Nitronic Research AA/FD List embraces human element

-Cole Coonce, NR Mojo Wire 04/05/00, Los Angeles, CA--When "Wild Bill" Alexander finally claimed Top Fuel Eliminator at the March Meet after forty years of trying, most informed nitromaniacs knew that moment would resonate beyond the drag ...

-Cole Coonce, NR Mojo Wire

04/05/00, Los Angeles, CA--When "Wild Bill" Alexander finally claimed Top Fuel Eliminator at the March Meet after forty years of trying, most informed nitromaniacs knew that moment would resonate beyond the drag strip... but none knew how deep the moment really was.

Indeed, when the following praise for Alexander hit my e-mail inbox, I immediately thought it was a hoax. It was too deep, too sincere, and too warm and fuzzy. It was also improperly addressed: it was intended for "Wild Bill" Alexander himself, but instead it was erroneously pointed to the p.r. info address for Alexander's old ride, "Root Beer" Hedge's Mastercam fueler, an e-mail account I manage.

I am real cynical by nature--especially when it comes to reading other people's mail, but as I processed the sincerity, tone and spirit of this message, I found it most believeable. I read the congratulatory e-mail a third time and it hit me like a ton of feathers. This front-motored fueler gag has the potential to touch people in a big way--and here's the proof, verbatim except for the sender's contact addresses:

LETTER FROM A NOT SO WELL FAN:

HI WILD BILL,

im 12 yrs old and i think youre great. about a month ago i had a tumor removed from my brain, now im going threw radiation treatments. i said if wild bill wouldnt give up, i wont give up either. thank you! i love your work on the track, keep up the great work and stay strong. do you think i could get an autographed picture of you and your dragster? if not, ill understand cause youre so popular. thanks again for all your inspiration! your # 1 fan

JEFF LOVINS VLOVINS@(ISPDELETED).COM (street address deleted) Smyrna, Georgia

Okay, to add to the intrigue: I forwarded Lovin's e-mail to Alexander as I felt it was a legitimate fan letter. I also wrote to Lovins, although none of the three e-mails I sent to young Jeff Lovins letting him know that Alexander has seen his message have been responded to. Operator Information lists a Grady Lovins family at the street address that was listed in the e-mail, but the wires get crossed after that. So maybe it is a hoax, or maybe young Jeff Lovins ain't feeling real hot and maybe certain parts of Georgia needs to upgrade their phone system.

Alexander was also dubious of the authenticity of this letter at first, but this was really out of a modest sense of "hey, I'm just a racecar driver, why would anybody want to look to me for inspiration," as opposed to the reality that some folks think that this weird subculture of drag racing is perhaps the last bastion for heros and heroics, a notion reinforced by Alexander's conquest of the March Meet. (Go to http://www.nitronic.com/wild_bill.html for a Real Audio transcript of Alexander's Winners Circle interview and hear his take on the magnitude of the victory...)

So why is it that folks are looking to this niche for inspiration? I maintain that it is because there is a human element among the competitors in this scene that has virtually disappeared in damn near all other forms of sports and entertainment.

And, as evidenced by the letter from Jeff Lovins to "Wild Bill," it behooves this scene to recognize how big a part the internet has played in ratcheting up the popularity of the AA Fuel Dragsters.

With that in mind, we at Nitronic Research feel compelled to make a minor modification to the scoring procedure on the List. Here's how it goes: For 48 hours after any event that features an 8 car AA/FD show, fans of the front-motored fueler scene may vote on their Top 10 by posting their choices on the Header Flames bulletin board (http://www.nitronic.com/headerflames/). The Top Fuel team that tallies the most first place votes earns a single point towards advancing on the List. The rest of the criteria remains unchanged: Teams get a point for Top Eliminator, a point for Low ET and a point for Top Speed.

This "rules enhancement" procedure will take place immediately following the Goodguys 12th Nitro Nationals on April 15 & 16 at Sears Point Int'l Raceway in Sonoma, CA. We at NR do not want to see the List reduced to a popularity contest and are aware of the unprecedented ballot stuffing that went on in the early days of the Car Craft Magazine Awards. (Drag racers cheating? N-o-o-o !!) Please be advised that NR can monitor your "point of presence" when a nitromaniac posts on the Header Flames. Habitual ballot stuffers will be re-routed to www.tiddlywinks.org, the home page for the North American Tiddlywinks Association... consider yourself forewarned.

But with all that being said, both "Wild Bill" Alexander and Nitronic Research wish Jeff Lovins a continued and prompt recovery. Alexander told me he would love to meet this kid at the drag strip someday soon...

Here is how the List shook out after the March Meet:

1. WW2 2. Gotelli Speed Shop 3. Fuller & Dunlap "Midnight" 4. Lee Jennings' California Trucker 5. Champion Speed Shop 6. Suhr & Lechtenberg's "Orange Crate" 7. Steiner & Berger 8. Ground Zero (advanced) 9. Fugowie 10. Smith, Allred & Maher

Points were earned by:

"Wild Bill" Alexander, Ground Zero: Top Eliminator (moving from #10 to #8) JIm "Holy Smokes" Murphy, WW2: Low ET @ 6.04 (no change) Gerry "Panzer Man" Steiner, Steiner & Berger: Top Speed 244 mph (no change)

POSTSCRIPT: Due to the unprecendented turnout of fuelers and an absolute tsunami of activity in the staging lanes at the March Meet, the challenge for postion from #3 alternate Lance "the Wizard" Osborn aimed at Alexander was postponed. Unfortunately for Osborn, Alexander has moved up too far to be challenged by "the Wizard" as challengers can only advance three spots.

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