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Aw, c'mon -- can't this schedule change in the logical ways?


The National Hot Rod Association announced Wednesday that its has changed the dates of its 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series races near St. Louis and Reading, Pa.

The Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway at Madison, Ill., will move up ahead one week to Sept. 28-30. That caused the sanctioning body to adjust the Auto-Plus Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, switching that event to Oct. 4-7.

But honestly, some "obvious" part of this scheduling is just not all that obvious.

Why is the St. Louis event, back in the fold after a year's absence, awarded a Countdown to the Championship race? It was silly enough that Phoenix, host of this weekend's unsponsored Arizona Nationals on its "revamped" (but more than likely not revamped enough) track, is part of this season's six-race playoff.

Nothing against the St. Louis track operators or the Midwest fans by any means, but these races ought to be determined by some criteria a bit more sensible than some backroom wheeling and dealing.

Aside from the fact that drag racing the sport and drag racing the people lost one of the kindest and most promising racers at St. Louis, nothing is wrong with the facility. The NHRA is right to give the country's midsection a chance to see some of the Countdown action. However, why not choose upstate Illinois' Route 66 Raceway at Joliet?

Yes, traditionally the place hasn't drawn well and the NHRA pared one of its two races there, often without a decent crowd. But this July, the Chicago fans came through and had a much better showing than ever. In one of the U.S.' largest markets, why not try to build on that by giving them a Countdown carrot?

The facility is beautiful, comfortable for fans, and the weather still is decent -- much more decent than the summer time slot that always seems to dish out tornado warnings and torrential rains. Cooler conditions could produce some record-setting elapsed times, which could add points-scrambling excitement to every pro class.

And Reading . . . Maple Grove . . . It's one of the most beautiful settings on the tour. And the great folks there certainly can't help the rain the area seems to invite that weekend along with the thousands of people who want to watch drag racing. The first year of the Countdown, 2007, the NHRA moved the date there to August and the fields were set there -- days later than scheduled because of rain.

Surely the Maple Grove operators have some reason they don't want to shake things up and try a completely different month than late August or September. But maybe they and the NHRA need to try something new. Surely it doesn't rain every spring or summer weekend in Pennsylvania. Yes, the NHRA needs to separate that race and the SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J., on the schedule. But for crying out loud, stop bringing everybody to Maple Grove to sit in the rain and cold. Read the Farmers Almanac and see what another safe bet might be.

Las Vegas and Pomona are obvious year-end keepers. No problem with Dallas and certainly none with Charlotte.

And let's don't even open the can of worms in questioning why the NHRA refuses to get stern with Seattle. There Pacific Raceways, in all its shabby splendor, sits in its familiar early-August spot in the lineup -- so the racers can complain and the Fioritos can stand there with fingers in both ears, singing, "Lalalalala -- I can't hear you!" for three days. The game-playing goes on, and NHRA once again enables its overwhelmingly weakest link in 20 markets to thumb its nose at the sanctioning body -- and at everybody else who still cares.

Planning any kind of schedule isn't easy. It's difficult and requires pleasing too many stubborn and tradition-entrenched groups. It calls for diplomacy, meteorology, and patience. But let's rethink this schedule, particularly for the Countdown.