WFO Radio Show Archives

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Outrage is very en vogue these days. Everyone is outraged about something from the AIG million dollar bonuses paid by tax payers and the Octomom getting free everything for being a crazy person. I, too, am outraged. Following a great weekend of NHRA Drag Racing in Gainesville, Florida, we have learned that Budweiser will not be returning as sponsor of Kenny Bernstein’s Top Fuel Dragster team. I can’t say that I’m surprised but now that it has happened I’m, well, outraged. While outraged and disappointed, I’m not shocked. Industry experts have forecast cuts at Budweiser since rumors of a sale to Belgian beverage giant INBEV first began.

The story first broke on drag racing news site:

Months ago when it first surfaced that Anheuser-Busch was considering selling there were some minor discussions among the very patriotic racing crowd of whether or not this would be a good thing. I have consistently come down on the “no” side of this issue and now we have proof. Kenny Bernstein and Budweiser have been together longer than any other sponsor-team combination, eclipsing the Richard Petty/STP relationship two years ago. Bernstein’s team has massed 85 national event wins and six national championships during the thirty year run. One championship every five years is not too shabby, but apparently not good enough for INBEV.

As much as I’d like to sit here and try to eloquently use my writing skills to explain in detail why it is a huge mistake for BUD, I’d rather simply be frank. I grew up looking forward to having a Budweiser when I was of age. The ONLY reason I even know about Budweiser is Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King thanks to my early NHRA Drag Racing experiences. The first beer I ever drank was a Budweiser. So, as far as I’m concerned Budweiser would never have existed without Bernstein. To millions of NHRA Drag Racing fans like me, this is a fact of my beer drinking life.

Another fact: Budweiser Sucks. The only reason I ever drank it was because it was the first beer I ever knew about, but I stuck with it. Why? Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King and the company’s support of drag racing. It gives me an instant headache, but I bought it anyway. I didn’t even root for Kenny on the track, I rooted for Don the Snake, and yet, I bought Budweiser (and Miller, the Snake’s sponsor). I’m sure I’m not the only racing fan who feels this way. I must say, however, that Bud light is drinkable. However, I cannot see myself ordering a Budweiser ever again, now that INBEV has dropped one of drag racing’s biggest stars, unnecessarily, during a tough economy. Talk about not taking care of the people who have taken care of you. The value of their sponsorship was worth ten times what they were paying, having deeply impacted millions of drag racing fans like me. The fact that they are pulling out is grossly disrespectful to the NHRA fan base that have supported them through the series.

The decision has already been made and Bud is not returning in 2010. INBEV is simply interested in cost cutting and gutting an American institution. Hopefully, some other company will take advantage of the next generation of NHRA fans to grow up watching the Bernstein family, now with son Brandon behind the wheel. In the mean time, I can only voice my protest by avoiding any beer supplied by INBEV. Perhaps you’ll join me in not having a beer.

A list of INBEV brands is at the following link:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The 30th year

This weekend marks a 30th Anniversary for me. The idea that I have been able to attend anything including Christmas and my birthday every year since 1980 is both shocking and something I’m proud of. In 1980, my father who is the source of my racing gene, decided that my family would attend the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainsville, Florida. The Gatornationals are the NHRA’s traditional East coast opener with frost bitten racers from the entire country packing the track. At just 7 years of age, I had no idea what I was about to be exposed to. I can still remember walking through the staging lanes for the first time. Pro Stock was in the lanes. I remember seeing Bill “Grumpy” Jenkin’s “Gumpy’s Toy” Camaro parked next to “Dyno” Don Nicholson and Bob Glidden. I found myself entering the world of professional drag racing for the first time. That experience was very influential to me as I have made racing a large part of my life and career.

Near Misses

You don’t string together 30 years without a few near misses along the way. Just a few years into the streak, my father had purchased some Center Line wheels for our car, the 1978 Trans Am that later became my race car. When we put our luggage into the trunk of the car, the new, wider wheels and tires rubbed the inside of the quarter panel. So, with a full trunk, we were off to a local business (Cole Muffler) to purchase some air shocks for the rear of the car. Long story, made short, within two hours the car was on FIRE! This, however, was not a deterrent. We made it to the race with some blankets covering the charred back seat. In fact, that weekend I learned to love the smell of fire extinguisher.

Over the years we have endured massive traffic, medical issues and weather. In 1986, the event was rained out. We decided to return to Gainsville the following week and were rewarded by seeing an underdog driver from New Jersey, Don Campanello win in Pro Stock. He even invited us to stand in his winner’s circle photo. Don Garlits’, 272 MPH historic run in Swamp Rat XXX was icing on the cake. Ed McCulloch won in Funny Car.

History in the making

There have been many historic runs over the years. So many, that National Dragster editor, Phil Burgess, has created a list found at Easy ones include the first 260 (Joe Amato), 270 (Don Garlits) and 300 MPH (Kenny Bernstein) runs in Top Fuel.

First Time

There is nothing better than going to an NHRA National event with first time fans. Seeing people experience the most extreme of motor sports in person for the first time is like returning to my own first experience in 1980. I have invited many of my friends during this 30 year streak and each has walked away a fan. (Except for one, my Dad’s friend, who thought it was too loud.) Much has changed over the years, the pit area, the tower and the staging lanes have all evolved. One thing that hasn’t changed is the reaction from people the first time they witness a nitro engine start in the pit area. They laugh while they cry from the nitro fuel. There is nothing in the world of motor sport that can compare to the “live” race day product of the NHRA and The Gatornationals is one of best examples of it. As my streak continues into its 3rd decade, I hope that new fans will begin their own. See you in Gainsville.