Monday, September 14, 2009

NHRA: John Force's Tanking It Is a Slap in Women Racers' Faces

Anyone who knows me knows a few things. I love racing. All kinds of racing, whether it's NASCAR, IRL, CART, F1, ALMS, NHRA or Thoroughbreds. I love the sport of racing itself. And, I have always maintained that a talented woman racer can compete on equal levels in the sports if she has the same talent, sponsorship and equipment of the top males competing.

Women have had to work to get where there are in this male-dominated sport. Whether it be pioneers like Shirley Muldowney, Lyn St. James, Janet Guthrie or Louise Smith. Then there are the women of the mid-1990s who tried to break into NASCAR - Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson in particular - and there are recent or current racers such as Hillary Will, Melanie Troxell, Shelley Anderson, Angelle Sampey, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, or Sarah Fisher, women continue to strive to make their mark in racing, often still in lesser quality equipment or with lesser support.

That's what is so disturbing, I think, about the Funny car final rounds at Indianapolis Raceway Park in the US Nationals. Ashley Force has already proven that as a racer she is equal to any male driving in top fuel. Ashley has the talent, nerve, courage and ability, not to mention the famous Force name fielding her car with personal hands-on support from her father, 14-time champion John Force.

It was painfully obvious that Force tanked his round to let Robert Hight win to make the NHRA's version of NASCAR's Chase for the Cup, and in the finals, Hight veered off the line and Ashley Force-Hood became the third woman to win at the US Nationals, and the first to win in Funny Car.

Folks have actually defended this as 'team orders' and a 'time-honored tradition in racing.' Those must be the same folks who put convicted felon Rick Hendrick on a pedestal and really believe Hendrick racing dominates because of the drivers' talents and not the millions of dollar spent on R&R, cars, equipment and etc. every season.

It disparages Ashey's accomplishments to win such an honored and esteemed event based on team orders. Somehow, that doesn't make it quite as spectacular as a win back in the day by Shirley Muldowney or Lyn St. James, who literally had to fight their way to the top. I've long been a critic of NASCAR's WWE-type staging. Now, apparently, the NHRA is proving they are not exempt from these tactics if it helps gain an audience. Too bad--Ashley has talent and ability on her own. She doesn't need 'team orders' to win. By making it happen that way, it lessens this young woman's accomplishments in racing.