Thursday, October 22, 2009

Long NHRA layoff great for drivers, bad for fans

Is it really another week before the NHRA Countdown to One playoffs continue? This is taking longer than the NBA playoffs.
The drivers and teams seem to appreciate the three-week layoff between races. The Countdown resumes on Oct. 29 at The Strip in Las Vegas.
For those who need a quick reminder, Ashley Force Hood is in search of her first NHRA funny car championship. She trails teammate Robert Hight by 13 points with two events remaining.
Larry Dixon is in the hunt to bring his new team, Al-Anabi Racing, its first championship in the NHRA top fuel division. Dixon is in second place in the top fuel standings and trails Tony Schumacher by 47 points.
The season ends Nov. 12-15 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
While the drivers are enjoying the time off, the NHRA nation is impatiently waiting for the playoffs to resume.
Force Hood said the break between races is perfect timing.
“It is a little strange when we get back to Vegas; that first day is odd when you have not been to the track for a couple of weeks to get yourself organized and get back into your routine of a race day and qualifying and everything like that,” Force Hood said. “But I think it was well needed and I think it really adds to the excitement that the fans have had to race a couple of weeks and now you’ll get to see the final two big championship races. It was perfect I think it was right what everybody needed.”

Dixon, however, is like most race fans. He would prefer to race every weekend than take a long break.
“I think if you ask most racers, they would like to race every weekend because they love racing,” said Dixon. “But it certainly affords a team, you know, after four in a row, I mean, that’s – you’d have to go back to the few years to go into even rain outs where we have had where we have run four in a row. It’s been a while.”
Force Hood said her timing is off, especially during interviews. It might take some time to get that back on track once racing resumes. The actual racing should not be affected by the long layoff.
“And a funny thing I was actually thinking a couple of minutes ago during one of my answers that was rambling on, I thought, you know, I haven’t done an interview in about a week and it really shows,” Force Hood said in a teleconference on Wednesday. “That’s probably the one thing about the drivers, it seems when you jump right back in your race car, it comes right back to you, because it’s not something you’re thinking about, it’s more your body is reacting in a race car.
“But the talking side of things I’ll definitely need to be warming up and finding my words in the next week to be ready for Vegas, because I feel like I’m mumbling a lot today.”
If anything, it gives team plenty of time to prepare for the last two races of the season, Dixon said. For teams still in championship contention, the time to prepare the cars is invaluable.
“So you know, it lets the teams go over the cars and go over all of the engines and just have everything restocked up, let them catch their breath, check in with their families, pay their bills and get ready to head out west and go to Vegas and Pomona,” Dixon said, “because that’s and it’s nice to have everything restocked and have all of your batteries recharged and get back out there for those last two events because that's, everything is on the line for those two.”

Photos: At top, Ashley Force Hood is in second place in the NHRA funny car standings and trails John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight by 13 points with two races remaining.

In middle, Larry Dixon is second in the NHRA top fuel standings and trails Tony Schumacher by 47 points.

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