Monthly Archives: February 2013

Nostalgia Funny Car Team Goes All The Way

Don Schumacher Racing’s Top Fuel champion tuners Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald are going to help on a Funny Car from Ohio at the 55th March Meet in Famoso.  Jeez!

Isn’t that a bit of overkill?  I guess Corradi has helped Wayne Mellinger of Wayne Mellinger Racing on his Nostalgia Funny Car Corvette in the past.   Mellinger is out of North Ridgeville, which is a suburb southwest of Cleveland.  That happens to be the same area Corradi is from.

Since Mark Oswald is a Californian and the March Meet marks an off weekend prior to the Gatornationals, the two super-tuners have time to be in Bakersfield and work on a Nostalgia car.  Of course, working on a Nostalgia Funy Car is not anywhere near the pressure of a pro Funny Car where NHRA has nitro teams now having to execute 50 minute turnover times per round (see related articles).

So the guys that usually tune world champ Antron Brown will be at Famoso Raceway, taking in the fun that is the March Meet.   The March Meet is the largest Nostalgia drag race in the world along with being one of the most famous.  It all starts in 10 days.

But using arguably the best tuners in the world for your Nostalgia Funny Car?!

Daryle W. Hier

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No More Hurry Up And Wait For NHRA Nitro Teams

ESPN announcers: Dave Rieff and Mike Dunn

The old saying in drag racing about hurrying up and then waiting is as old an adage as their is in our sport.  But like high-button shoes, it’s a thing of the past.  With that, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is marching head-first into making sure their programs move fast enough for television.  What is it their doing?  How about 50 minute turn-arounds during eliminations.  Yes, you read that right – the NHRA wants Top Fuel and Funny Car teams to make 50 minute turn-arounds from the time they run one round to the time they run the next round.  And we thought 90 minutes was tough.

TV

The reason is clear: The NHRA will be offering live shows on ESPN starting with the Spring Nationals event in Houston in late April.  The NHRA wants the nitro teams to be ready for 50 minute turn-around times to accommodate live television.  Just a quick note: When we say live, it still may or may not be taped … but, hey, the show was live when they taped it!

I’m okay with live event broadcasting because those in the know have said for years that if drag racing wanted to move into the big leagues, it had to be live.  Also, television does better ratings-wise with live events over taped.  And that goes for advertisers too.  A smart, successful and very informed man of marketing once told me that drag racing would never make it as a major sport if it didn’t figure out how to have live broadcasts with a quicker pace.

Pressure

But – and you knew there had to be a but – pushing teams to do a 50 minute turn-around may backfire.  The 90 minute turn-around really has become a 75 minute over the last few years and then when things go awry recently, the NHRA has reduced it to 60 minutes.  However, pressuring the pit crews to do more in less time doesn’t sound like a good thing.  I’ve never had to be a part of such quick work in the pits but having been associated with and having done tear downs to get a car ready is nerve-racking and hard to do the same day and get a car back out for another round, without demanding it be done CORRECTLY, and not blow something else up.  It goes without saying that when the anxiety rate goes up, so do mistakes.

Again, I’m sure everyone is in agreement that we need live racing and if shorter turn-arounds is the answer then, that’s what must be done.  Personally, I haven’t heard how they’re going to handle the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle but those teams don’t need as much time as the nitro teams do because and let’s face it, they don’t have nearly as much to do as nitro crews do.  Plus, most eyeballs are concerned and interested in nitro more than the Pro Stock classes anyway.  In other words, like it or not it’s tough sh** if you’re not nitro.

Yes, the NHRA has dabbled in live event coverage before but these broadcasts are going to become the norm – even if they aren’t all “live” – plus, it makes it easier for television because they don’t have to sit and wait to put a show together.  How this works with the smaller teams also concerns me as I’m guessing the big-time teams will just have everything set, no matter how many engine assemblies need to be complete and ready to go.  Time will tell, but ready or not … drag racing is going live.

Daryle W. Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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What Do Kate Upton And Winternationals Have In Common?

They disguise the winter.

Nearly always starting in the middle of winter, the Winternationals brings us the biggest, baddest, most outrageously striking works of beauty this side of Kate Upton – who is fortunately for us, gracing the front cover of Sports Illustrated in their annual swimsuit issue for 2013 – by the way, you can go here to get your own.

Sports Illustrated 2013 Swimsuit Issue Cover - Kate Upton

Sports Illustrated 2013 Swimsuit Issue Cover
Kate Upton

It’s also a great time of year when we know the sounds of motorsports and in particular drag racing, essentially will lead us out of winter and into the spring and racing to our hearts content.

Pomona can be a striking place this time of year with the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains in the background even if the weather isn’t always cooperating.  But luckily in 2013, with warmth being in abundance – thank God for global warming –  the weather of the Winternationals will be comfortably warm.  High temperatures will be in the mid-70s and except for a little wind Friday and a few clouds on Saturday, the meteorologist say it will be mostly clear spring-like weather with lows in the 40s.

See, whereas the lovely Miss Upton warms the cockles of your heart, so does drag racing.  And so will the Southern California weather where once again, it will remind the 20 million people who live there, why they endure the concrete jungle that is traffic, smog in a big nasty city.

It’s Winternationals time with racing beginning Thursday February 14th.  Hey, speaking of hearts and the 14th, that’s Valentine’s Day!  It’s like everything ties together in a symbiotic benefit to all.  Ahhh … I’m warming up already.

Winternationals - Pomona

Winternationals – Pomona

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From Hawaii To The Top

Obviously were not talking about the President but more importantly, who we are talking about is Todd Okuhara.  Last week, Don Schumacher of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) promoted Okuhara to Director of Racing at DSR.  Okuhara will essentially be overseeing the entire DSR operation. (Source – NHRA)

Todd Okuhara finished with final adjustments a...

Todd Okuhara finished with final adjustments and releasing the FRAM Top Fuel dragster to driver Spencer Massey (Photo credit: holdit.)

Okuhara had been the crew chief along with Phil Shuler on DSR’s Top Fuel team with Spencer Massey driving.  Shuler will take over as the sole crew chief on the Top Fueler and note that Massey was surprisingly reinstated as the driver after being fired following the 2012 season.

44 year old Okuhara’s rise to the top of drag racing’s largest organization starts all the way back in Waikiki where Okuhara started working in his father’s machine shop and drag racing at Hawaii Raceway Park (which closed in 2006).  At the age of 24, he moved to Southern California.  2013 will be Okuhara’s 20th season in professional drag racing.

Before joining DSR back in ’06, Okuhara worked for Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme and was part of two world championship there with Larry Dixon driving.

Overseeing an operation that just finished the 2012 season with both the Top and Funny Car champions will be a daunting task.  But having successfully worked at every level in drag racing gives Okuhara just what Don Schumacher needs.  Said Schumacher,

“This is the next evolution for DSR and Todd is the man for the job.  For being a young man, Todd has considerable experience with Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters.  This new position will provide much more consistency within our organization, it will enable us to share even more data among our teams, and better communicate to our exceptionally talented craftsmen in our fab and machine shops what our teams need to continue improving safety and performance.”

Roland Leong's Hawaiian

Roland Leong’s Hawaiian

High praise for a guy from Hawaii who paradoxically started his professional career working on the Hawaiian Funny Car and under the tutelage of legendary crew chief Roland Leong – a fellow Hawaiian.  On the other hand, maybe the praise is just and Okuhara is the man for the job, especially when you consider he was the tuner on Jack Beckman’s world record 333.66 mph run for a quarter-mile – a record that may never be matched since NHRA doesn’t run quarter-mile anymore.

For Okuhara, this top job is definitely a position to be relished and a reward for knowledge and hard work.  Congratulations are in order and as they say in Hawaii: Dat be dakine.

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Teenager Goes From Sand To Nitro

Coming out of north Orange County and the sand drag ranks to Top Alcohol in the NHRA is a new driver this 2013 season.  Her name is Ashley Sanford, she just turned 19 and will pilot an A-Fueler in the Top Alcohol class.  Sanford3.jpg

She resides in Fullerton, California, and last year, Ashley drove in sand drags in Top Alcohol and has a decade of experience in the sand.  She will debut on concrete with the A-Fueler at the Winternationals February 14-17 at Pomona.  Other than the surface, the other changes for her will be the fact she will be driving a unblown nitro dragster compared to her blown alcohol sand dragster.  She is acquiring her license this week in Las Vegas.

The operation will be a family affair and the team will have sponsorship help.  Gelish Soak-Off Gel Polish will be her primary marketing partner – the Gelish product is a hardy nail polish.  They will also continue to have Lucas Oil as an associate sponsor.  Other supporters include Roscoe’s Famous Deli, Heroes Bar & Grill, The D Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, and the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.

Her ultimate aspirations are to drive the fastest cars in the world: Top Fuel.  She likes boating and wakeboarding, plus loves dogs.  If you want to follow her, you can go to social medias like Twitter and Facebook.  She seems to have drive, determination and oh yes, looks, to become a success in drag racing.

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America’s Youngest Female Billionaire

Yes, this is drag racing oriented

So I’m scanning the business news pages online to do some research on marketing when I see a headline titled: “Youngest American Woman Billionaire Found With In-N-Out“.  Huh?!

Now what’s more surprising to me than anything else is the billionaire part.  I realized long ago who was in charge or heir apparent at In-N-Out Burger and that she was to be heading the company sooner or later.  Oh, and she liked drag racing.  What I didn’t know was how much money the company – or in this case Mrs. Lynsi Torres – was worth.  To be clear, the 30 year old Lynsi Torres, who was formerly Lynsi Martinez, Lynsi Jeremiah and Lynsi Snyder, is the sole heir to the In-N-Out Burger business fortune that is currently worth more than $1.1 billion.

Background

If you don’t know about In-N-Out Burger, it’s a chain of fast food restaurants that was established in the Los Angeles area originally and then a Southern California staple for years.  The company had or has a cult following.  They finally started growing the business outside of California but is still mainly in the West.  Their menu is simple and originally they were drive thru only businesses.  You can go here, for more info on In-N-Out.

But back to the billionaire status.  What I didn’t realize or think clearly on was the fact I mentioned earlier in that there are no heirs to the business.  She was the sole grand child to the original owners of the business.

Her uncle Rich Snyder, did a good job of building the business back in the ’80s but he died in a plane accident.  Lynsi’s father Guy took over and continued the company’s slow but steady growth until he died of an overdose 14 years ago.  Esther, the grandmother of Lynsi’s, had the reigns until her death seven years ago.  There is a current president of the company but over time, Lynsi will take control by the time she is 35.Lynsi Torres

Drag racing mother of two 

Lynsi has two children from her second marriage but has since divorced from Mr. Martinez and is now married to a Mr. Torres, who by the way, is a fellow drag racer himself.  As I mentioned before, Lynsi drives a Top Sportsman ’70 Barracuda along with a Super Gas Camaro (that’s her with the Wally).  She’s been going to the races since she was two because as many know, In-N-Out has been a big supporter of NHRA drags going back to the ’80s.

I was a big fan of the company and Mark Oswald during the early ’90s when he drove the In-N-Out Funny Car.  I always remembered that and then attacked In-N-Out Burgers like a bulldog, trying to clue them in on the advantages of Nostalgia drag racing; that coupled with my fathers general knowledge of local drag racing  has kept us informed on who this newest billionaire is.  I’m just befuddled that the little burger joint is now worth more than a billion dollars.

Mark Oswald - In-N-Out Funny Car

Mark Oswald – In-N-Out Funny Car

Now she loves drag racing, shies from the spotlight and isn’t prone to being part of the normal scheme of things – I should be able to show her the natural advantages of a Nostalgia drag racing sponsorship.  Hmmm …

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IHRA No Longer Owned By Clowns

The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) was owned by Feld Entertainment who also owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  However last week, the track owners of Palm Beach and Memphis have purchased the racing organization (source – IHRA).

The IHRA, which is the second largest sanctioning body in drag racing, is now owned by a newly formed company called IHRA Entertainment, LLC and will operate as IHRA Motorsports.  The Nitro Jam and Thunder Jam series’ are included in the purchase and the new ownership has no wants to change the series as it stands.  The new addition of Top Fuelers will not change.

Feld Entertainment also owns the Monster Truck series and Nuclear Cowboyz (freestyle motocross), and will concentrate more on those particular racing organizations.  There had been grumbling in the past regarding how Feld ran the IHRA as a circus – which yours truly certainly complained as well.

The new management group will be headed by Jason Rittenberry as the CEO, while current President and General Manager Aaron Polburn will remain as well as Skooter Peaco who will continue as the head of race operations.  The IHRA will maintain their headquarters in Norwalk, Ohio.

The ownership groups’ partners include Michael Dezer who is a large property owner in Florida, Joseph Lubeck who is a Chairman for a large apartment REIT, Edward Kobel who heads a large real estate development company and the already mentioned Mr. Rittenberry.

The IHRA sanctions more than 100 tracks and it’s thought the new organization will likely add events to the current schedule including the Palm Beach facility.

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