Editorial: No Prep...Really That Dangerous?

The topic of discussion lately seems to revolve around the No-Prep world and the safety involved, along with the crashes that we have seen lately with that style of drag racing. Is it any more dangerous than any other type of drag racing?

 Last week at Tucson there was yet another no prep race where we saw multiple accidents involving high dollar race cars. Immediately everyone got on social media and was on one of two sides of the fence about this. There is the no prep is the best thing since sliced bread camp, and there is the no prep is a joke and has no place in drag racing camp. Are either right, or even wrong for that matter? Is no prep inherently more dangerous than the prepped style drag racing that a lot of us are so used to?

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With the rise of television programs like Street Outlaws, we have started to see a large rise in the amount of no prep style racing. Whether it’s at the race track or the street, the objective is to get your car/truck down an unprepped track. When at the race track, the point of no prep is to emulate the conditions that you may find on the street. And we aren’t talking about your 12 second street car either. We are talking about 4 second race cars with either small or big tires on bare pavement. The are cars that have no issue going well over 160 mph in the 1/8th mile.

Now that we have laid the ground work, we need to look at the things that everyone is actually talking about, and that’s the crashes. I have thought about this for the last few days before deciding to write about it. This is where I am torn, because I am not a big supporter of the no prep movement, but this isn’t about what side of the fence I am on, this is about whether it’s more dangerous than sanctioned racing. The simple answer is the no prep has not proven that it’s more dangerous or deadly than any other form of drag racing. Yep, I just said that no prep is no more dangerous than the prepped events.

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While there are plenty of you that will argue the other side of this, and I hope that’s what you do, you need to learn your facts. The facts will show that there are just as many and even more violent crashes at NHRA, NMCA, NMRA, PDRA, and numerous radial events throughout the country. If you look at some of the crashes we have seen in those series, you will see high caliber cars, built for safety and speed that still crash. You see more cars take flight at those races than you do at no prep as well. I can think of multiple accidents during 2017 where we saw crashes that should have required a pilot’s license.

This certainly doesn’t mean that no prep is safer though. There are plenty of purpose built cars that participate in no prep events, and then there are cars that you wonder if they could ever pass any tech. So where do we go with this discussion? Yes, drag racing is an inherently dangerous sport, and yes, no prep has the chance to lose control easier because the lack of a properly prepped surface.

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Numerous sports have variations of it that are less or more dangerous than others. Look at something like rock climbing. There are those that use ropes and tie offs, and then there are free climbers that literately just wing it without the ropes and other safety equipment. Do I think the latter is a tad more insane than just using tie offs? Absolutely, but that doesn’t take away from the sport or the excitement. That is just one of numerous examples that I could use regarding sports.

Well that leaves us between a rock and a hard place, doesn’t it? Those is the industry that love it and those that don’t. I don’t believe that it does though. The current trend shows no sign of these style events slowing down. Discovery just launched Memphis Street Outlaws, the third show in the family of Street Outlaws, and fans, along with racers are pouring into these style events in droves. Sponsors are putting money into the no prep world whether you like it or not. This doesn’t mean that you have to jump firmly onto that bandwagon, but it also means that trying to take away from the drivers, fans, and promoters by labeling it the most dangerous thing ever is beyond outlandish. The facts don’t support that no prep events are more dangerous.

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There are things that I take issue with though. This doesn’t happen at every event, but the perception is there with fans that might not be as educated in the sport and have just come in since the rise of Street Outlaws, and that’s the concern over safety. I think that most promoters concentrate on the safety aspect, but it certainly seems like not all racers do. It’s one thing to race on an unprepped surface, and it’s much different to race on an unprepped surface without all the updated and correct safety gear that you should have.

I do have to wonder something though. Once the popularity of Street Outlaws fades away, and yes eventually it will, does that mean that the popularity of no prep will also fade away? I don’t think that it will, because racers love a challenge, and the ability to prove that the are the baddest of the bad in their arena. Let us not forget when happened in the early 2000’s with the import movement though. If we as the motorsports industry continue to bash everything that we don’t like, eventually you are going to be ass out and have no where left to race. So whatever your thing is when it comes to drag racing, whether it’s no prep, grudge, no time, class racing, etc. make sure to get out there and support it. We need to make sure that promoters have a reason to put on races, sponsors have a reason to support events, and that track owners have a reason to keep the gates open for all of us.

It’s 2018, let’s all be safe and enjoy the endless days and nights in the shop or at the track.