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Slippery Problem Attacked

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 4 2010

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Oildowns occurring during the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals will carry potentially championship-altering consequences.

National Hot Rod Association officials announced Thursday immediate implementation of an oildown penalty policy for the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories competing in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Auto Club Raceway. Penalties will be in effect for the final race of the six-event Countdown to the Championship, Nov. 11-14, at Pomona, Calif.

Teams depositing oil on the track surface during any qualifying or elimination rounds will be hit with loss of the elapsed time and miles per hour for that run. During qualifying, the time will be voided for all purposes (qualifying position, performance points, national records, low ET/top speed).

During Sunday’s final eliminations, the time will be voided for the purpose of lane-choice, run sequence choice, national records and low ET/top speed. However, should the violating team win the round, it will advance in the bracket, be deemed the round-winner and maintain the points-earned.

In addition, each oildown will result in a monetary fine. The first violation will be assessed $2,500, and the second violation will be assessed an additional $5,000.

An oildown violation is defined as any incident requiring use of mechanical equipment to clean an oil spill. The policy encompasses the entire length of the track surface, from burnout box to where the vehicle exits the track. As in the past, revenue collected will be used to improve cleanup time and efficiency. While the oildown policy pertains only to the final race of this season, NHRA intends to gather input from the drag racing community and develop a comprehensive plan for 2011.

Several Countdown races, most notably last Sunday’s event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, produced what NHRA officials termed “an unacceptable number of delays” due to oil on the racetrack. The oildowns were judged to have a significant impact upon the quality of the show for fans.

“Given the strict curfews that must be adhered to in Pomona, and the fact that championships need to be decided, it would be impossible to finish the event in a timely fashion if the delays due to oil were to continue at the same rate they have the last several races,” said Graham Light, senior vice president, racing operations, NHRA. “We wanted to create a strong policy that would ensure the teams make every effort to contain oil, while not significantly impacting the outcome of the championships.”

Two-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon, driver of the Al-Anabi Dragster, has an 85-point lead over Tony Schumacher, the seven-time/reigning champ and driver of the U.S. Army Dragster. In Funny Car, Matt Hagan, second-year driver of the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T, has a 37-point lead over John Force, the 14-time champion and driver of the Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 4 2010
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