Like almost the entire sports world, NHRA drag racing is stuck in idle because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 16, the NHRA announced it was suspending all NHRA drag racing for 30 days in response to the situation.
This suspension includes events at all NHRA-owned tracks and any NHRA-sanctioned events such as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. The sanctioning body intends to resume the original schedule on April 17-19 in Houston, and continue thereafter, subject to developments in the interim. The spring Las Vegas event was postponed, with new dates to be determined.
On March 12, when in consideration of the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with the recommendation of the Florida governor, NHRA officials postponed a portion of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals which was scheduled to run from March 13-15, and originally planned to be the season-opening event for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Ryan Oehler, who runs a Buell, is trying to come to grips with things.
“Currently the country and world are in a state the likes of which have seldom been seen,” Oehler said. “It’s definitely not ideal for us, but at the same time we need to let this all settle down and just back to business, whenever that might be for us. Everybody’s personal business and personal lives are going to be impacted in a major way by the economy if this gets any worse. My biggest concern was looking at everybody at NHRA and knowing they are on the payroll and suddenly they may not have races to go to for the next several months, based on what they are talking about.”
Now, Oehler is hoping he can make the best of an unimaginable situation.
“To be completely honest, for me this might be something that allows some people who have a development program to gain an advantage,” Oehler said. “If we’re not going to a race, it is not like I’m parking my stuff and putting it on the kickstand and waiting for them to call us when there’s a race. We’re going to go pound it. To be honest, we were doing amazing at our development program and then racing starts. What happens in racing, engines have to get built and anything you were doing in the offseason has to suddenly get reformed and that’s it, you ran out of time. It’s time to go racing. You’re left with what you have made. What have your achieved in the last few months?
“Well, if you give us a couple more months, people who have a development program who are willing to come back to that direction, test, re-develop, test, they might have an edge that another team that doesn’t look at it that way will have. Anybody who was working on the four-valve head stuff for Suzukis, for example, may be able to get a hold of it now and work it into their program and they may have an advantage. With the Buell program a team that has an engine dyno cell and is working on a new cam design or cylinder head design will have more time to work on it. Not having to do all this traveling may let them move the bar ahead. In that case, when the racing does start again you may see somebody do better than expected.”
The next scheduled event for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class is in Houston.
Oehler competed in a full season in 2018, finishing 13th in the points standings. He followed that up with an eighth-place finish in 2019, highlighted by a semifinal performance in Charlotte, N.C., in the spring.