, what a great time to push a city into putting up a drag strip in a empty paved parking lot (apologies to Joni).  Anyway, I guess we need a great promoter – where are you Mickey Thompson?

Is it football without Green Bay?  Or baseball without New York?  Or is it stock racing without the South?  Considering nearly 1 in 5 people are drag racing fans, there are millions of Southern Californians generally without drag racing.  A void needs to be filled.  It’s time to get Californians back to our rightful place in history – this needs to be preserved.

Now there’s a guy in North Carolina …

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Lions Drag Strip – Lost

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