After reality hits with the sudden cancellation of one of drag racing’s highest-flying global events — we are all left to ponder…

Normally I do trust my “spidey sense”.  But I will admit that I did not follow those instincts this week when I boarded my flight from Toronto to Jacksonville last Thursday morning — to attend the 2020 edition NHRA Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals.

For about five days prior to my scheduled departure — something in my gut was telling me to rethink things — as news cycles continued a downward spiral regarding the spread and threat of the Coronavirus.  But like most everyone else, it was often difficult to interpret and determine just what to believe.   On the morning of my departure I did get up early and reviewed things on-line and in my social media feeds one more time.  When I saw that the day’s run schedule for the 2020 NHRA Gatornationals had been posted — I was off.

But as fate would have it a lot happened right after then.  I flew into Atlanta and then made my connection.  I was filled with both optimism and excitement as we began the descent into JAX as anticipation was bubbling for this year’s running of this very iconic NHRA national event.

It actually wasn’t until we were taxi-ing up to our gate when I turned my cell phone on.  The “dinging” was almost deafening as a number of my motorsports media colleagues were texting me the bad news — that the event had suddenly been officially cancelled.

After letting that sink in a bit — my “spidey sense” began tingling again.  So this time I actually immediately went from my inbound aircraft directly to the ticketing counter to rebook myself back to Canada the very next day.   (In retrospect — that decision was very much my best move – given the escalation of travel chaos that has since followed!)

I got to read the NHRA’s official release a bit later that afternoon which was:

“In consideration of the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with the recommendation of the Florida governor, NHRA officials are postponing a portion of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. *The sportsman categories contested on Thursday will complete competition this weekend without ticketed spectators. Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Mod, Factory Stock Showdown, Top Fuel Harley, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car will compete at a later date to be determined. Current tickets will be honored at the rescheduled event or ticketholders may opt to use their tickets as a credit toward the 2021 Gatornationals. NHRA will determine next steps for moving forward as additional information becomes available. We appreciate the patience of our competitors and fans.”

(*It should be noted that NHRA’s Gatornationals Sportsman program was run to a conclusion — without any spectators — you can link to those final round results : HERE)

My first knee jerk reaction was that I was pretty pissed at NHRA officials for this decision.  I was most perturbed about the timing of this official announcement which in fact came just before noon Thursday — about three hours after they had already begun to run cars!   I mean really – was there no foresight at all of this possibility that could have been communicated to fans, racers and the media in advance?

But after brooding about all that a bit — I have now come to the conclusion that NHRA’s decision was most certainly the right thing to do and the only thing they could do.  They truly were in a tough spot – with a decision either way having major potential consequence.

NHRA’s Gatornationals event reputation is for a very large audience — which further justifies their difficult decision to postpone (recommended social distancing — is impossible).

This pandemic is so fluid of a problem that it has been and remains impossible to predict.  As we know now many decisions are being made on the fly —  right or wrong — out of necessity.  In quick succession all major sports made similar moves of cancellation and postponement, so it only makes sense for the NHRA to choose to follow suit.   Selecting the side of caution – despite the obvious major impacts to everyone involved with this event – was prudent.

So now we all sit on the fence with regards to the future of drag racing in North America — everywhere – beyond just NHRA.  I will not and cannot even speculate when or where circuit cars will begin to run again — but my “spidey sense” does tells me — eventually — this season it will happen.

After a successful and rather stressful scramble to get back home, and given all the travel woes that I now see so many others witnessing — I do personally feel fortunate.  I will also follow the instructions now issued by Canada’s Chief Medical Officer – that for any traveler returning to Canada — do the 14 days of self isolation just as a precaution.

DragRaceCanada will keep a close monitor during this unfortunate “down time” and we will post updates of what we learn as that happens.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Posted by Bruce Biegler (Editor/Founder)