THERE are two guys in the drag racing world that I really look up to: Jim Read and Gary Miocevich. I havenít always seen eye-to-eye with Jim or Gary over the years, but Iíve gotta say they have been the greatest contributors to the sport in Australia.
Between them they built two of the biggest and best drag facilities in not just Australia but the world.
Gary was the consummate businessman and along with his brothers worked really hard and overcame a lot of difficult situations to make sure that Western Australia was given a world-class facility at the Motorplex. Sadly Gary passed away in 2015.
Jim was recently inducted into the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame, and a more worthy recipient you would be hard-pressed to find.
Itís great to see that Jimís contribution to the sport both on and off the track has been finally recognised.
Jim is the only Australian member of the American-based International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and was also inducted into the ANDRA Hall of Fame last year. This latest honour is the icing on the cake. Itís not only for his career as a racer Ė in fact, heís one of the most prolific racers and winners in the history of the sport Ė but for his contribution in delivering the Eastern Creek facility.
The guy is a legend.
I remember when I was about 12 years old I had a picture of Jim Read and his Top Fuel car on my bedroom wall, and Iíve still got the poster. Itís a bit worn and slightly tattered but itís something I really treasure.
In my lifetime, no one has given more to the sport than Jim Read and Gary Miocevich.
Thereís a lot happening now that the American drag season is up and running, and I gotta talk about Frank Manzo, Sheik Khalid Bin Hamad Al Thani and Mike Castellana, who have taken the Pro Mod scene to a new level.
To me, Mike Castellana is the American version of our very own Peter Kapiris. Heís a lovely guy, an astute businessman and a great driver. He doesnít need to know all about the car, he just needs to know how to drive it.
Frank Manzo has been around for ages Ė heís the US version of our Gary Phillips, with so many championships he has stopped counting Ė and tunes the Castellana car.
The car runs around 10 per cent overdrive on a Roots 14/71. They ran 5.68@252mph at Houston a couple of weeks ago as I write this.
Can you believe it? Youíve gotta be kidding me. Scotty Cannon is an icon of the sport and the most prolific winner in Pro Mod, but I think in his day, at 50 per cent over on a 14/71, the best he ever ran was around a low sixsecond pass. Today, with Castellana driving and Manzo tuning, they have taken the sport into another world.
Castellana, Manzo and those guys are running clutch cars and dominating, even though the sport has become the realm of converter cars. Itís the same here in Australia, where Zappia is dominating with a clutch. But I like the auto transmission and Iím going to stick with it, with the hope one day of running with these guys at the top end of the clutch technology.
Castellana uses Brad Anderson heads, not the currently much-favoured Aussie Noonan heads (you gotta love competition), and I think they have a dilemma on their hands. Someone said to me it was the greatest thing for the BAE brand, but it was the worst thing that could happen to the supercharged cars, because now they will cop a penalty, or it could allow the turbo or nitrous cars to run with less weight, or be given some other type of allowance. And thatís the problem with parity.
The bottom line is there is no such thing as real ongoing parity in drag racing. It has to be observed by extremely knowledgeable stewards with their finger on the pulse of the changes in technology between each group, and even so itís a real challenge to make everyone happy.
There are guys in Australia who want to see 4.9 motors introduced and say: ďWeíll look after you with parity.Ē Well, even the NHRA canít organise parity between supercharged, turbo and nitrous oxide, so how can we make it happen in Australia? We canít.
If they bring in the 4.9 they need to do it gradually; they have got around 300-400hp more than a normal motor, they can rev higher and have a lot of good stuff going for them. I agree they are a good motor, but the problem is what will it do if they force their way into the bracket?
Getting back to the Pro Mod scene in America, Iíve just seen where Castellana won the NHRA Four-Wide at Charlotte with a 5.80@249 mph. Iím not sure about running four-wide. Yes, as a spectacle it would be insane, but I would hate to be one of the participants. Itís not what I believe drag racing is about. I also think it would be much harder to win four-wide than the traditional two-car format.
With the different formats around at the moment, in Australia I think the best option is qualifying on day one, then racing the next day because it gives you more of an opportunity to dial-in your performance and the best shot at winning. The one-day format that 400 Thunder runs is extremely attractive to the public, but I think for the racers you need a different mindset. The first round denotes who races who in the second round. But the second round decides who you are going to race in the final, so there is a lot of pressure on doing well in the second round. However, if thatís what it takes to get the public more interested in the sport, then thatís the path weíve got to go down.
I think todayís generation, growing up with the three-round ANDRA/IHRA format, will over the next five or 10 years see the oneday format as the norm and miss out on the traditional elimination racing. Cricket, football and tennis have all gone down this path with success, so why not drag racing?
I think, however, the Winternationals and other major events will continue to be run over a multi-day elimination race format. At those events you need to work towards the win. Thereís a lot more tactics and strategy involved, not just on the track but also in the pits. Mind games play a big part in drag racing. s