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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Classic Thunder Sets the Agenda
for 2003 and Beyond

By Bill Pratt

The 2003 Planning Meeting for the Classic Thunder nostalgia drag racing organization took place in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 25, 2003. This was the first official meeting of the Classic Thunder organization and members. After an inaugural season that saw tremendous membership growth and three races that ran the gamut from disappointing to superb, it was time to get together, evaluate the lessons learned in 2002, and determine a solid direction for Classic Thunder in 2003.

Questions coming into the meeting included the following and more:

What is the structure of the organization?
Will we do open events or change to booked in events?
What are the roles of the Classic Thunder officers?
What is the 2003 schedule?
Have we called any tracks?
Who's in charge of Classic Thunder?
What is the direction and future of Classic Thunder?
How can the organization continue to put on races without accepting entree fees or dues?
What are the general rules for running with Classic Thunder?
Do we have a press kit and/or promotional video yet?
Can members or a group of members run outside of Classic Thunder?
Do we have liability insurance?
Are we set up as a corporation and fully ready to account for taxes?
We need to get a financial statement about where we are right now. What money is owed to officers?
How do we do payouts and/or split the gate?
Are we bringing aboard sponsors for various prizes? (Win, Runner Up, Best Burnout, Low ET, Top Speed, Low Qualifier, etc.)
How do the remote divisions benefit the national organization?

There were obviously several major questions to answer and only one day to get a handle on them. The directors and officers of Classic Thunder met in a raucous morning meeting from 10am through 2pm. Different opinions and solutions were discussed in a lively debate. Items discussed were the rules, payout structures, fees, racing categories, schedules, director duties, officer duties, and member duties. 

A solid program was developed in that short time, however, and the details of the organization's direction were presented to a full room of Classic Thunder members at 2:30pm. We are very happy to report that everybody who attended the afternoon racer's meeting had nothing but positive things to say about the direction of Classic Thunder for 2003.

The following paragraphs contain the plans and direction for Classic Thunder nostalgia drag racing in 2003. There is so much information to cover that we need to break it down into big chunks. Let's use the good old basic questions of Who? What? When? Where? How? How Much? What Else? Why?


Classic Thunder Board of Directors

Bob Gettys Bob remains the National Director of Classic Thunder. He will be the final say on all Classic Thunder matters.

Rickey Bowie Veteran Funny car and Gasser racer Rickey Bowie is Classic Thunder's Technical Director. Rickey will set and enforce the safety and competition rules.

Rick Harrison Rick is the National Event Director of Classic Thunder. He will coordinate all race day activities at all Classic Thunder events.

Bill Pratt Bill is the Director of Promotions and Marketing (and the primary series announcer) for Classic Thunder. Bill is in charge of all Classic Thunder PR, event reporting, and event presentation.

Classic Thunder Divisional Directors

Regional Classic Thunder directors will expand the reach of Classic Thunder and will provide us with new members. This will give Classic Thunder a national reach, making us more attractive to potential sponsors, providing additional membership revenue, and providing additional cars for our shows. 

Regional Directors will contact their local racers, will work with local tracks, and will explore opportunities to expand Classic Thunder nostalgia drag racing in their regions. For the sake of clarity, Classic Thunder has realigned its divisions to match more closely the well-recognized geographic divisions used by the major drag racing sanctioning bodies.

Northeast (Division 1) Rick Stambaugh - Funny car/ altered/ and fuel dragster racer Rick Stambaugh has signed on as the Northeast division director, giving Classic Thunder a huge amount of credibility in that division. Rick did not make this decision until after he heard the results of the Atlanta meeting, so we are especially happy Rick has come on board.

Southeast (Division 2) Bob Gettys - In addition to his role as the overall director of Classic Thunder, Bob will continue to act as the Southeast division director.

Midwest (Division 3) Mike Dolph Veteran funny car racer Mike Dolph will be rounding up dates and racers in the Midwest. With 20 years of match race and UDRA experience, Mike will do an excellent job.

Central (Division 5) Bill Reichmann - Blown altered veteran Bill Reichmann will get the central states nostalgia racers and tracks lined up. The Central Division will not strictly follow the huge Division 5. Bill will cover the Eastern half of the area known as Division 5. Classic Thunder will eventually want to create a Mountain States division. In addition to coordinating the activities in their own divisions, Bill and Mike will be looking do so some joint Midwest/Central division races.

Classic Thunder Category Coordinators

Each racing category will have a primary and eventually an alternate point of contact that will work with the Event Director to keep the show moving. Category coordinators will ensure that their fellow racers are ready to run and will let the Event Director know if a team needs additional time to make the show. Category coordinators also will help in passing out information and in gathering the ideas and concerns of the racers in their category. The initial category coordinators for Classic Thunder are as follows:

Pro Classic Dragster: Glen Sommers primary; Rick Stambaugh alternate

Pro Classic Altered: Jim Dickey

Pro Classic Funny Car: Rick Stambaugh

Pro Gassers: Rickey Bowie primary; Roger McConnell alternate


What is a Classic Thunder show? We will have three types of shows: Booked in, Open, and Special. The decision whether to go with a booked in event or an open show will depend on negotiations between Classic Thunder and the track owner. Our goal of course is to get the best deal for our racers while providing the track owners an affordable show. Every time we come to a win-win agreement, more drag racing fans will see our show and will come back for the next one.

Booked in shows are where a promoter brings in all or a select number of Classic Thunder cars for a guaranteed, agreed upon price. This offers a guaranteed purse for members, but does not allow bonus payments if the show is exceptionally successful. The track owner can select any even number of Classic Thunder cars in any or all of the pro categories. The Classic Thunder regional director will check with Classic Thunder racers to see which are available. There is no entry fee for Classic Thunder professional members at a booked in show.

Open shows are where Classic Thunder does not book in specific race cars, but offers open fields in all the Classic Thunder categories. A minimum purse will be posted, but there will be an opportunity for an increased bonus purse through partnering with the race track in the promotion of the event. Classic Thunder open events will not guarantee a minimum payout for Classic Thunder members (it will guarantee approximately half of the full payout). 

However, the potential for additional prize money is there since Classic Thunder will split with the track manager all promotional costs, etc. The Classic Thunder organization itself will pay its racers as part of the costs of the event. After the track's costs and Classic Thunders costs are recovered (including paying all qualified participating racers), the remaining money from the gate will be split between Classic Thunder and the track owner. Classic Thunder will set aside a portion of all profits for redistribution to its members...

There also will be special drag racing events to which Classic Thunder members will be invited. We are proud to announce that Classic Thunder is in negotiations with the National Muscle Car Association to join their series of ten races. Classic Thunder cars will be featured and will be booked in and paid by the NMCA. This affiliation with the NMCA is very exciting. The promotional benefits to Classic Thunder afforded by this affiliation are outstanding. The NMCA receives regular coverage in the top drag racing and automotive magazines, and there is even a television show in the works for 2003. 

Classic Thunder is also planning to attend the National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The payout, if any, for this event is not known at this time, but it will provide a terrific opportunity for promotion of the Classic Thunder series with coverage in many top magazines and in NHRA's own National Dragster publication.

Classic Thunder classes will be PRO and SEMIPRO at this time; SPORTSMAN classes are under consideration and will be announced shortly. Classic Thunder will feature FULL classes in all categories. There will be no bye runs. If seven cars show up for a category, it will be a four car field. If 15 cars show up for a category, it will be an eight car field, etc.

Further, we are considering a break rule. That is, in order to win a round, you must defeat your opponent AND be ready to run in the next round. If you are broken for the following run, the losing opponent from the first round will return. Or perhaps the quickest losing racer from the previous round will be seeded into the field. Log on to the Classic Thunder message board to share your opinions on this.

The 2003 Classic Thunder Categories

The following are brief descriptions and do not constitute the official rules for each category. The official Classic Thunder safety and competition rules were solidified at the meeting and will be published on the website soon. Each paying member also will receive a printed rule book.

Pro Classic Altered: supercharged or injected altered race cars; nitro or alcohol; stack injectors required on injected machines; no carbs; no tunnel rams

Pro Classic Dragster: supercharged or injected dragsters; front engine dragsters only; nitro or alcohol; stack injectors required on injected machines; no carbs; no tunnel rams

Pro Classic Funny Car: supercharged or injected flip top funny cars; 1979 or earlier body styles; nitro or alcohol; stack injectors required on injected machines; no carbs; no tunnel rams

Pro Gasser: supercharged or carbureted gassers; nitrous injection grandfathered for current Classic Thunder racers, but will be phased out. Turbochargers under consideration but not legal at this time. 1964 or earlier body styles; full body required; fiberglass bodies allowed for 2003, but must conform to the basic original lines (no slammed Pro Mod bodies, etc.)

A/Gas will be the first eight qualified cars running heads up on a sportsman tree (1 races 5, 2 races 6, etc.; B/Gas will be the second eight qualified cars (run on an index equal to one tenth quicker than the low qualifier in B/Gas); C/Gas and D/Gas will run if enough cars compete (24-31 cars required for a C/Gas field and 32 or more cars required for a D/Gas field).

Classic Comp Dragster (CC/D): any front engine dragster that does not fit within the PRO rules; heads up qualified eight or 16 car field; runs against Classic Comp altereds; roadsters; and funny cars

Classic Comp Altered (CC/A): any altered that does not fit within the PRO rules; heads up qualified eight or 16 car field; runs against Classic Comp dragsters; roadsters; and funny cars

Classic Comp Roadster (CC/R): any roadster that does not fit within the PRO rules; heads up qualified eight or 16 car field; runs against Classic Comp dragsters; altereds; and funny cars.

Classic Comp Funny Car (CC/FC): any 1979 or earlier funny car that does not fit within the PRO rules; heads up qualified eight or 16 car field; runs against Classic Comp altereds; roadsters; and dragsters.

Classic Comp Doorslammer (CC/DS): any doorslammer 1979 and earlier; must have a full body and doors (street roadsters not included); heads up qualified eight or 16 car field; roof optional.

Classic Sportsman (C/S) and Classic Street (C/ST) categories are under consideration, but we are trying to determine how best to run these classes. We are trying to stay away from index racing, but how do we break down these various machines fairly (and still be able to get the show in)? Register and join the Classic Thunder online forum to offer your ideas.

Nostalgia Super Stock (N/SS): The Midwest Nostalgia Super Stock Association will run select Classic Thunder events in 2003. Super Stock machines will adhere to all MNSSA rules and regulations and will be run as a featured category within Classic Thunder events. Membership dues, entry fees, and payouts will be handled by the directors of the MNSSA. Further information on our partnership with the MNSSA will be forthcoming.

When? Where?

We are in negotiations with the National Muscle Car Association to race as a featured circuit within ten of their events in 2003. That will give us a national stage with all the coverage that the NMCA gets.

The 2003 Classic Thunder calendar is being worked on right now. At least four dates at three tracks are solid. We will publish the dates for those events soon. If the NMCA deal comes through, that will be another ten events right there. Not all events will be accessible by all Classic Thunder members. We will continue to work on events in smaller venues also. If you would like to have a Classic Thunder event at your local drag strip, please provide Bob Gettys with your track owner's contact information.

Can Classic Thunder members race with other organizations, promoters, or race tracks outside of Classic Thunder? This was discussed briefly and initial discussions point toward any Classic Thunder being able to race anywhere else they please, as long as they race as an individual and not advertise their appearance as the Classic Thunder show or a subgroup of Classic Thunder (e.g., the Southeastern Gasser Tour).


Classic Thunder will provide a race format information sheet to be handed out at the gate for each event. The sheet will describe how the event will run (including approximate times), what the entry fees and payouts are, in what order the classes will run, etc.

Classic Thunder racers in each category should park as close to one another as possible (and as close to the timing tower and staging lanes as possible) to provide better coordination and information flow during the events. If possible, this information will be included on the information sheet.

There will be ONE entry fee for all cars entering a Classic Thunder event. There will not be separate entry fee for "test and tune." Since all racers will pay the same fee, all racers might as well attempt to qualify and race. Classic Thunder racers should plan on NO additional time runs after racing begins. It behooves each racer to be there on time and to make as many runs as possible during the open time run session and the qualifying sessions.

Classic Thunder events will include a short open time run period where any car in any category can shake out. However, this will be a very short time. There will be at LEAST two qualifying periods at each event. It behooves each member to make both qualifying rounds to ensure a spot in the field.

The events will generally run with the slower categories starting first and the fastest categories finishing each round. At this point, the fastest cars in Classic Thunder are the Pro Classic Altereds. Depending on the number of Gassers, Semipro, Sportsman, and Street categories, these classes may run another round in between the other pro classes in order to speed the show. This information will be provided on the event information sheet. 

If any team in any category feels it cannot make the next appointed round, the team must contact the Category Coordinator and /or the Event Director immediately. The Event Director may give you extra time by running a class or two out of order. However, the Event Director may elect to disqualify you and enter an alternate for that round. This will be at the sole discretion of the Event Director with input from the Category Coordinator.


How Much?

Classic Thunder will require annual dues from its members in the amount of $65 a year. This will provide initial monies for advertising, promotions, etc. None of this money is paid back to the racers, but will support the activities of the organization in providing the racers a place to run their Classic drag racing cars. There will also be an additional associate membership $25 a year for non racers. Each member will receive a membership card, two decals, and a set of rules.  

We are working on creating Classic Thunder merchandise, including T-shirts, hats, etc. These products will be available at a discount for Classic Thunder members. 

It was discussed in Atlanta that if a racer showed up and wanted to race just the one race with Classic Thunder, but did not want to become a full member (for instance, a quick bracket racer at a track wanting to run with one of the Classic Comp categories), that he could do so for a premium. It was tentatively decided that we would allow such a racer to enter the Classic Thunder event on a "one time basis" for an additional entry fee of $25. 

We want to hear from paying members about this. Do you think it's fair? Should the premium be higher? Alternatively, should we charge any racer who wants to run with Classic Thunder the $65 membership fee even if they run only one event with us? Log on to the Classic Thunder message board and provide your ideas and comments.

Open Classic Thunder races will require payment of an entry fee for every racer entering the event, Pro, Semipro, or Sportsman. (Booked in Classic Thunder events will not require entry fees for Pro drivers.) Classic Thunder entry fees will be paid at the Classic Thunder tech inspection table. Each team will pay the track's entry fee at the gate, but will pay no race entry fee until tech inspection. For open shows, there will be no free admission for drivers or teams. For booked in events, all show cars will be admitted free.

The entry fee for Pro Drivers at all open Classic Thunder events will be $25 per entry (only one fee will be required per car being raced).

There will be a per race entry fee for Semi Pro, Sportsman, and Street drivers at all Classic Thunder events. A majority of this entry fee will be paid back to the racers in prize money. The final numbers on the entry fees and payouts for semipro, sportsman, and street categories are still being worked. 

How much would you be willing to pay in entry fees to get a certain purse? How much should the winner make compared to the runner-up compared to the semifinalists? Should the winner get twice as much as the runner-up or do you want a less drastic difference in the payouts? Log on to the Classic Thunder message board to provide your opinions and ideas.

What Else?

There are several things in the works at this time. Here are a few brief paragraphs about what's coming...

Based on the results of our Atlanta meeting, we are revising and improving our press kit to show tracks and potential sponsors the benefit of aligning with Classic Thunder.

We are putting together a promotional video. A professional (network television quality) video production company has come aboard as a sponsor and will be producing a free promotional video using existing footage of Classic Thunder racing plus the high quality digital images taken by Roger Richards and Brian Wood. Classic Thunder announcer Bill Pratt will script and narrate the video. 

In addition to this initial effort, the production company has agreed to attend at least one Classic Thunder event in 2003 to take raw digital footage of all Classic Thunder racers for future promotional efforts and for a Classic Thunder feature video/DVD.

We are looking into purchasing liability insurance to cover Classic Thunder in addition to the insurance provided by the tracks at which we compete.

A newsletter was discussed at the Atlanta meeting. At this time, we are going to publish updates on the website, but a printed newsletter is anticipated for the future.

We are working on getting T-shirts made. Northeast Division Director Rick Stambaugh will coordinate with one of the top motorsports artists in the country on a design. The T-shirts will be available for sale over the internet and at all Classic Thunder races. Classic Thunder members will receive a discount on all Classic Thunder merchandise.

We are going to be setting up Classic Thunder as a corporation this year so that everything is "on the table." Our credo will continue to be Honesty Above All Else. Establishing Classic Thunder as an official corporation will allow us to enter contracts that provide affirmation of our credo to our racers, sponsors, and track partners.

We will be looking into hiring a marketing professional to obtain sponsors for various prizes as well as overall Classic Thunder sponsorship. We are looking for cash or product awards for the following or anything else we can think of: Winner, Runner Up, Best Burnout, Low ET, Top Speed, Low Qualifier, etc.


That's easy! To bring classic, heads up drag racing back to the people and to HAVE FUN DOING IT!!!

More info at www.classicthunder.net!


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