NHRA Summit E.T. Series Bracket Drags/Sonoma, California -- Sandy Christianson, SMM Feature Contributor 
Thursday, December 3, 2009, 12:27 AM
Posted by Administrator
The post-Thanksgiving “Gobble Fest” at Infineon Raceway pitted some of Northern California’s premier bracket racers under clear skies and mid 70’s temperatures to the delight of those in attendance. It was a “run what ya brung” event with all the drama, action and competition one comes to expect from the guys and gals of NHRA’s Division 7. There were a few surprises when the final rounds were run but there was no question that the winners had to earn their way to the top … the hard way.

A month ago, the Division 7 Infineon Raceway NorCal contingent captured its second team championship in as many years at the Summit Racing Series Pacific Division Finals held on October 2-4, 2009, at Firebird International Raceway Park in Chandler, Arizona.

The NHRA Summit Racing Series features a bracket racing format that allows drivers in many types of vehicles, including dragsters, roadsters, sedans and coupes, to compete on an equal basis against each other. In addition to three categories of cars, a motorcycle category is also featured.

NHRA Summit Racing Series participants compete for points and cash awards at a number of qualifying events at 140 NHRA member tracks throughout North America. Drivers who earn the most points are eligible to compete for individual and team honors at the Summit Racing Finals in each of NHRA’s seven national divisions which includes a purse of $5000, a national championship trophy and bragging rights for the year.









Motorcycle crash sequence photography by Randy Jones, SMM Staff Photographer
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Photos by J. R. Andres/Deborah Hepper

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France’s Fall from A-List Status -- by J. R. Andres 
Sunday, October 11, 2009, 02:02 PM
Posted by Administrator
It couldn’t have come at a worse time. The integrity of NASCAR’s infrastructure had already been brought into question with the Mayfield mess that still hasn’t been resolved and now this involving one of their own. On the surface, it appears to be one more example of privileged excess gone bad, someone with too much money and too much time on their hands to follow the path of the Plebeians who have to play by the rules the Patricians have made for them.

It was reported in a police report that J. C. France, grandson of NASCAR’s founding father Bill France Sr., was arrested early Thursday morning for an alleged street race in Daytona Beach, Florida. Before he was released on a $4,500 bail, France was charged with DUI and possession of cocaine. His roommate and relative, Russ Van Richmond, the alleged driver of the other car involved, was also charged with DUI, possession of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance. It was said to be Lambo vs. Porsche … France vs. Van Richmond … but both were losers and I count myself and the rest of the NASCAR and the Grand-Am Series community as losers, too, if what was alleged turns out to be true.

It’s premature to condemn either individual at this point because the verdict hasn’t been reached but on the surface it looks pretty bad for an organization that prides itself upon squeaky clean images. There’s a mantra of leading, governing and living by example and everyone is expected to walk the line -- the drivers, the officials, the management staff and by way of extension, the family. Reputations that have taken years to establish can be destroyed in the blink of an eye and the damage rendered injures every one of us a little bit each and every time it happens because it matters to those involved in racing.

For those who are clueless, it's time they were given the big picture, the same one the rest of us have already seen.
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NASCAR TV Ratings Slip, Sliding Away -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 01:00 AM
Posted by Administrator
It depends on who you speak to and the demographics you’re referring to but one thing is certain, NASCAR TV ratings are down this year. After a considerable period of growth it appears that stock car racing viewership is dwindling. Some cite the recession or the COT cars or the NFL or the CHASE format or the start times or the broadcasters. Whatever the reason, the networks and the sponsors are fidgeting in their seats. Those in the know, i.e., FOX, ABC, SPEED, TNT and ESPN with few exceptions, are experiencing overnight ratings share and viewer numbers in decline. There are other concerns, too. Most if not all contracts between NASCAR and the networks extend to 2014 and there is no provision for the networks to pay less even if the ratings continue in their present downward trend.

One would think that Mark Martin’s quest for the CHASE Championship would be the "magic bullet" that would cure the disease but so far the patient’s condition remains guarded. No one is considering calling a "Code Blue" at this point but the specialists are scratching their heads trying to establish the etiology, a diagnosis and a cure. Everyone has an opinion but no one has the answer.

One popular notion is that NASCAR has peaked in popularity due to several recent changes in format that have caused the traditionalists to become unglued. Other potential reasons may be attributed to the generic COT cars or restrictor plate races that have taken the "edge" off a sport that was weaned upon individual innovation, nerve, gall and temerity.

It will remain to be seen what NASCAR comes up with and whether this year’s championship will generate sufficient interest to push the snowball back up the hill against the forces of momentum and gravity. NASCAR can’t make things better for everybody but it must listen and make things better for more than it has up to this point before that snowball reaches the point of no return.

Photos by J.R. Andres/Deborah Hepper

This?


Or this?

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Fast Times with a Quarter-Mile High -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 06:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
The summer was almost over and the waves of Lake Huron gently curled and rolled onto the white sand beaches of East Tawas, Michigan. It was August 31, 1964, and we were planning our next cruise before heading home. Was it going to be the pier or Main Street? We sat there on the shore listening to “The House of the Rising Sun” on our Philco transistor radio talking about girls and cars, swapping lies about our conquests, always trying to outdo the other guy.

Suddenly the music was interrupted by a news flash that said Don Garlits had set a quarter mile record of 200 mph at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, N.J. The announcer seemed out of breath, hardly able to contain himself. We looked at one another and wondered how such a feat was possible. Garlits had gone where no man had ever gone before and it was the stuff of legends as far as we were concerned. It warranted a special news report that was tailor made for a motley group of Detroit 16 year-olds who thrived on a need for speed at a time when the automobile was more than just a means of conveyance from Point A to Point B.

From Ted’s Drive-In at the northern end of Woodward to the Totem Pole in Royal Oak, the story seemed to become larger than life as it was told and retold from Eight Mile to Square Lake Road. For street racers it was an event that rivaled the first man in space. The “quarter-milers” had a hero, someone to look up to, someone to emulate. He was one of us.

It’s difficult to imagine any radio station interrupting their playlist to announce such an event today, the significance to the populace being way down on the list of daily newsworthy happenings to all but a few gearheads who still maintain the lifestyle that has fallen from favor in the “green” world which surrounds us.

The primal excitement of top fuel drag racing continues to this day at strips throughout the country and it was once again evident at the recent FRAM Nationals that fast times and quarter-mile highs are available for the price of a ticket, an E-ticket of sorts that rekindled memories of that day 45 years ago when a simple guy from Tampa Florida accomplished something that others continue to strive for today. It all seemed so important in 1964 and for three days in July 2009 it became important once again.

Photos by J. R. Andres, Nate Jacobsen, Deborah Hepper

















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Is Mayfield the Victim? -- by J. R. Andres 
Friday, July 3, 2009, 12:12 AM
Posted by Administrator
The ongoing saga of Mayfield vs. NASCAR took another turn when U.S. District Court Judge, Graham Mullen, signed a temporary injunction allowing Jeremy Mayfield to compete in this weekend’s NASCAR race at Daytona after being suspended two months ago for a failed drug test. Funny thing ... Mayfield didn’t enter the race. Sources close to the situation said it had to do with sponsorships but maybe there were other factors that no one’s talking about that made him sit this one out.

The circus atmosphere that has surrounded this matter from the start has polarized a number of factions within the racing community and brought to light some important issues that will surely be addressed when this whole thing is finally in everyone’s rear view mirror. At the heart of the matter is NASCAR, a family owned organization that sets the rules and the policies that everyone has to play by. For sixty years the France’s have guided the sport from humble beginnings to a place of prominence and like it or not, their decisions are final, or so they thought.

Jeremy Mayfield decided to contest his suspension after testing positive for a “recreational” drug and like Don Quixote has committed himself to clearing his name but there are many windmills yet to conquer before he, Rocinante and Sancho can rest easy once again, secure in knowing they fought the good fight for truth, justice and righteousness.

Many believe that Mayfield’s career is effectively over at this point, regardless of the final outcome and several drivers, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Robby Gordon, recently submitted affidavits stating they are not “willing to put my life at risk driving a race car on a NASCAR track with drivers testing positive for drugs that diminish their capacity to drive a race car.” No one can blame them. Others think that Mayfield is the victim of NASCAR demagogues who arbitrarily make decisions without offering any recourse for the accused to pursue the matter any further. These individuals are convinced that Mayfield effectively got the short end of the stick and the decision to keep him off the track was one more example of NASCAR’s excessive iron-handed style of doing things.

At this point, NASCAR has not indicated what its next move will be and the facts remain sketchy as to whether Mayfield did, in fact, have an illegal substance in his system. It’s clear that both sides are committed to seeing it through to the end and have the matter decided in court. When that time comes, one can only hope that something is learned by both sides in order to avoid the possibility of more windmills being built in the future.


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