Pedregon, Palmer, Diehl, Wilkerson, McMillen & others...The True Core of Nitro

We live in a world of absolutes. A world where everything became too big to fail almost ten years ago, yet we in motorsports apparently never got the memo. No, instead we continue to build super teams that have gotten to the "Too Big to Fail" point in Nitro racing. 

In 2008 we were lead to believe that we had banks, car manufactures, and other industries that all became so big that if they failed, it would destroy the economy as we know it. Now, before you start screaming that this is just drag racing, and not the melt down of the U.S. economy, let me explain. What we have in drag racing, primarily at the Nitro level is a micro level issue. We have two teams that are the roof of the tent, while the single car teams are the poles to the tent. 

Imagine if you will that DSR and JFR walked away from the sport. Could NHRA survive? Could NHRA even let or ever want that to happen? Absolutely not is the resounding answer to that. The reason why, is that NHRA has allowed both organizations to become Too Big To Fail in a sense. The money, cars, jobs, etc that these two entities create are so overwhelming that failure would be catastrophic to the entire industry. Don't worry folks, NASCAR did the same thing too. 

This is where the poles of the tent come in to play though. A tent needs a support structure to keep it standing upright at all times. The single car teams, are exactly what the tent needs. It needs the structure to keep it stable. Take teams like the Snap-On Tools Funny Car of Cruz Pedregon, the Cat Spot Litter rail of Scott Palmer, the Nitro*A*GoGo car of Surfer Jeff Diehl, Amalie Motor oil rail of Terry McMillen, or the LRS Funny Car of Tim  Wilkerson. These are the teams that are out there holding the tent up. 

You may ask how it is that a 2X NHRA World Champion happens to be one of the ones holding it up. The reason is that Cruz is a driver and owner. Up until the end of last season, he was the tuner as well. He, along with others, are the ones that aren't on four car teams with resources that NASA would envy. Cruz, Scott, Tim, Jeff, and a couple others are some of the most fun, entertaining, and colorful characters in the sport today.  They are what true drag racing is all about. 

A core is defined as the foundation of something. Some call them underdogs, class fillers, etc. I call them the core of our sport. You take these men away, and what kind of class do you even have? What you would have is two teams playing against each other every day. A core of men who actually have a vested financial interest in their programs. I'm not saying that there is something wrong with being a hired driver, I am saying when you are a one car team, one that doesn't have your own machining shops etc. you have a much more vested interested in your program. You have to strive harder and accomplish the same results with a much smaller hammer.  

How many times do we see in sports today that there is a dominate team/s that are always standing at the end? We see it in every sport. Most recently in the NBA, where once again the Warriors faced the Cavs in the finals. It's the same in Nitro racing when we see DSR vs. JFR every week it seems like. I'm not saying that either team is a bad thing, I am saying that no one wants to see the Yankees and the Red Sox being the only two teams playing. 

Humor me for a moment if you will. Take the poles of the tent down and what happens? The top falls in on itself. Have we gotten to the point in drag racing that is what we are willing to accept? Drag racing is so much bigger than the tent top, it's all about the structure. It's about the core and having a strong foundation. We have a small crop of younger Nitro drivers coming up in the world, but how many of them can tune their car, own their car, and drive their car? 

It's the ones that no matter what, they are going to be out there as much as possible with every last dime they have to live the dream and support the industry that are the true core of the sport. They may not have the biggest teams, the biggest buildings, the most resources, but what they do have is the biggest heart and a commitment to making drag racing the most amazing spectacle on Earth. 

You may not agree with me, and you may think I'm a completely idiot. That's ok, because there are days I tell myself that too. Fact of the matter to me is that we need more people like Cruz, Scott, Jeff, Tim, Bob Bode, and others. We need that core for our sport. I don't care who you support or cheer for. In the long run all that matters is that we all cheer and support drag racing as a whole. DSR, JFR, Kalitta, and all the rest are good for the sport and we need all of them to make this circus one that lives on for another 66 years and beyond. It's not always about David vs. Goliath, because for there to even be David vs. Goliath, you have to have a David.