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The Insider … out!

01 Apr 2009
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider

If you follow this column with any regularity, you probably know that I usually post new columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. So you probably were wondering yesterday where the new stuff was. Some of you might have assumed I was catching up on National DRAGSTER work after traveling to Houston, and you’d be partly right, but it's mostly because I spent all of yesterday struggling with one of the toughest decisions of my writing career.

After much thought and deliberation, I have decided that this will be the final installment of this column. It's over. I'm closing down shop.

I appreciate the support and encouragement you've given me in the last two years and your contributions to this column in many ways, but I just can’t do it anymore.

So, what happened?

It's not just the massive amount of time that I spend carefully researching the material or even the time it takes to craft the columns themselves or even that I've run out of ideas. It's just that I never really cared much about the past. I just wrote about those subjects because I knew a lot of you were interested, and I figured we could force a lot of advertising impressions on you guys.

Truthfully, the history of anything bores me to tears. Blame it on my school days. I was a better English student than a history scholar. Alexander the Great and the siege of Tyre? Bah! Who cares? The Battle of Hastings? Phooey.

Same for those old-time drag races. Oooh, "Bid Daddy" comes out west and smokes the Smokers. Yawn. Like that was any surprise. Don Prudhomme wins 13 of 16 races in two years? Hell, I probably could have won two or three myself. Army Monza? The most overrated piece of racing machinery to ever touch the tarmac.

Plus, y'know, I look back at some of those old heaps that the racers called race cars, and I have to laugh. This is the best they could come up with? My 20-month-old grandson could do better. I mean, hey, let's face it, what took Top Fuel racers so long to come up with the idea for the rear-engined dragster? The first time anyone got an oil bath or "heat-treated" should have been clue enough to not sit behind the damn thing. Duh!

Oh, you start to whine, how about those great 1970s Funny Cars when they actually looked like cars and did cool dry hops? What about Roger Lindamood and "Smoky Joe" Lee and Larry Fullerton?

Gone, gone, gone, and gone. Like me.

But Phil, what about your beloved OCIR?

OCIR? Yeah, I spent a lot of time there, but I also spent a lot of time in detention, but you don’t see me canonizing that place. But there are sure a lot of you out there who would rather be able to go back to OCIR when you die instead of to heaven. Whatever. The place is gone. Get over it.

So anyway, it's been fun. Yeah, kind of like banging-your-head-on-a-half-closed-garage-door fun. But still. Enjoy living in the past, suckers. I have to go update my Facebook page and Twitter around a bit.

See ya.

Okay, that was fun. Whoo-boy, I love April Fools' Day. Had ya scared, did I? Yeah, well, maybe not. I might have had better luck fooling you if I said Bruce Springsteen is lame and hockey is for little girls.

Yeah, you guys are stuck with me. Sorry.

af.jpgAnyway, moving on, I know that a lot of you guys are saying, "Dang, April Fools' ain't what it used to be at NHRA.com," but it's still fun to look back at those shenanigans.

I'll never forget the first April Fools' we did, which was way back in 1998, when NHRA.com was still in its infancy. We had been "on the air" for less than three years, but people were beginning to embrace the medium as a news outlet, and back in those days, everyone tended to believe everything they read on the Internet, which made them the perfect suckers after I wrote a story (under the unlikely pen name of I.M. Soshure) about a secret NHRA test session filled with rear-engined "Thunder Truck" Funny Cars, dual-engined and six-wheeled Top Fuelers, and more. An amazing, gifted Photoshop artist named Jim Billups mocked up some amazing cars (his artistry impresses me even more now that I finally have semi-mastered Photoshop).

In the years since, we've made fun of a lot of racers and even poked fun at ourselves. There have been some memorable stories during the years. Back in the day, my former partner in crime, Rob Geiger, and I used to revise the entire home page, but we're all a little more focused (darn it) this year on other things, like creating a buzz for the coming events and helping ensure that our events and racers get their due publicity. Last year, as this year, we sprinkled April Fools' stuff throughout the site (including here … you still do realize I was kidding about quitting this column, right?), but below you can find links to all of our previous shenanigans. (A lot of these go back to old incarnations of the site, so don't try clicking any crazy links back there!) Enjoy!

I'll see you Friday (I promise!).

April Fools': Schumacher contemplating retirement to 'pursue other interests'
In an unexpected and shocking statement, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony “the Sarge” Schumacher said he is considering retiring from the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series to “pursue other interests.”

Force buys Summit Motorsports Park
In a surprise announcement, John Force revealed that he has finished negotiations to buy SummitMotorsportsPark from the Bader family.

Brown suspected of stealing Houston headlines (originally posted in NHRA.com Notebook)
Minutes after collecting his first Top Fuel victory at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil, first-year nitro pilot Antron Brown was detained by Baytown, Texas, police for stealing the Top Fuel final from Larry Dixon. Brown was also suspected of stealing the headlines from Del Worsham, whose Funny Car win was especially hard-fought after Worsham failed to qualify at the season's first two races.

Driver profile: Richard Nixon
The former president of the United States joins the Top Fuel ranks. Hail to the chief!

Driver profile: Donald Trump
Nothing funny about "the Donald" going Funny Car racing, you say? You're fired!

 

NHRA.com's 2006 April Fools' stories

Disgruntled racers block NHRA.com April Fools' special

 

NHRA.com's 2005 April Fools' stories

Top Fuel favorite 'Aussie Dave' exposed as native Southern Californian
Popular Top Fuel racer “Aussie Dave” Grubnic, whose distinctive accent and smooth demeanor have wooed female fans and whose heroics on the track in the United States have inspired a generation of Australian race goers a continent away, actually was born in Azusa, Calif., and, in fact, has never even visited the land Down Under, it was recently discovered.

Bazemore contemplates sabbatical to 'find inner peace'
Funny Car points leader Whit Bazemore is considering abandoning his quest for the 2005 POWERade title and taking a leave of absence to travel to Katmandu. After a recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, Bazemore said he might take an extended trip to "search for spiritual healing and find inner peace."

Lunar helium-3 could replace nitro in Top Fuel, Funny Car ranks
The future of NHRA Championship Drag Racing could literally be in the stars as officials have announced a full-scale feasibility study to determine if lunar helium-3 could replace nitromethane as the required fuel for all Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars.

Coming soon: CrewCab CrewChief video game
Hot on the heels of the announcements for the forthcoming NHRA Drag Racing 2005 game for the popular Sony PlayStation 2 system, Fortunate Fowl Games has announced its own soon-to-be-released title, CrewCab CrewChief.

Tony, Michael Schumacher will switch rides for 2006 season
Tony “the Sarge” Schumacher and Michael Schumacher have a lot more in common than just their surnames. Both drivers have dominated their respective series over the last few years and in a shocking development this week announced plans to trade rides next season.

 

NHRA.com's 2004 April Fools' stories

NHRA changes Wally trophy to Kenny in salute of icon Bernstein
Drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein will now become the object of desire among NHRA competitors as top officials within the association, along with a panel of former and current racers, have voted unanimously to change the bronze trophy presented to national event winners from the Wally to the Kenny.

Baca to star in Broadway musical Guys and Dolls
All the dancing that Top Fuel pro David Baca does whenever he wins even a single round of racing has earned the colorful racer the lead role in the wildly acclaimed musical Guys and Dolls.

'The Sarge' promoted to staff sergeant
Points leader Tony "the Sarge" Schumacher has been promoted to staff sergeant and will now be known as Tony "the Staff Sergeant" Schumacher to millions of fans around the globe.

Nigerian business proposal stokes Funny Car dreams
A drag racing fan from Maine hopes soon to realize his lifelong dream of fielding a Funny Car as soon as he completes a pending e-mail business arrangement with a Nigerian official.

 

NHRA.com's 2003 April Fools' stories

Rookie driver Brandon Bernstein very close to running out of hats
Just three races into his Top Fuel career, rookie driver Brandon Bernstein has found himself dangerously low on hats. To date, Bernstein has taken his hat off 47 times during interviews on ESPN, the worldwide sports network that broadcasts all 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Capps featured on cover of prestigious Modern Knitting magazine
Funny Car driver Ron Capps is featured on the cover of the April 1 issue of Modern Knitting magazine. Capps is also the sole subject of a 14-page feature inside the magazine that explores today's modern athletes and the relationship they have with arts and crafts.

Force may be sent to minors for 'conditioning'
Following the lead of big-league sports teams, Team Castrol coaches, citing John Force's inconsistent play at the season's start, are weighing the possibility of sending struggling slugger Force to the bracket racing leagues for a "conditioning stint."

Treble to head Angelle Fan Club in 2003
Matco Tools Pro Stock Bike rider Craig Treble has been chosen as the new president of the Angelle Fan Club, it was announced Tuesday. After months of speculation, last year's runner-up to three-time champion Angelle Sampey finally admitted publicly that he is a big fan of his No. 1 rival on the racetrack.

NHRA.com's 2002 April Fools' stories

Force vows Era of Silence
Normally verbose Funny Car driver John Force, who is known just as well for his rambling press conferences and television interviews as he is for winning 99 races and 11 series championships, has vowed to stop talking to the media effective immediately.

Dixon announces Forever Blue tour
In his latest attempt to thwart the emotion and momentum of retiring NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champ Kenny Bernstein's Forever Red … A Run to Remember farewell tour, Top Fuel rival Larry Dixon and his Miller Lite teammates have declared their 2002 season Forever Blue … An Even Longer Run to Remember.

Scelzi switches again, dumps Funny Car for Pro Stock
Just three races after his much-ballyhooed change from Top Fuel to Funny Car, three-time series champion and former rookie of the year Gary Scelzi has announced a switch to the Pro Stock ranks. Beginning at this weekend's third annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Scelzi will campaign a brand-new Jerry Haas-built White Cap Toyota Celica Pro Stocker.

Bazemore admits: 'I love the Easter Bunny'
Forgoing a longstanding policy of showing only his rough exterior to the public, Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore has decided to share one of his innermost secrets with NHRA.com readers in this exclusive interview. "I love the Easter Bunny, and I always have," Bazemore said.

NHRA.com's 2001 April Fools' stories

SoCal Top Fuel pilot unveils three-wheeler
Fledgling Southern California fuel pilot and noted aerodynamicist Trey Wheeler has developed a tricycle-like configuration that he recently put through its early shakedown runs at a private test session at Pomona Raceway. We have exclusive pictures.

Densham shakes down new exotic body
Funny Car driver Gary Densham's brief association with John Force Racing is already bearing fruit, as experiments with the team's Research and Technology entry have turned now to an exotic, closed-wheel body configuration.

Johnson adopts Scelzi for tax relief
In a startling and unprecedented move, team owner and crew chief Alan Johnson has formally adopted Winston champ Gary Scelzi, driver of Johnson's Team Winston Top Fuel dragster. It is the first time in recorded sports history that such a move has occurred, and sports agents and CPAs around the world are already applauding the tactic.

NHRA.com's April Fools' Specials (1998-2000)

2000: Schumacher admits: 'I drive with my eyes closed'
2000: Texas racer has 'some irons in the fire'
2000: Teams prefer big tires on the back (round ones, too)
2000: Scientists offer proof of motor oil benefits
2000: Sponsors search for teams to back
2000: Toliver 'thanks' sponsors at end of race
1999: Co-driver idea is tested in Top Fuel
1998: Nitro trucks, twin-engine TFs make test runs