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In A Twist, Points Snuck Up on Drivers in NHRA

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 18 2009
Funny Car driver Ron Capps was one of those caught off guard by the NHRA's decision to change the point structure.

Funny Car driver Ron Capps was one of those caught off guard by the NHRA's decision to change the point structure.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Concord, N.C. – The cell phone was out of Ron Capps’ pocket like a Colt .44 out John Wayne’s holster when he got the news that the NHRA Full Throttle drag racing series was going to adjust its point-paying system for the start of Countdown to 1.

He texted up the crew chief of his Funny Car, Ed “Ace” McCulloch, and passed the news along.

And?

“He sent me some words I can’t repeat right now,” Capps said this week as he was preparing to compete in this weekend’s Countdown-opening Carolina Nationals event at the ZMax strip.

The verbiage may have differed, but the tone of the responses were similar when some other drivers and crew members found out about the change in the point system. Competitors were stunned by the news, which came out during the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis two weeks ago.

Not because they think the changes were bad for them or for the sport, but because they were announced so suddenly and just before the start of the six-race, championship-deciding Countdown.

“To be totally honest,” Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Eddie Krawiec said, “I was pretty shocked when it did come out. You would think something like this system would sort of come out and play a factor throughout the whole season of points, because I do think that it would have changed a lot of the way a lot of these racers fell into the Countdown.

“But it’s obviously going to get introduced at any time, and NHRA felt that it was the time to do it during the Countdown, and sort of throw a little wrench in there.  But I think it’s something that will ultimately be all welcomed by all the racers.

The new system will award points for good qualifying efforts. Racers earn 10 points for attempting to qualify plus 1-3 points for the top 3 in each round of qualifying and then 1-8 additional points for final qualifying order.

Capps thought about it all and then sent another text back to Ace.

“I wrote him back in my text that, hey, I feel pretty comfortable, we qualified well this year,” Capps said. “So I don’t know.  I think a lot of guys are, you know, maybe it’s not the best timing in the world, but personally, I love it.  I think it’s another way to spice up – and I think a lot of it again was brought on by teams, myself included, talking about us testing on Saturdays or testing at races because we could not go test somewhere else.

“So it’s going to be fun to watch.  You know what, we may not gain these points.  We may not be one of these cars.  I feel confident we can be, but it’s going to be fun to watch as a fan and media.”

Krawiec also now gives the new system thumbs up.

“I think it’s a good thing, and like we did say, it does prevent that sandbagging or however you may say it, but it makes you want to go out there and qualify well for every single session and make the best run that you possibly can and get rewarded for it,” he said.

One thing about new rules in racing is that some may benefit or harm certain teams more than others.

Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher was asked if he thought that would be the case for the NHRA qualifying format.

“That’s a good question,” Schumacher said. “Probably different in each class.  In Top Fuel, I would say it’s fairly equal, and I’ll tell you why.  There are so many cars running within hundredths of a second.  Maybe six or seven cars, and it’s no longer that one car going fast and everyone else just trying to figure it out.  There are a numerous amount of cars just running similar.

“So it’s going to be about – even at the back of the pack, at each run to be able to know what you’ve got to do and go out there, and just try to sneak that quick run in each and every time for those points.  And I think the points will matter.  I think Top Fuel is going to come down to just a massive battle at the end.”

Schumacher not only had little problem with the change, he suggested one of his own.

“I kind of wish they did one more thing,” the defending champion said. “I kind of wish that on race day, low ET of each round got points. I would like to see where it’s down to the battle and a race where you got a couple extra bonus points and you could even get beat and get points. It would be kind of neat to see.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 18 2009
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