• John DiBartolomeo


After last week’s Blog (A Slight Change), I am so overwhelmed with the support I received from so many. I can’t thank everyone enough.

One note however I did receive brought this to light. Jerry Duke, who saw his first drag race in 1963 has been involved in many facets of the sport since then. He asked, “I am interested in your opinion as to the future of .90 racing.”

Having been involved since the very early days of that class, I can say that a lot of things have changed since then. A throttle stop in those early days amounted to not much more than a bolt under the gas pedal to limit throttle opening and slow the car down to the class index. The problem with that is it somewhat limited horsepower which made it tougher to get a good reaction time.

In those early days, reaction time was measured from the time the last amber lit until your car broke the stage beam, as opposed to today where the reaction timer starts when the green light shines. Today a perfect .000 reaction time indicates the car broke the stage beam at the same exact time as the green light. Back then, a perfect reaction time was .400, based off a four-tenths pro tree. With the type of equipment then, a .420 reaction time was considered great. We were having to do all sorts of things in order to arrive at that number. With the Powerglide transmissions used back then, I clearly remember having cut apart numerous valve bodies to search for ways to get the trans brake to release quicker.

With Deep Staging not allowed, we’d also attempt to “bump in” a little after being staged. This meant it was sometimes a race just to get into the stage beam first to give you a little extra time to “bump in.” Eventually faster fluid-release valve bodies and better transmission torque converters came to pass, but it still was a different time.

The throttle controls we have today where it appears the car shuts off and then picks up speed hadn’t yet come into existence. This meant that for the most part, races from the starting line to the finish line were side-by-side affairs. I became pretty adept at the use of weight to not only slow the car down but also adjust the suspension. At one time, I also played with an ignition retard after the car shifted into high gear. The amount of retard used allowed me to get closer to the index and then I used minimal amounts of weight to fine tune it. In addition, I used an override in high gear to maybe make up for a late light or force an opponent to break out. Today, it’s as simple as rolling in or out various numbers on the throttle control timer.

It’s apparent today that almost everyone can cut a good reaction time along with their car repeating an elapsed time over and over again. Is it easy? No. There are still dozens of variables which can throw a monkey wrench into the fray. But it’s easier today than it was in the beginning of the class to build a winner, much like in any class of drag racing. The one thing that is harder is the ability to win on a consistent basis and that’s based on the fact that almost everyone has the capability to turn on a win light.

In those earlier days, if there were 100 cars in the staging lanes for a class, you could probably pick out 25 or so who probably had the best chance to win. Now with 100 cars, that number has to be increased to at least 99 of them with the chance of winning. The competition level has gotten that great.

So what’s the future of the .90 classes? I honestly don’t know other several years ago hearing an NHRA official explain to me that any of the .90 classes were the most populated of any of the NHRA sportsman classes. They may not be popular with the fans, but what sportsman class is? The sportsman classes are participant-driven, not spectator-driven. Will it continue? Nobody has that Crystal Ball and who’s to say what happens in the future. A little over one year ago, no one could have predicted the type year we had in 2020. So who can predict the future of the .90 classes? My thought is that as long as they continue to be populated, they’ll remain. And maybe the truth is that the NHRA has bigger things to concern themselves with than the future of a class which is still popular. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. What’s your thoughts? -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO

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