What do think is responsible for the downturn in the racing and especially the drag racing market since 2008?

CB: The biggest difference between pre- and post-2008 is that people are smarter with their money. Where they used to go somewhere for a weekend, they are now only going for a single day. They still want the experience of a live event but they aren't going to be there for days on end like they used to be. I remember both racers and fans coming in on Thursday and not leaving until Monday. Since 2008, those people who used to take going into work for granted are now there front and center on Monday morning and working late on Friday. The recession woke them up.
 
I would like to point out that there were some things that grew in the recession. I had one event at the dirt track in Vegas that grew each and every year during the time when the world was supposedly collapsing around us. It was an IMCA Modified event that grew from 40 cars in 2001 to more than 270 cars in 2011. Its biggest growth years were 2009 and 2010. It was a one-of-a-kind event that people just had to see for themselves because we were creative in how we produced that show. Those same years also saw the Street Car Super Nationals grow when conventional wisdom would have told you it would fail. It was a recession proof event.

It's all about giving people what THEY want to experience. Not what you think they should have.  

What do you see as the biggest problem racing faces today?

CB: Everyone has worked hard to make everything involved in the sport too complicated and it's all self-serving for the wrong people. The track prep thing has gotten out of control. How many times has the show been rocking and we have to stop so the fans in the stands can watch a track scrape? Why is it that we can't have night sessions on Saturday nights? Why is the square footage of the pit space more important than the race itself?

Why are some series forcing fans to watch a pointless third or fourth qualifying session to appease a high-roller car owner when they could see the race end at it's scheduled time? Why can't we have pyro, lasers and smoke machines as part of the 'show?' It's affecting all forms of racing. Back in 1997 the promoters told the AMA that Supercross was going to be something spectacular and they would have to deal with it. They had to quit complaining about lasers and pyro in the pre-race and let the promoters do what they had to do to sell tickets.  Take a look at it now.  The tail quit wagging the dog and they thrived.
 
I'm watching dirt track promoters who want to deliver great shows being criticized for making them too much like a circus. I'm watching shock-absorber technology kill racing surfaces at late model events. I'm watching spec racing kill events that have been around for nearly 100 years. I was at one dirt track race recently where the A-main was ready to roll off at 9:45 p.m. and would have wrapped up at 10:10 p.m. The track operator, bowing to pressure from a team that also owns a shock company, rips the track apart and starts watering it again. The A-main rolled off at 10:45 p.m. … the fans had to watch tractors and water trucks for an hour so the prima donna sprint car star didn't have to change his set-up. The fans were leaving in droves during that hour because they were tired of waiting. We're going through the same thing in drag racing.

So what is the solution?

CB: It's time for all forms of racing to give FANS what THEY want. Not what the car owners, the product companies and the drivers want to give them. The fan is the guy paying the bill. Until we give them what they want, then everyone needs to just plan on playing the "back gate" mentality game where racers are trading dollars and operators hope to break even. You can't have it both ways.

I'll never forget being at a track a few years back where the owner had invested in a beautiful grandstand overlooking the starting line that had seat backs, some shade and clean restrooms and concessions nearby. The fans were really happy. At the same event a back of the pack top fuel guy was throwing a fit because he was pitted half on the pavement and half on rolled chip seal. I heard this racer say, "They should quit worrying about the fans and realize that we are the ones putting on the show." Even though I didn't have a dog in the fight, I reminded this moron that without those fans in the stands he was going to have a very expensive paperweight. His attitude kept him from making fans and, as a result, he wasn't getting the sponsorship he needed to survive.

Unfortunately, too many people in the entire sport of racing only care about their operation and miss the big picture that should be putting people in the stands. Those grandstand-packing special events that I mentioned earlier that Bader, Bandimere and the Napps are producing all have one thing in common… it's about family fun and fans. You have to have the fans to pay the bill. Give them a thrill, loosen up the rules some, allow creativity to get back into the sport and, most of all, make it fun. Fun is a good thing.

If someone really wants to have a successful touring series, the motto needs to be "By racers and promoters…FOR FANS!" If that was the attitude and everyone could get on that same page, then we would have something. Just ask my old teacher Mancuso at Monster Jam. The truck owners and drivers who were only concerned about their program left to start their own show years ago because they felt like Monster Jam wasn't treating them like professional racers. Well, Monster Jam is packing the house worldwide and it's a combination of fun and flash. The way racing should be. It worked in Supercross, it worked in Monsters; it's time for others to start following their lead.