Drag Illustrated Issue 171, September / October 2021 | Page 57

D . I . COLUMNIST The Real Deal with Tommy D ' Aprile

How many of you remember the days of long , smoky burnouts and dry hops in the professional classes ? The excitement of a burnout where the smoke covered the whole racetrack – including the grandstands – still stands out as one of my favorite memories . The car would disappear then emerge again backing up through the smoke . Eerie and cool at the same time .

John Force always knew how to draw the fans and knows showmanship in our sport . Anytime someone did a long burnout , they would say they did a “ John Force burnout .” That ’ s making a name for yourself . The grandstands were always full and crowds were five people deep at the fence . This was nothing short of pure excitement for everyone at the races .
Maybe it ’ s just me , but I feel some of the excitement of “ The Show ’’ has changed . Now I ’ m not saying I don ’ t still have a passion for the sport , or that I am trying to take anything away from racers and teams , but watching isn ’ t what it used to be . The routines by every professional team are pretty much the same and all the cars even look the same . Long gone are huge burnouts and dry hops , and for the most part the cars are going down the racetrack with little to no issues .
All of this is great in terms of close racing , but the showmanship factor has taken a backseat . Today ’ s cars are faster than ever and are often fast in pairs , which makes for incredible side-by-side action , but how often do you see two cars pedaling the throttle in a fight to get the win light ? Not that much anymore .
So the question is , how do we get a little of that nostalgia back ? One team has done it : Scott Palmer and his Top Fuel team have given us a whack of the throttle in the pits . Boy , do the crowds line up . And how about Quain Stott bringing back period-correct gassers ? These cars are not as fast as Pro Mods , but they are bringing more crowds than a lot of sanctioning bodies out there . Why ? Because it ’ s exciting ! The cars are all over the place and fans can ’ t get enough of it .
Heck , even Pro Mod has changed so much . Do you realize we used to have to hold the throttle at a set RPM while holding a hand brake , swap feet to drop the clutch and manually shift ? Talk about driving ! That was fun and the cars were outrageously wild . Although today we do have to shift , the rest of the routine is pretty basic .
The bottom line is when we allow technology to take a front seat , it makes for better performance , but less room for human error and subsequently less excitement . That ’ s just the plain truth . You can ’ t blame people for using technology and making their hot rods faster , but it certainly has caused a decline in on-track action and driver involvement .
So I have brought all of this up to bring about an idea . Every one of us that has a race car can do our part in bringing back a little of the excitement . It doesn ’ t matter if you have a street car , bracket car or a Pro Mod . Why not do a little longer burnout , maybe rap the throttle a couple times and how about something crazy like a dry hop ? We all used to do it , and guess what ? It ’ s fun ! I have nothing but respect for all teams and racers , but I still say we can add a little fun back into our routines . We still have some showmen out there , but unfortunately , they are a dying breed .
I understand we need to do what is necessary to be competitive , but that doesn ’ t mean we have to be like everyone else . I believe we should make our mark and be different from everyone else . I mean we all have a different fingerprint and different personalities , so why not use what you ’ ve got ? Remember this , people will never remember how many races you have won , but they will remember you . So what legacy do you want to leave ? The choice is yours to make . DI
September / October 2021

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