A REMINDER OF THE GOOD OLD DAYS: Tony Pedregon's STP graphics and multi-logo crew shirts, which recalled Andy Granatelli's Indy 500 teams of the mid-to-late 1960s.
It's usually a pleasant experience when I attend an NHRA event and so it was last weekend when the Full Throttle series ran at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Proving again that drag racing's organizational format -- and mindset -- provides fantastic access to drivers for both media and fans, I did one-on-one interviews with John Force, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Kenny Bernstein, Mike Edwards, Jimmy Prock, Larry Dixon, Bob Tasca III and Antron Brown in two days. Unheard of for that to happen in any other major series.
Once again, I found drag racing unpredictable nature to be endlessly fascinating. There were legitimate upsets, like in Funny Car round one with Jeff Arend taking out Hagan and then Johnny Gray beating Mike Neff. And then there were just great races, topped by Tony Pedregon besting Force on a second-round holeshot for a 1/1,000th of a second victory. WOW!
As someone in the media center said after round two: "This race is a perfect question mark."
And, as I pointed out, NHRA caught a break when Kevin Harvick got around Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the last laps at Martinsville. Otherwise, they might as well have called-off the rest of the Vegas rounds, because it wouldn't have existed from a national media standpoint!
Brown led Brandon Bernstein all the way in the Top Fuel finals. Hight won for the second time this season in Funny Car, over Johnny Gray. Edwards beat Vincent Nobile in the Pro Stock. Very respectable crowd on a very pleasant day, weather-wise. Oil-down delays were at a minimum with the finals concluding just past 4 p.m. Good show as NHRA continues its 60th anniversary season.
Tasca, by the way, has been invited to attend this month's launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour by commander Mark Kelly. The two met at NHRA's Houston race last year. Kelly is the husband of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from gunshot wounds while at a public event in Tucson last January. The 14-day mission is scheduled to be the last one for Endeavour. "I told Mark, I hope I get the chance to win the Wally (trophy) for you because if I do, I'm going to dedicate it to you and your family," Tasca said. "Maybe we can get Wally in space."
FAST LINES: ESPN2 reached 100 million homes as of April 1, the network says . . . Holly Cain is now a FoxSports.com contributor . . . For all the talk of all the empty seats at Bristol the other week, one of the most shocking sights I've seen in sports in recent times was how many were unoccupied for the New York Yankees' season opener last Thursday. Yes, the weather was terrible, but it was Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Wow -- very troubling about what this might say about the greater sports industry business . . . Heads-up on how inflation in commodity prices could affect racing sponsors. Hershey's, which has been in NASCAR, announced an almost 10 percent across-the-board price hike last week. Cotton prices are soaring, which could impact Izod. Walmart's U.S. CEO said last week inflation is "going to be serious" . . . How silly (and annoying) so many of these on-screen graphics have become. After the president's speech last week, CNN put up the following -- "Exclusive: Pres. Obama Defends Libya Action". Exclusive? News? Here's another one for you, CNN -- Exclusive: Pres. Lincoln Still Dead.
The American Media, March 29, 2011: Phoenix radio station KFYI uses an anonymous blogger to provide "expert" commentary on the Fiesta Bowl scandal. [ more next Monday . . . ]