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Our plans to drive to Brainerd for Sunday’s final eliminations in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals didn’t work out. By good fortune, the pro eliminations were shown live on network television by Fox.
It made for fantastic viewing, and gave a perfect explanation for how intricate the racing is, at the top pro level, and how important the start against the electronic lights has become. It used to be that a strong performer could be sloppy taking off, trusting to superior power to overcome his opponent. No more.
When the “Christmas tree” blinks down, yellow and then green, drivers are on adrenaline overload, and try to time their launch as the final yellow goes dim. The best drivers have the best feel, and the best way to explain it is a driver winning by a few hundredths of a second might actually have a slower total elapsed time, but gained an edge of a few hundredths of a second – plus a tad more – at the starting lights.
It didn’t matter in Top Fuel, where Brittany Force upset Antron Brown in the final run. Both of them blew engines, but Force’s engine blew late and she had the series points leader covered by then. It didn’t matter in Funny Car, either, where Del Worsham won for the first time all season when Matt Hagan lost traction.
But it mattered amazingly for Pro Motorcycle winner Andrew Hines won because he cut incredible lights in the semifinal and final victories – a 0.007 and a perfect 0.000, where an 0.040 is outstanding.
In Pro Stock, our two local aces had interesting luck. Greg Anderson of Duluth had won his way into the quarterfinals. In the heat before his, Drew Skillman and Bo Butner ran identical 6.626-second elapsed times, but Skillman won because he had the slightest of edges at the starting lights. Then Anderson and top qualifier David Nobile also ran identical times – 6.625 seconds, but Nobile had the slim starting light edge.
Jason Line, from Wright, Minnesota, won his quarterfinal at 6.592, then defeated Erica Enders with an elapsed time that was 0.001 better – one-thousandth of a second, which is about 8 inches at the finish line – in th semifinals, while Skillman beat Nobile with a 6.648 to a 6.681. Surprisingly, in the final, both drivers guessed on power and traction settings, and even though Line jumped to a tiny early lead, Skillman powered past him and won by a half car-length.
It was a great show, and fascinating to watch with replays on television.
We figured Rio de Janeiro would embarrass itself to the world because of poverty, crime and horrible pollution crud in the waters. Turns out, the Olympics instead were embarrassed more by Ryan Lochte of the U.S. swimming team, and Hope Solo, the goalkeeper of the U.S. women’s soccer team. They did their best to overcome the extremely positive impact of the U.S. women’s gymnastics champions and swimmer Michael Phelps, as well as countless other gold medal winning heroes. Particularly in track.
Solo, of course, gave up the winning penalty kick in the loss to Sweden in the women’s soccer quarterfinal, analyzing the Swedish style of containment by calling them a bunch of cowards, setting a new standard for sportsmanship. And Lochte broke up a convenience store men’s room, urinated on the wall outside, and tore down a poster, then fabricated a story of he and his three U.S. swimming teammates being stopped and robbed by fake cops.
The great performances almost overcame those incidents. Although I am not including the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams for all-out greatness. They both won their tournaments and were clearly the best, but because the U.S. emphasis on sports has caused the excessive salaries in the men’s pro sports, and the very opportunity for women that is unexcelled anywhere in the world. So we can say we have the best pro leagues in those sports, and, surprise surprise, our best pros are good enough to hammer the non-pros from all the other countries.
• We can puff out our chests with pride because the U.S. won the most medals – a fact that we were bludgeoned with every day by the media’s intent of tallying up the medal count. There were some interesting facts with that tally:
• For one, the U.S. men recorded 18 gold medals, which tied Great Britain for the most; the U.S. women won 27 golds, and their 61 total medals would place them third behind only China (70) and Great Britain (67), and one ahead of the U.S. men’s total take of 60.
• The U.S. sent 555 athletes to the games, 292 women and 263 men, which was more than any other country. There were 11,551 athletes in all, competing in 306 events in 28 sports.
• That makes the U.S only 43rd in medals per capita, behind such smaller nations as Jamaica, New Zealand, Denmark, Croatia, Azerbajain, Hungary, etc. So whenever the total medal count was given, a point should have been made that with the most athletes -- and far more than some challenging nations – the U.S. should have won the most medals.
Personally, I hate the medal count, and I prefer the purity and beauty of the competition, regardless of where they were from. Think Usain Bolt in the sprints. Or the emotion-charged gold medals by host country Brazil in men’s volleyball and soccer – their two national sports. Also, every athlete that recorded a personal best in any event, regardless of whether it was good for gold, or for a lesser medal, or no medal at all.