Volume X, Issue 7, Page 71

NEWS & ANALYSIS

Struck Out?

The recent boycott of the IHRA national event at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was the first successful boycott by a professional class of  racers since Funny Car driver and team owner Raymond Beadle led a boycott of the NHRA Cajun Nationals about three decades ago.


Bob Bertsch was the only Pro Stock racer to attend the Edmonton race. He had contractual obligations to his sponsor to attend all IHRA races.  (DRO file photo)

Boycotting of the event by all but one IHRA team hasn’t seemed to had the desired effect that the Pro Stock team owners and drivers would have hoped for. I’ve seen no capitulation nor offer to bargain with the IHRA Pro Stock teams as a result of the job action from IHRA president Aaron Polburn or any other member of the IHRA management team.

Apparently, the long-held theory by the media (myself included) and the racers that the only really effective bargaining chip a professional racer has is to boycott a race is bogus. Despite a nearly 100 percent participation by the IHRA Pro Stock teams, it would seem that the boycott achieved nothing other than to save the teams that might normally have made the long, expensive trip to Western Canada from the East and Southeast part of the U.S. the cost of traveling. Other than that the action as far as I can tell accomplished nothing as in NO THING!

We’ve had just a few letters here at DRO either complaining or asking about the missing Pro Stockers at Edmonton, but certainly no avalanche of letters about the subject. Sadly for the IHRA Pro Stock teams their boycott turned out not to be a big deal, at least for Canadian drag fans (except maybe the ones sitting at the track expecting to see Pro Stocks), the IHRA or the racetrack.

In fact, it did accomplish one thing: it saved everybody concerned a lot of cash. The racers saved the expenses of travel and the track and IHRA didn’t have to pay the Pro Stock purses.

The IHRA has basically ignored the Pro Stock team’s action. To make matters worse for the teams, as they were trying to hold the IHRA management’s feet to the fire and make them negotiate, with little or no notice the Edmonton race added a 16-bike field for nitro bikes…and had a full field. What the race paid for the nitro bike program isn’t known, but the fact they had it doesn’t bode well for the IHRA Pro Stock teams if they were trying to force the IHRA to increase the Pro Stock purse for races held at locations a long and expensive way from the teams’ home bases.
About the only positive action for the IHRA Pro Stock racers that you could attribute to their job action was that the ADRL announced a deal to add IHRA Pro Stockers to two of their 2008 events that will be backed by Sonny’s Racing Engines. What kind of message does that send to the IHRA management concerning their Pro Stock classes? The ADRL schedule has no dates that will conflict with an IHRA national event this year.
 
The successful boycott definitely didn’t strengthen the Pro Stock teams’ leverage of influence with IHRA management. If anything it may have weakened it. To be sure the IHRA fans in the Southeast and Midwest U.S. are much more likely to be big fans of the class and be much more upset if the Pro Stocks weren’t part of the race, but are the Pro Stock teams willing to take a chance and strike a race at Rockingham or Epping? I think not.

Since the IHRA probably had a disastrous weekend attendance-wise since it rained virtually every day at Edmonton, there is no metric to measure the effect that the boycott had on fan attendance. Obviously none of the Pro Stock teams (except one) have a sponsorship that requires them to attend every IHRA event. And IHRA doesn’t have a sponsor who demands that they have a Pro Stock class.

So, in the end you could perhaps call this test of wills a draw. The IHRA Pro Stock teams showed that they are united like no other class in drag racing. The IHRA management showed that they will have a race with or without Pro Stocks. The fans have really yet to be heard from. And the ADRL will welcome the addition of IHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stocks.

We have learned that, at least in the case of Pro Stock and IHRA races in Canada, a racer boycott evidently isn’t the big deal we all thought. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned after all.