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NHRA to test live drag racing on television this weekend

April 25, 2013|by Jim Peltz
  • The NHRA O'Reilly Auto Parts SpringNationals in Texas will be broadcast live by ESPN2 on Saturday and Sunday. Above, dragsters on the track at Zmax Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.
The NHRA O'Reilly Auto Parts SpringNationals in Texas will be broadcast… (Jeff Siner / MCT )

NHRA drag racing is one of the few sports that's typically not shown live on television. But that will change this weekend.

John Force, Tony Schumacher and the nation's other top drag racers in the NHRA's premier Mello Yello Series will be shown live on ESPN2 on Saturday and Sunday at the O'Reilly Auto Parts SpringNationals outside Houston.

It's a step the National Hot Rod Assn. "hopes will lead to more future live telecasts," the Glendora-based sanctioning body said.

Unlike other forms of motorsports, drag racing is prone to delays that can spoil live viewing, which is why it's normally shown on a delayed, same-day basis.

One frequent problem is that of oil downs, where a dragster spews oil on the dragstrip that must cleaned up before the next pair of cars can race. The cleanup often takes several minutes or more.

But it's a problem the NHRA and ESPN2 feel compelled to work around, because in this age of instant communications, fans now learn the results of drag races on their computers and smartphones long before they're shown on TV.

ESPN2 will try to keep the action moving by keeping cameras on teams during the so-called turnaround periods. After dragsters complete one race, teams are under intense pressure to quickly tear down the cars' engines and rebuild them in time for the next race.

In the NHRA's two premier classes -- top fuel and funny cars -- the dragsters reach speeds topping 300 mph with 8,000-horsepower, nitromethane-fueled engines.

Schumacher, a seven-time champion, currently leads the top-fuel title standings and Matt Hagan, the 2011 funny car champion, is again atop the current funny car standings.

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