Does every round count?
The NHRA likes to say that every round counts but I would ask: Does anyone hear or see a round if it falls in the forest? I hate to write these rants (see related articles), but since no one else seems to have the cojones to say what needs to be said about the NHRA, here I am again, delivering another quasi tirade about the TV coverage or lack thereof. Kind of like ‘The Emperors New Clothes’ anecdote (go here for a refresher). And remember the context for all of this is that the Countdown or playoffs are starting for NHRA drag racing in Charlotte this past week.
“Here’s what the viewers at home can expect when they tune-in this weekend.”
How the NHRA had the nerve to put out a press release noting the “expanded coverage” for this past weekend Carolina Nationals television broadcast is, well, quite appalling. What was to be expected? Here’s what actually happened. IF, and I state ‘if’ because not everyone gets ESPN News – I mean, why would you since that is what ESPN and ESPN2 are in part, news outlets – IF you are lucky enough to have ESPN News, then you could watch the so-called expanded coverage of qualifying with 90 minutes at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday night into Sunday morning. Additionally, there was another 90 minutes of qualifying at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning on ESPN2. $%&#!
Problem is ESPN News is a premium channel which is usually only available with special packages. If you’re someone with basic channels or without the special package, you probably don’t receive ESPN News and therefore could not have seen the expanded coverage. However, you still had to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to watch the 90 minutes – how wonderful.
ESPN2 thought a rerun – yes, a rerun – of baseball highlights should preempt nearly a third of the NHRA qualifying, so you were only able to watch just over an hour of qualifying. Think about it. Four rounds of Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying condensed into an hour. Yeah, it doesn’t work.
Nevertheless, Sunday’s a new day and we will be able to watch eliminations in “prime time” at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN2 even though that isn’t the normal time slot. Still, the round-by-round coverage starts nearly on time and a great first round of eliminations take place with several upsets, especially in Top Fuel.
Second round begins with Top Fuel and a pair goes down the track with more on the way after this break. We’re back with, uh, oops … what the … ? You know, those Pro Stockers look a lot like NASCAR Cup cars. Wait a minute. Oh sorry, but NASCAR has moved their coverage over from ESPN to ESPN2 (due to rain delay) and drag racing is nowhere to be seen – unless you have ESPN News where they’ve switched the broadcast over to. $%&#!
I’ve said this before but being a fan of drag racing and dealing with the NHRA/ESPN is like Charlie Brown dealing with Lucy. Lucy has that football ready for Charlie Brown to kick but every time Charlie finally agrees to run up to kick it, Lucy pulls the football and flat on his back he goes, once again being fooled by Lucy.
There’s no spoiler alert here because you can’t view a replay of coverage anywhere that I know of and no one would have known where to tape the broadcast on a DVR. The winners were Morgan Lucas in Top Fuel, Robert Hight in Funny Car, Jeg Coughlin in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle (source: Charlotte Observer).
So unless you’re lucky enough to afford traveling to the races during the Countdown, it appears watching NHRA’s playoffs may be as hard as sighting Big Foot. Whether the expanded lack of coverage continues remains to be seen but certainly the drag racing world for fans is a tough one to live in.
Here’s hoping ESPN and the NHRA can offer just regular old coverage like during the season. But somehow I doubt that what with football, NASCAR, baseball and pygmy preseason ping-ball shoving drag racing’s playoffs to some distant cable outlet to be shown in the early morning hours.
Daryle W. Hier