Javier Ortega is a cornerstone of import racing on the East Coast. In fact, his efforts at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park have made Englishtown the benchmark of import/sport compact drag racing.
Events with 25,000 spectators and 700 racers are not uncommon at E-Town. West Coast tracks can't even dream of these numbers. With Javier's success visible in the grandstands, the NHRA hired him as a consultant to help pump up the vibe of the Sport Compact Drag Race Series for racers and fans alike. Well regarded for his unbiased views and expansive knowledge, Javier's passion for developing the best run, most entertaining events is only surpassed by his determination to advance the industry and sport of sport compact racing.
We had a chance to get the bottom line on Javier's responsibilities and the direction that the NHRA is taking a year after its merger with NIRA.
What is your involvement with the NHRA?
I was hired by the NHRA to act as a consultant to the Sport Compact Drag Racing Series. The NHRA liked what I was able to accomplish with the Raceway Park Import Racing program and wanted to use my experience in the growth of the Sport Compact Series. My job is to analyze every aspect of the current state of the series, everything from competition to business aspects and make suggestions for future improvements in the areas that need it.
What are the NHRA's goals for the Sport Compact Series?
The NHRA is fully committed to the Series and would like to take the sport of sport compact drag racing to the next level. The "next level" for the Sport Compact Series means not only should it offer world-class NHRA Championship drag racing, but it should also incorporate elements unique to a sport compact series - like the lifestyle aspects. We will be looking to incorporate lifestyle and other elements into the series on a track-by-track basis that will take into account the specific tastes of a particular locale.
How is the NHRA planning to accomplish this goal?
This goal will be easily accomplished in a couple of ways. First and foremost, we will provide the best value per entertainment dollar for sport compact racing fans. How will we do that? By providing the best events at the best venues throughout the country. We will also strive to keep our participants happy with racing parity, competitive payouts, great exposure, and the safest racing conditions that are humanly possible. All this while keeping track operators and sponsors happy, which should not be a problem once fans realize we are in sport compact drag racing to provide them the best bang-for-the-buck.
There are rumors the NHRA Sport Compact Series will not be back for 2003. Is there any truth to them?Absolutely none, whatsoever. The NHRA's goal is to do whatever is necessary to make the series the premier sport compact drag racing series now and in the future. Before I took this assignment, I met with Tom Compton, president of the NHRA, and he assured me the NHRA is determined to make the Sport Compact Series a continuing success. I personally would not be involved if I did not believe the NHRA had the best interests of the sport in mind.
A lot of people have noticed the NHRA changed the name of the series from NHRA Import Drag Series to the NHRA Sport Compact Drag Series. What were the NHRA's reasons for the switch?The reason is simple when you consider what has happened in the sport of "import" racing. What started with small groups of racers with their imports has grown into a phenomenon that really reaches across classifications such as "import" or even "domestic." "Sport Compact" is a term that fairly represents what the sport encompasses. Why should true sport compact cars like the Chevrolet Cavalier, Dodge Neon, and Ford Focus be classified out of import racing when the ideas behind them are the same that made "imports" popular (i.e. small, high-tech cars with small-displacement engines, but with a fun-to-drive, big-horsepower attitude)?
Describe your short-term and long-term goals as the SC consultant?
My short-term goal is to maximize the current exposure of the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series, as well as that of the racers, NHRA Member Tracks and sponsors. This way the Series will attract a larger fan base, lure future sponsors and enhance NHRA's status as Sport Compact Drag Racing's premier sanctioning body.
My long-term goal is to bring the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series to the forefront of motorsports entertainment throughout the country and the world. But I also feel it is crucial to the series that we continue to grow at the same rate as the industry around us. It is my belief these goals are well within our reach with the continued support of spectators, racers, NHRA Member Tracks, media outlets, sponsors and peers within our organization, as well as those in the sport compact industry.
Will the series be expanding its schedule in 2003?
We are currently planning to keep the series at 10 events in order to ensure every event meets NHRA Sport Compact series standards. At this time, increasing the number of races would be a premature reaction with the potential of placing too big of a financial burden on the racers. Being an NHRA Sport Compact world champion should be settled on the strip, not on the highway, because teams can't afford to travel to all the races.
What kind of rules changes are we going to see coming in 2003?
The primary objective concerning rules for the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series for the 2003 season is to develop the necessary rules to keep the stability and consistency of the series over time. Stable rules and a consistent racing format encourage more competitors to build cars, provide closer racing for the spectators and television fans, and entice sponsors to invest in the series, competitive teams and the industry as a whole.
Parting Words: On behalf of the NHRA as well as myself, I would like to acknowledge all the individuals that have put their time and effort into making our sport what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. Whether you are a spectator, racer, track operator, media personnel, sponsor, or manufacturer, your participation has helped make this sport a reality, and for that we want to thank you. We hope to see you at the track-let's keep on racing.
Kenny Tran Joins Forces With Bob NorwoodFamed import racer Kenny Tran has moved to alcohol in 2002 and Bob Norwood has been the "mad scientist" making everything work. Norwood Autocraft will continue to provide guidance and implement tuning changes on the Jotech Civic. The pairing has produced results from the get-go. The announcement was made prior to the NHRA Dallas event and Kenny promptly motored all the way to victory lane in the Hot Rod class. At the next event in Woodburn, Oregon the Jotech Civic blasted into the 8-second club with an 8.94 at better than 172 mph.
Racing Rumors Saturn In Orbit
We hear Saturn Motorsports in San Diego California and Jim Epplers are teaming up and forming a two-car SC drag team in 2003. We expect to see entries in Hot Rod and Modified but have no word on possible drivers. The Saturns run GM's race proven Ecotec four-cylinder.
Who Is Next...
Don "The Snake" Prudhomme?Don't laugh too hard, but we have heard his name pop up. Honestly, this is a shaky proposition at best; but stranger things have happened.
Kenny Tran Goin' Nitro?
With Kenny Tran partnering up with Norwood Autocraft, one has to wonder if Kenny will get some seat time in Norwood's insane nitro-burning 4000-hp Max-4 Integra Funny Car. For the specs on this extreme machine, check out the February 2002 Turbo.
Mazda 6Goes 1320
Mazda's Mazda 6 is the company's weapon against German touring-style sedans. The mid-size Mazda 6 is offered with inline four and V6 powerplants. It is rumored that a "popular West Coast import drag racer" will be building a tube-frame, front-drive V6 turbo variant of the sporty car and zoom-zooming it in one or more import drag series in 2003. We guessed who it was months ago, but can't spoil the party.
On The Move
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